“Explaining my depression to my mother” – a poem

Explaining depression is almost impossible to those who have not been there. Recently I came across a video of a girl, Sabrina Benaim, reciting a poem called “Explaining my depression to my mother – A Conversation”. It was the most chilling video I have seen lately.

People struggling with depression are very often misunderstood. Society perceives them as lazy, negative, not willing enough, not trying enough… Even people very close to them do not understand the state they are in. As I imagine, this would be a very lonely place to be.

As a mother myself, I can not even phantom how it would be not being able to understand and help your child battling depression. This video explaining depression, coming from a daughter to a mother, might get you closer to understanding how it feels not being able to get out of bed for days. How it feels when you know you should do something, but you just don’t have the strength or willingness to do it.

Explaining my depression to my mother: A conversation

Mom, my depression is a shapeshifter
One day it’s as small as a firefly in the palm of a bear
The next it’s the bear
On those days I play dead until the bear leaves me alone
I call the bad days “the Dark Days”
Mom says try lighting candles
But when I see a candle I see the flicker of a flame
Sparks of a memory younger than noon
I am standing beside her open casket
It is the moment that I learn everyone I will ever come to know will someday die
Besides Mom, I’m not afraid of the dark, perhaps that’s part of the problem
Mom says I thought the problem was that you can’t get out of bed
I can’t, anxiety holds me a hostage inside of my house inside of my head
Mom says where did anxiety come from
Anxiety is the cousin visiting from out of town that depression felt obligated to invite to the party
Mom, I am the party, only I’m a party I don’t want to be at
Mom says why don’t you try going to actual parties, see your friends
Sure I make plans, I make plans I don’t want to go to
I make plans because I know I should want to go I know sometimes I would have wanted to go
It’s just not that fun having fun when you don’t want to have fun Mom
You see Mom each night Insomnia sweeps me up in his arms dips me in the kitchen in the small glow of the stove-light
Insomnia has this romantic way of making the moon feel like perfect company
Mom says try counting sheep
But my mind can only count reasons to stay awake
So I go for walks, but my stuttering kneecaps clank like silver spoons held in strong arms with loose wrists
They ring in my ears like clumsy church bells reminding me that I am sleepwalking on an ocean of happiness that I cannot
Baptize myself in
Mom says happy is a decision
But my happy is as hollow as a pin pricked egg
My happy is a high fever that will break
Mom says I am so good at making something out of nothing and then flat out asks me if I am afraid of dying
No Mom I am afraid of living
Mom I am lonely
I think I learned that when Dad left how to turn the anger into lonely the lonely into busy
So when I say I’ve been super busy lately I mean I’ve been falling asleep on the couch watching SportsCenter
To avoid confronting the empty side of my bed
But my depression always drags me back to my bed
Until my bones are forgotten fossils of a skeleton sunken city
My mouth a bone yard of teeth broken from biting down on themselves
The hollow auditorium of my chest swoons with the echoes of a heartbeat
But I am just a careless tourist here

I will never truly know where I have been
Mom still doesn’t understand
Mom, can’t you see
That neither can I

sabrina benaim - explaining depression..

The video was shared by a page Button Poetry and has over 5 million views.
If you liked this poem you can check out Sabrina’s incredible debut book Depression & Other Magic Tricks here.

My Quiet Spot

Related: What your child is not telling you


  1. Absolutely beauty! A person who doesn’t suffer from depression find it hard to understand how a person can consistently be depressed. But this was very thought-provoking!

  2. What a beautiful expression of something so commonly misunderstood, I can see why it received so many views! Thank you for sharing – creating awareness is so important

  3. This poem, although speaking about depression is still beautifully written. I cannot imagine what you’re going through.

  4. Thank you for being so courageous and sharing your inner thoughts with all of us. We hope it helps you as it helps us understand diversity in people. Hope you feel better soon!

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