When I wrote my first poem, I was skeptical in wringing facets of myself among those stanzas. My intentions were to submit it to a writing competition, specifically the Scholastic Writing Awards.
I researched some of the latent themes that the judges would potentially like more, and one of the recurring subjects was the topic of identity. I had taken a liking to literature and writing since preschool, but viewed writing as too daunting of a task for me to accomplish. That is, until middle school Brittany underwent an identity crisis and was simultaneously diagnosed with depression.
In order to stray away from mechanisms that were harmful to myself, I turned to writing. I hardly spoke of my depression, with the persons knowing of it being my mother and three close friends whom I solicited advice from. Nonetheless, I felt vulnerable—and in that vulnerability I sought some semblance of resilience, one I wished to emulate in my writing.
It was challenging—how could I curate a piece of creative writing that would flow in the same grace and fluidity with which some of my favourite authors’ styles did? How could I acutely encompass my mental illness through the form of poetry, but without revealing too much of myself for fear of harsh judgment or claims of ‘attention-seeking’?
Mental health, particularly depression, was and continues to be a heavily stigmatised subject among the Latinx community. How was I to approach the subject in a manner that would not be indicative of my own faults? It was incredibly difficult to project the one thing I fervidly wanted to burrow and having those in my life become aware of it in doing so.
When I presented these poems to my English teacher, who had keenly accepted my request to help in refining my submissions, she convinced me of an underlying potential I had in my works. I was incredulous—I had shown someone who was practically a stranger a portion of myself that I thought was important to remain hidden. She did not recoil or reprimand me but rather displayed empathy. This allowed me to encounter the self-revelation that to suppress facets of my identity that are integral to my growth is to ultimately suppress my autonomy.
Though writing has not been the cure to my depression, it has definitely contributed to the betterment and alleviation of any burden I’m hoisting. Depression has allowed me to embody a more intrinsic portion of my identity. I’m appreciative for the varying approaches that depression has enabled me to explore so as to broaden the way I navigate around the nuances of creative writing.
Poetry has driven me to strive in curating a platform for those with mental illness and for those whose voices are often stifled within communities in which mental illness is scarcely spoken of. The amplification of these voices allows for an expansive and global comprehension of how this ultimately affects so many people, young ones in particular.
That February, I won my first silver key in the writing awards. And from then on out, I’ve intertwined the intersecting facets of identity into my writing as much as I possibly can. Culture, mental health, and stigmatized issues are centralized subjects in most of my pieces—with every poem I write, I am shedding new skin. If not for depression, I would have never discovered writing as such a vital outlet for myself. Despite the obstacles and affliction that has been subjected to me, I have somehow sought to not slip on the footholds. It is difficult combatting mental illness and the stigmatization attached to it, but I have gained strength in both my mindset and words.