I wrote this poem in the early 2000s at a UU youth conference I attended as an adult advisor, where a number of the youth had said they were struggling with depression. Having navigated my own way out of depression with the help of a therapist, I thought I'd share my experience. After I recited the poem in the conference's talent show, one of the youth came up to me and eagerly asked for the secret of how to beat depression. I had to say there is no one answer for everyone, and you have to work through it with professional help.
The "girl with the gold watch" refers to a TV movie from 1980 that I enjoyed in syndication as a kid.
"When you're happy," he says, "the bullets will stop."
For six years I've closed my eyes and been shot
by a stranger, the bullets flying unseen or heard
through my chest, and I fly back and crash
and die in pain, and the real me with eyes closed
swims in wonderful darkness and can sleep.
"Do you have any recurring dreams?" he asks.
I think of the girl with the gold watch
who goes "click" to stop time and moves bullets aside.
In movies and TV the bullets will stop
for those who believe and have strength,
but not me. The stranger lifts his gun
and my heart is torn away every time.
He shuffles his notes and looks up. "I predict
when you're happy, the bullets will stop."
How can I be happy when I know that depression
is a more realistic grasp on reality?
How can I just shut the door on the darkness
I've lived in, drowned in, for six years?
I tell him, "You don't understand.
There's this problem..." He says, "Let me guess,"
and predicts the whole thing. He says "You created
the problem. Create the solution."
I feel indignant, intend to argue,
but he's closed the door on my darkness.
With nothing to look at, I turn from the door
and see that reality shifts and changes
along with my mood. Months go by,
life fitting together with ridiculous ease,
'till I find an excuse to turn for relief
to the stranger and his obliging gun.
But his bullets can't reach me now.
They dissolve, deflect, or hover aloft,
but now that I miss them, the bullets have stopped.