Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Another Poem: On Family and People that Don't Understand that Depression is an Illness Like Any Other

This poem was written almost ten years ago, when I asked my family for assistance while I was applying for disability and had no income at all.  I was afraid I was going to end up homeless, living in my car or in a shelter.

Letter to My Sister

You did not visit me in hospital,
did not send get well cards
or vases of flowers.
That’s OK; they wouldn’t
 have let me keep the vases anyway.

You say I have been sick long enough.

You do not say that to our grandfather
as his Alzheimer’s progresses.
As his mind becomes a sieve,
as he no longer recognizes you or your children,
as he becomes incontinent,
you love him.  You are patient,
you cook his favorite foods,
even though he no longer remembers
he loves  them.  Even though
he no longer remembers he loves you.

But you have decided
my illness is not an illness
but an indulgence from which
I should simply abstain.

My mind is not a sieve.
It holds on to everything.
And yet, I am not sure
I can recognize you now.

Do you remember how I walked with you
as you labored on a salty summer night,
brought you herbal tea and a birthing ball,
sat by your hospital bed those long and lonely hours?
Oh, I do.

I went alone to the emergency room.
No one sat by my bed
as they emptied my stomach,
as they fed me thick liquid charcoal
that stained my hands and my lips.
No one walked with me
onto that locked ward.

You tell me I have been depressed long enough.

You sit beside our grandfather
on the porch swing,
hold the cat for him to pet.
You are tender, soft.

You tell me it is enough.

I will wait alone on the food stamp line.
I will put on another sweater,
and turn down the heat.
I will take my turn
cooking pork chops and potatoes for Papa.
I will send your children birthday cards.

It will not be enough.


  1. Oh, Kelly
    Beautiful and heartbreaking. I'm so sorry you've had to deal with these painful family issues, they are the worst. The people we think we can count on most....are not there for us. I haven't had a real conversation with my sister in 20+ years - only to tell her how much her share of our mother's estate was hers. And she demanded I provide paperwork to back it up. Oh, and to tell her when mom's ashes were ready to be picked up. I'm just too much for her to deal with, apparently. And the saddest thing...she's a nurse, she should know better. My heart aches for you, I know the hurt all too well. On another note, you're a wonderful writer. Have you considered publishing a book of your poems? Not easy to do but they would touch so many people.

    1. Thanks, Kathy. I've thought of self publishing a book of poetry. Self publishing isn't really that difficult these days, but I haven't gotten around to messing with it yet. I've had a number of poems published in different poetry journals, but it's hard to get a book of poetry published unless you self publish.

      I'm sorry you've had to deal with this kind of family issue, too.