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New Voices

You May as Well Use an Empty Canvas

by Hanh Pham | genderqueer | they/them pronouns

Writing this on my body was meant to be a cleansing experience - and for the most part, it was. I have felt discomfited in this body for a while, and I am trying to claim the best parts of it that I can. I often feel like hurting myself, in mental and physical ways. Depression isn't romantic - and it's not cool, and I don't want you to look at my legs and think, "oh, they're really cool for doing this," and think that my sickness is pretty. It's not. I have mental illness - I have depression and anxiety, and it really hurts, and I have communicated that hurt in the most productive way I could. This is a declaration, a reclamation, and ritual to prevent myself from becoming so wrapped up in my head that I cease to breathe. Thank you, for everyone who takes the time to read this. I would also like to add some content/trigger warnings for suicidal thoughts. If you want to reach out to me to talk about this, feel free to message me on Facebook or email me at
There are days when I feel –
        That is to say sometimes I can feel
If numbness is a feeling I guess you could
  say I feel all the time
I wish I could say I was angry
        (all the time)
At least then I’d have something in my chest
        because sometimes I wake up and see nothing in the mirror
                and I hear a wailing –
        the sound made by all the wind
        echoing through the gaping cave I call a chest
Sometimes I think – why do you care so much?
And there are days I know the answer
                is that I’m making up for when I think,
       – when am I ever going to care again?
I want to say depression is an allergy,
        But in reaction to what?
How can I tell you that sometimes I think,
                       This sickness will kill me
or that sometimes I think it already has, because
What life am I living?
Perhaps I am allergic to life,
        and my mind is trying to tell me so.
My symptoms:
        that hollow feeling, like
I am a zombie, staring at a life not mine
        Walking slowly till something looks at me and goes,
        oh –
                and kills me
        the inability to wake up – the feeling
                of strength and will draining,
a paralyzed patient waiting for a doctor to read out those last, fateful numbers
this feeling of a cold that can’t be described or diagnosed
                the sense that my time is numbered.
I take medication every night
        I see my doctors once a week
Sometimes they tell me I’m making progress –
                       I’ll see you in a week
I don’t know how they can be so sure,
because it’s so easy to forget those days I came in with
        dead eyes and
                dead heart
                       asking for help –
                              for mercy,
I want to say my depression sometimes mimicks the feeling of death
        but it’s not enough
because I am still alive, but
        just sick enough to feel

Only I wish I didn’t.
(Only that is a lie).
Ocean GaoComment