Sticks and Stones: A Poem About Life with Depression

By Linh Vu, Family Clinician and Diem Ngo, Ryan’s mother

Boy reads from paper with woman beside himRyan Dang is a 20-year-old male who has been experiencing long-term depressive symptoms. He has been enduring these challenges since he was 10 years old. At around 16, Ryan started to question his existence and challenged what most people would desire – life itself. Often, his symptoms would overwhelm his pleasures, leaving him feeling hopeless and helpless – even with the encouragement and support of his family and care team.

Today, Ryan is working on strategies to connect with his inner self in healthier ways, and to integrate with the world around him. He finds that writing and drawing helps him cope during moments when he is not at baseline. Ryan’s poems are reflective of his lived and living experiences.

Ryan’s family continues to listen and be open to understanding his needs and strengths, even when the two cultures and languages between Vietnamese and American are so vastly different. Following is one of Ryan’s many masterful poems and the translation is done by his Mother. It is a beautiful testament to the family’s love and care that bridges the gaps between cultures and languages.

Ryan and his mother read the poem at our Visions of Community 2018 Conference – the video is available on YouTube.

Poem text: Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones may break my bones
But words cut deeper through me
They sting and hurt, make me feel like dirt
And stick like glue onto me
Doctors and days can help if I pay
But scars on my mind stay put
Therapy and drugs can only do so much
As I’m broken from head to foot
At night, memories plague me eternally
What could I have done to be better?
A lot of things bounce in my head and ring
Sanity’s tied to words on a tether
Like a wound that opens whenever it’s poked in
Echoes of the past haunt me dearly
A stick and a stone may snap some of my bones
But words will straight up kill me

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