"Arrive, you shall. Heal, you will." -Baby Yoda
The following is the introduction to Arrive, a short collection of poetry I released in 2019.
Originally, when I sat down to publish this book of poems and short essays, I had a few working titles in mind.
Poems about Love, Out of the Darkness, and Finding the Light were the top contenders. Ultimately, I chose Arrive, because although all of the above rang true, I have come to realize that most of my suffering in life is a result of failing to arrive; to myself, to those close to my heart, and to the present moment.
If writing these poems and short essays helped me heal, then publishing them is my way of closing a significant and dark chapter.
For almost two years, through 2017-2018, I missed my appointment with life. During this time, I was lost in the depths of a depression so debilitating that I could barely get out of bed. For over one year, I didn’t live. I lost my apartment, job, relationship, and several valued friendships. If there was a timeline of my life, this period would have a black sharpie swiped through it. Arik Zeevy, for all intents and purposes, was dead.
Mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety, had always been someone else’s problem. Someone else’s battle. Then depression turned up at my doorstep, and I understood. My major depressive episode taught me that it can happen to anyone, no matter their disposition or place in life.
This is my story, another to add to the list, a reminder that without mental health we don't have much, and that mental illness can be truly devastating. When I began compiling poems and pieces that I had written over the last two years, my ultimate goal was to publish a book with a message, a book that would make a positive impact in the mental health movement.
To this day, I have never felt a force so horrific as the torturous voices that drowned my mind in the dark. To have survived and come out the other side still feels surreal. I promised myself that I would never forget or downplay the reality of those horrors and to dedicate my life to helping those in need. To think that there are millions of people out there suffering hurts in more ways than I can describe. It often makes me feel helpless.
What is important to understand about depression is that it steals everything that makes you, you. I tried writing while depressed, but when I look back at my journal from that time, only two entries were logged over the course of an entire year. In each entry I wrote about the battle being waged within my own mind. How I felt a great darkness looming, and that in order to survive I would need to continue writing. I knew that writing, along with meditation, physical exercise, therapy, and community, would help me find the light.
There is a period of four months that passed between the first and second journal entry. There is a period of eight months between the second and third entry, at which point I was back in New York, living with my father, unemployed and unable to get out of bed.
My point? Depression can be debilitating. It is an illness that can destroy you, and sometimes no amount of logic or willpower will save you. Sometimes, you simply cannot win the battle alone. The disease knows you. It will burn every weapon at your disposal and leave you defenseless, alone, and shattered.
Perhaps worst of all, and hardest to explain, is that you don’t want to get better. You hate yourself with every fiber of your being. You do the exact opposite of the things that would help you climb back to the light, then you punish yourself for doing so. This is a vicious cycle that is almost impossible to explain to friends and family who have never gone through it themselves.
Out of the darkest days of my life I learned some of life’s most valuable lessons. The first, and most important, is that the path back to light is through love. Opening myself up to that love consisted of a long process involving professional therapy, unconditional support of family and friends, and successfully completing small, daily tasks.
There were many times that I talked myself out of writing, let alone sharing my story. Vulnerability is scary, and as much as society is working on getting rid of mental health stigma, it still permeates our culture at every turn. But then I thought about my time in the dark, and about all the people who helped me by sharing their stories. Now, it is my turn to pay it forward.
The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality. The opposite of happiness is not sadness, but apathy. This is an important distinction, because this symbolizes what Arrive means to me.
To sit down and write is to stare into the oblivion and say, not today.
Today, we fight. Today, we feel.
The quality of poems and short essays in Arrive is not as important to me as what they represent. Purpose, vulnerability, emotion, love. All the things that depression steals from us.
The pages in this book are full of life. Messy, complicated, boring, beautiful life.
Some will find my poems dull, perhaps tedious. Others will find them relatable, maybe even touching. None of that is as important to me as the wish that sharing my story will help one person keep going, to inspire one person to find hope, and to make one person feel less alone in this big world. Maybe, in more ways then I realize, I am that person, and this book is for me.
Arrive, like depression, is just a chapter in the story of my life. Mental illness doesn’t define who I am or inform my days. This collection of poems and short essays reminds me that, although the sky can get dark and stormy, there is also a sun in this life.
There is love after loss. There is rebirth.
This is a story with a happy ending.
I wish you love, light, and luck on your journey towards peace and healing.