Learning to Swim

Poem by: Marcellus Angel, Western Illinois University student

The feeling of sinking but not being able to drown
And you’re surrounded by people who are also struggling to float but they too can not seem to drown
And above them they see others who look like them but are more beautiful
Who talk like them but the word they say are actually heard
Who breathe the same air as them but their breaths are evenly spaced and certain
While you and the others whose lungs are losing space but never reaching capacity
Watch calmly hoping that those above you will notice and pull you up, for you are calm on the outside but you know that inside you are suffocating
you could just send them a message saying you need help, but you know that your cry for help will be seen as a need for attention, and yes maybe you need a little attention, you need someone to notice that you just cannot breathe.
They’ll tell you others have it worse, which is true some have actually drowned. When everyone around them thought they were floating they were really just drifting along.
You wonder if they made the right choice to just drift rather than hold on, but you remember that that is just crazy talk and that your life is perfect and that you are just complaining… right?
“Why don’t you just swim up? duh!”
We would if these chains weren’t so heavy
See these chains are not made of steel
They are made of nightmares, anxiety, depression, regret, heartbreak, long for the lost places of our past when we were above the water and we saw the people below and thought, “wow it would be so cool to live their life.” Until someone pushed you into the water and you kept sinking and sinking trying your best to swim up but eventually you sunk so low the light was no longer visible and you found that your feet were chained to the bottom of the ocean….
And you realized these people weren’t down here because they could be but because they had no other option and now neither did you. Or so you thought
You began to drift and feel the true beauty of who you are fading away, and just before you take your final gasp for air others who seemed to be drowning as you were came to you and gave you breathe just enough to keep you from alive and each time you felt you were going to slip away someone helped you and you began to notice it was a cycle of people helping each other to make sure the other didn’t let go and now you’re here
Sinking but not being able to drown
But now you’re not worried because you know you will be okay, you may suffer, you may feel pain, BUT YOU WILL NOT DROWN! Because you have these people who are like you and they have you, and you continue floating no longer sinking because you have already reached the bottom and we’re beginning to rise because all that goes up must come down and all that goes down only has one direction to go! You and the others around you link arms and began to rise even quicker to the surface. On the way you may face obstacles and challenges that make you want to just let go and allow yourself to drift but you fight on and continue to float and when you finally reach the top you rise from the water bandaged and scarred but alive. You can now see how beautiful you truly are, you ca now speak words and know that people will hear them and be listening
You also now have a choice to make, you can:
A) Allow yourself to sink once again
never go back to the water so you won’t have to worry about ever drowning again
C) Create floatation devices that will be able to help other who may slip, fall, or be pushed into the water float back to the top
Because you’ve been to the bottom before and you know how it feels to not be able to help yourself

Time to make a choice.
A) Continue to treat mental illness as a joke, a lie, and a seeking of attention
B) Take mental illness seriously and help those who just can’t help themselves

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