When I try to explain what my depression and anxiety are like, I think of Ursula from The Little Mermaid. Ursula swims up to me and wraps me in her 6 (not 8, 6, because Disney couldn’t afford to animate 8, look it up!) sloppy wet tendrils and every time I try to talk she steals my voice.
When I try to sit down to write, Ursula says I have nothing new to say. The hellish hexapod uses her slithery tentacle to snatch my hope, exclaiming that I have nothing new to offer the world. Ursula laughs a booming laugh and says in her raspy, deep voice “my poor darling, your writing is trite and cliché and just plain bad, all your friends are scared to tell you”. She goes on “why bother writing about Insert Topic Here you insignificant fool, because the world has enough written about that already, and written better than you could ever write.” She pauses and laughs her deep, smoky laugh, raking her manicured, slimy hand through her hair. “A think-piece about anxiety and depression? OH MY GOD YOU ARE SO ORIGINAL WOW” she proclaims, in a sarcastic voice sounding eerily like my own. “Besides, even if you were a good writer, people would judge you for whatever you wrote about anyway.”
Ursula says that all my success in Slam Poetry comes because either people felt bad for me, or because people don’t really know what good. She attributes my success to accidents or pity, and my failures to deep-seated fundamental flaws I can never change. Ursula sees me take a breath to speak and slaps a slippery tentacle over my mouth.
Ursula reminds me of those one or two first poetry performances that were objectively not great, and Ursula reminds me of the times I did get negative feedback. Forget the fact that people were writing about me in the local paper. Ursula suctions away all thoughts in my brain that lead to feelings about self-esteem. She puts them in her shell locket with Ariel’s voice.
If I can untangle Ursula’s suffocating coils and begin to write, with every word, Ursula whisper-sings songs of discouragement through her impossibly red lips. “Wow really? A metaphor using a sandcastle, how profound, how unique, I bet nobody’s ever thought of it before”.
To Ursula, not only am I a bad poet and writer, but I am a bad person. When she rolls in on her inky cloud, to her I am fundamentally flawed, and my writing will hurt people. I’m a drama queen When this supervillain’s sing-songy voice becomes louder than my own, she insists I don’t have it that bad. I may be working every day to wriggle loose from her six strong arms. However, she reminds me that even if I can temporarily free myself from her watery prison, my writing about Insert Subject Here will just hurt and offend people, if anyone can bear to read it.
Ursula says I waste people’s time.
Ursula says give up before I start.
On bad days, Ursula says “Shhhh Angelfish my dear sweet child, you poor unfortunate soul” and with all her might she yanks me deep under the water. On bad days she drowns me.
On good days, I fight back. I laugh to myself, as I think about how Ursula, is a cartoon, a joke, a phony. Ursula is not even worth enough to Disney to even have 8 tendrils animated like a real octopus. On good days, I think that Ursula actually isn’t even that scary; I have never even seen anyone dress as her for Halloween.
On great days, I win. On great days Ursula is silent, I smash the stupid necklace, and I steal back my voice.
I will never stop fighting.