Despina Skordilis , 25, from Brisbane, Australia who comes from Greek heritage is a self described queer writer, illustrator and spoken word poet. Having performed at numerous spoken word gigs throughout Australia, Despina is known for her raw, honest and sometimes crude words. Now focusing on putting together a book of her writing and illustrations the sky’s the limit and ASLI jumped at the chance to feature this talented multi faceted artist to share her amazing work to a wider international audience. Speaking of personal struggles of depression through poetry, Despina joins our campaign to aid others and her own recovery.
Here is our interview with Despina Skordilis:
What motivated you to deal with your chosen submission subject?
I have wrote a lot about the deep depths of my depression, but rarely about coming out of it. This poem depicts my slow hopeful discovery and running towards the light at the end of the tunnel in getting better.
Resilience By Despina Skordilis
You build up a certain kind of resilience
When there’s depression in your blood
The creases on your face from burying your head show
And your mother is in another state telling you to come home
But you, you’ve been through the ringer too many times already
To say, “Mother I quit, I’m done, take me home!”
And the girl you used to love speaks to you on the phone
Callous, she tells you to stop it as if it’s as simple as that
As if there is a button you can press
Because she is the kind of girl that never peaks into the void
And you, you’ve lived there far too long
Your emotions are smarter than you sometimes
Run faster than you sometimes
And you’re not fit enough
You smoke too much
You yell too much
Run low on breath on the best of days
And you’ve seen the way people look at you on your worst days
They tell you it’s difficult to watch
Look at you like a dying dog on the pavement
And you laugh through the pain
And think try being in it
But your skin is a little coarser than the rest of them
Scarred flesh is tougher and lined with stories
Yeah you have to break a sweat for that serotonin
Remember that it all comes down to chemistry, to balance
Spit the users out, the ones who only want your skin
The ones with less depth than a cup of tea
Let them go, let her go, she’s gone okay!
Place one wobbly foot in front of the other
Focus on your toes, move them around, feel them in your socks
Those feet have held you up all these years
You owe them that much
And you will build ladders with your words to lift you out
Climb up verbs because nouns never got you no where
Climb up speak, climb up heal, climb up love
Climb up fight, climb up fight, climb up fight
Because you build up a certain kind of resilience
When there’s depression in your blood
What is your process when creating?
I usually create when I am feeling an emotion strongly and the only way to defuse it is to write it out. Usually Late at night, when my heart is beating fast and serotonin is low.
Who are you influenced by within your artistic discipline?
Who inspires you in general?
My mother. She has been by my side throughout all of this. Lived through all of the poems and is the most amazing woman I know.
What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for…?
Obviously mental health but I also feel very strongly about marriage equality as anyone should be able to marry whoever it is they love.
What do the statements “art saves lives” and “art creates change” mean to you?
I definitely believe art saves lives and can create change as it has saved me many times, resuscitated me, brought me back to life and other people’s art has touched me in such a way that it is has helped me to keep going when I have wanted to give up. I like this quote by Virginia Woolf…
Have your artistic and creative outlets saved your life in anyway and do you think your message within them could help create change in the world?
Yes they have. Writing has always been super cathartic for me as I have had so many intense, jumbled thoughts and feelings in my head over years and writing it out gives me some clarity. I also believe my messages within them could help others because they can see that I have been to the deepest depths of myself but I have returned and risen again and again. If there’s hope for me, there’s hope for them.
What are your present and future goals for your art?
I have currently just made my first zine and have been selling them at gigs I perform at. But in the future I want to publish a book of my writings and exhibit my illustrations. I would also love to run workshops for poetry as a therapeutic tool for young people dealing with mental health issues.
The following question are about mental health:
Can you tell us about your own experiences with mental illness?
I have been diagnosed with depression and panic disorder and it’s been something I have had to live with since my early adolescent years.
How does your artistic /creative expression help you with your mental health?
My creative expression was the place where all my pain went as I felt others didn’t understand. Paper did and I look back at my old poems and read them and think at least I got some beautiful poetry out of the tender experiences. Additionally, when other people have related to my poetry it has made me feel much less alone and poetry scenes have given me a sense of community when I have felt isolated.
Have you ever experienced being stigmatised or marginalised due to your mental health or have you seen this happen to someone else?
Yes I have. There have been times where my mental health has been in a very bad state and people have just thrown me in the “crazy” basket and I have found that people can judge you and define you by your depression/anxiety but it’s not you.
Have you ever received treatment for mental health and if so, what was it, did it help and was it private or state funded?
I have seen psychologists, psychiatrists and have taken anti depressants/ anxiety meds. Sometimes I would see private therapists under my parent’s private health insurance and other times I would receive state funded help. I am anti-medication so I am not on any medication at the moment, but I am seeing a good psychologist who is helping me immensely.
Do you think society and culture is accepting of people with mental illness?
Not as much as it should be as mental illness is becoming more common but unfortunately it is still quite a taboo subject.
How do you feel your Government in your country helps people with mental illness and could they do more?
I feel the Government, doctors and psychiatrists in general are so quick to throw medication at a patient instead of offering therapy, which I think is the most important key to recovery. Although, Australia has a mental health care plan where you receive ten free psychologist sessions a year from the government, however this is not enough for some who are working through deep-rooted issues.
Have you ever had any creative therapies as part of your treatment, did it help?
I have and it did a little bit however, it was a painting exercise and I struggle with painting. I think writing is a better creative therapy for me.
Do you think artistic / creative expression can be used to help people with mental health problems?
Definitely. It has been the one constant in my life that has helped me make sense of what was going on and find some beauty amongst the breakdowns.
Do you think artistic / creative expression could help raise awareness and communicate how mental illness affects people?
Yes because I think most people with mental illness relate to creativity in someway and I think creative expression allows us to communicate in unique ways.
What made you want to get involved with ASLI’s MENTAL ILLNESS, HEALTH AND RECOVERY CAMPAIGN?
I came across the submission call out one day and the title “Art Saves Lives” caught my eye and the campaign resonated with me as I have dealt with mental illness and am now on my way to recovery.
Do you believe in more rights for mentally ill people in the workplace and for equal opportunities?
Yes I do. I think there should be more employment opportunities for people with mental illnesses as it is just as important for us to work as everyone else.
We at ASLI want to de-stigmatize diagnosis labels within mental illness so that people treat others and their own mental health label as that of a diabetic or any other chronic “physical” illness, as we know the brain is physical and this would further improve stigma and marginalising mental illness. How do you feel about diagnosis labels?
I have struggled with labels because it makes you feel like you are trapped in a box however, mental illness labels can you feel hopeless and I agree as they are the same as physical illnesses.
Everyone within ASLI is affected in some way by mental illness, with our MD having several chronic mental illnesses and other members either caring for or dealing with mental health issues. Would this make you think twice about working with ASLI? And does this make ASLI “less professional” in your opinion and if so why?
Not in the slightest but I can see why some people who do not understand mental illness would.
Are there any artists/creatives/performers which you admire, who suffer from mental illness that you feel use their work to discuss or highlight mental health?
Yes, Andrea Gibson who is a spoken word poet in America who has written many poems about depression and anxiety disorders whose writing has probably saved my life and inspired me to keep writing.
Despina uses her art as an outlet and through this is helping herself on her road to recovery.
Art has become her saviour and a brilliant tool for her to create a positive treatment for negative and hopeless thoughts.
If you would like to know more about Despina please follow this link:
Article written by @lisareeveart
Edited by @artistcharlottefarhan