Even Though I Can't

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I have this friend
Who used to be a girl
Who dated this other girl in the grade above us.
Her mother tossed her in therapy
Like it was just some condition that could be cured,
As if having to deny a fundamental part of herself
Was a better choice for her
Than pursuing happiness.
Then she was a guy,
Which for obvious reasons only a few people knew.
Naturally he couldn't do anything about it,
And even though he always put on a brave face
I could see the distress it caused him.
Later on he developed dissociative identity disorder.
I'll always wonder if it had to do with the denial
His mother forced onto him.
If her arbitrary moral standards
Her identity policing
Were what eroded his mental stability.
And even though I can't
(because it's already happened)
(because I didn't do enough to help him)
(because self-righteous bigots reason-proof their convictions)
If I could, I would change the experiences of oppression he endured.

I have this friend
Who stutters when she gets intense in conversation
Who blushes easily and hides her face
Who's always trying not to cut again
Who deals with crippling nervousness and guilt.
She's been through some bad experiences
Which are sadly all to common
With uncommon frequency.
The first of many times she was, well,
Violated
Dehumanized
Disempowered
Denied
Was by a teacher of hers when she was young.
Naturally, nobody believed her.
She was obviously making it up for attention,
You know, as children oh so frequently do
With those pesky false rape accusations they love to make.
Best of all, that teacher was good friends with the sheriff
And thanks to the reliable and efficient government
Of midwestern hick towns such as we inhabit
Nothing was done.
So she still sees him around now and again
Still has panic attacks
Still fights off the urge to cut.
And even though I can't
(because it was so long ago)
(because I don't know who he was)
(because people will always blame whoever's easiest)
If I could, I would change the denial of justice with which she's dealt all these years.

I have this ex
(hurts to call her that)
Who cut despite her best efforts not to
Who drank
Who stopped eating
Who swallowed stolen pills
Because try as she might,
She could never stop feeling like a burden on everyone.
No matter how many times
How many ways
How sincerely I told her otherwise,
To her she was always fat,
Ugly,
Useless,
Unlovable,
Inadequate,
Hurtful and dead weight on the shoulders of everyone she loved.
I honestly should have known I couldn't just fix her,
But she'd been broken in ways I couldn't fully comprehend.
Just because I could see beauty and worth in her
Didn't mean her family wasn't fragmented,
Didn't mean she hadn't been hurt and betrayed by friends,
Didn't mean her depression and anxiety would just go away.
And even though I can't
(because she needs more help than I can offer)
(because I was too absorbed in my own issues at the time)
(because we aren't talking anymore)
If I could, I would change the despair she felt when she looked at herself.

I have this one other person I know
Who hides herself under the boy she was raised to be
Who has managed to hold on
Just managed
Not to cut
Not to drink
Not to seek other destructive coping methods
Like taking it out on her brother
(who doesn't help but doesn't know better)
Or her father
(who isn't helping but is only carrying on the cycle from his father)
Or her mother
(who is a saint and tries to understand)
Who puts on a brave face
And deals with the mocking hair on her face and flat chest
The deep voice that comes out when she tries to speak
But who nonethless knows she can't keep this up
(but maybe just until college)
And who really just wants to know it's all going to be okay
For once
One of these days.
Who's actually me
And can barely work up the courage to say that openly.
And even though I can't
(because my family isn't really set up to support this)
(because I'm too terrified of them resenting me for dragging them along through this)
(because who knows how it'll turn out)
If I could, I would change all this uncertainty and fear and doubt I'm always fighting.

Even though I can't
(because I'm one person)
(because infinitely many people couldn't)
(because that's how life is)
If I could, I would change all the unnecessary suffering faced by people
Who don't need any more.

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