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Friday 20 July 2018
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'Spoken word saved me'

Zakiya Gill sought help on the brink of suicide

Zakiya Gill hopes her spoken word pieces inspires others. Photo by Enrique Assoon


Twelve months ago, at the age of 27, Zakiya Gill found life was not worth living and decided to end it.

Last Wednesday when she sat for an interview with Sunday Newsday, Gill looked back on her depressed past and laughed.

The Guyaguayare resident said she found some peace in her spoken word pieces and has offered her refuge to others. Gill, the last of her parents ten children, is the only girl to her father and last daughter to her mother. She said she grew up wanting love from her father.

“I strongly believe that the absence of my father triggered my depression. I would sit and wait for him to show up, I just wanted that acceptance from him you know. I had terrible self esteem. Then entering puberty in school and being verbally abused by teachers and people in the community saying, ‘you will be a failure or you will end up being a whore’ you know and hearing these things growing up. What made it worse was when my mother left as well to make a better life for the family in the US. Teachers would tell me that I am a barrel child and I am getting love from a barrel,” Gill said.

The taunts ate away at her, and while feeling burdened with depression, she never named it, only identifying that she would feel “down”.

er lowest point was in April, last year, when she asked her eight-year-old nephew if he would miss her if she died. His response was “yes”, but the realisation that such a existential question could be posed by her to a child was daunting and she sought therapy. At that time she had already recorded Judas was it worth it?, a piece intended to be released one week after her planned suicide.

Gill said spoken word was always a way for her to vent, having a clear understanding of how powerful words are because she took note of how people’s words made her feel from a very young age. “I decided to use my vulnerability and incorporate it with spoken word to help anyone that may be battling with depression. Depression and mental health issues are taboo in TT. People are suffering with it and just want somebody to talk to and not feel judged or people calling them a mad person. I was never afraid to speak about what people did not want to think about.”

Her piece Behind her Smile, speaks of her battle with depression written over a period of two years, beginning in 2016 and ending after she had fought and won her battle over depression. Her suicidal note piece was written within ten minutes she said.

An excerpt from Behind her Smile reads: “Dying is such an easy option, when there isn’t much an alternative to living, but I ain’t living, I am barely surviving, this life that I am barely surviving feels like punishment. If only you had X-ray vision, you would see how I really feel inside. My heart just committed suicide. I just died.”

Gill said she was in a dark place and spoken word assisted her tremendously from getting out of that dangerous place. After she began showcasing her pieces, posting them on social media, she was contacted by others who suffered in silence thanking her for the voice they never had but always wanted.

“If I can help one person, so far it has been more than one, it will be enough. I don’t speak about it because of confidentiality, whatever I am told I keep it. But me being honest in my spoken word to talk about these feelings has helped others and myself and it was a right decision,” Gill said.

One of the videos she posted on YouTube was viewed by the New Jersey City Council in February and resulted in an invitation to take part in a poetry slam competition that took place last Tuesday.

However, she was unable to attend as her visa application was denied. That did not dampen her spirits and she is now in the process of forming her own NGO targeting those who suffer with depression and using spoken word as the therapeutic tool.

“I have sad moments, but not as before where I was feeling like I was not enough or unworthy. I want people to know that, like me, they are enough just the way they are. I volunteer with the Create Future Good because I love their vision to promote child spaces, because I believe it is better to raise a whole and healthy child than fix a broken adult. I do workshops and create child-friendly spaces and whenever my gift is needed, I use it.

My take away message is there is light at the end of tunnel. One day you will look back on it and laugh like I am doing now.”


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