Poet Sophia Falco and her journey with bipolar disorder
Written by Sumayyah Namusabi
Sophia Falco’s Poetry
Sophia Falco is a young talented award winning poet, mental health advocate and a blogger for the International Bipolar Foundation. At only 26, she has won multiple awards and published numerous poems and her famously known chapbook, The Immortal Sunflower. She walks Spooye through her journey with bipolar disorder and poetry.
“I started writing poetry after I was given a poetry project my senior year in high school so I’ve been writing for about 7 years now. I am ever so grateful for that project because otherwise it probably would have taken me longer to get reintroduced to poetry. In 8th grade I annotated two amazing poetry books for class titles: This Connection of Everyone with Lungs by Juliana Spahr, and Loose Sugar by Brenda Hillman. I was really into reading those books and annotating them, however the writing aspect of poetry didn’t stick with me then. I started writing and became committed to my craft after high school on my own terms. Then I officially started taking creative writing classes when I attended the University of California, Santa Cruz.”
She further says,
“My chapbook, The Immortal Sunflower (UnCollected Press, December 2019) was published as a winner of The Raw Art Review poetry chapbook when I was still a student at UCSC studying for my undergraduate degree: Intensive Literature with a creative writing concentration in poetry. I graduated with the honors of magna cum laude and the highest honors in The Literature Department in June 2020. Now I have a forthcoming full length poetry collection! In addition, my poem: “Farewell” won The Mirabai Prize for Poetry and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I also have over 30 individual poems published in various journals/magazines with some contest finishes.”
Below is some of her exceptional work;
Envisioning A Clay Dove That Takes Flight by Sophia Falco
Earlier version published by Tiny Seed Literary Journal
I was given a miniature clay dove
to be my guardian the day
living with bipolar disorder
became my reality.
I placed her on my bedroom windowsill
as a reminder that there can still be peace
despite my struggles that ebbed and flowed
like waves crashing on a shoreline.
She rested in the same spot for a decade
though every morning I’d check on her
since I longed for her to take flight.
(I would dust her off with a tiny scrap
of a green dish towel.)
She became more than my guardian,
in fact, she manifested my hopes and dreams—
I too wanted to soar.
Her motionless presence filled up
my bedroom though this fine morning
she was no longer there.
It was as if she came to life,
and snuck out my cracked window
without a sound during
that hot summer evening,
and took flight under the bright stars.
At first I was heartbroken at this loss.
Yet I became conscious of my inner strength,
and that what is constant is change.
Journey with bipolar disorder
Sophia Falco was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 1 at age 16. If you are hearing about bipolar disorder for the first time, we will do a quick summary.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition which causes unusual extreme mood swings; say emotional highs [mania (super energic, restless, irritable, distractibility & increased risky behavior) or hypomania (less severe manic symptoms)] and lows (depressive episodes like deep sadness, suicidal thoughts & hopelessness). You might have heard of it by its former name, manic depression.
Bipolar disorder is categorized in 3 major types which include; Bipolar I disorder (Manic, hypomanic and depressive episodes), Bipolar II disorder (hypomanic and depressive episodes) and Cyclothymic Disorder (hypomanic and depressive symptoms less severe than Bipolar disorders I and II)
Experts say that the exact causes of bipolar disorder are unknown but several factors like biological differences including genetics may be involved. Please note that bipolar disorder can only be diagnosed by your doctor/psychiatrist.
Sophia Falco went on to say that she has been living with bipolar I disorder for the past decade. Because she puts out such amazing poems, we were eager to know how she has dealt with her depression when it come to her craft.
How she has dealt with Depression
“Depression is very challenging, and I have dealt with it through multiple avenues such as therapy (including dialectical behavioral therapy, partial hospitalization program, and intensive outpatient program) medication, and writing through it”
“However, when the depression gets at its worst, I fear I will lose faith in writing, and this sentiment was explored in a piece titled: “Wordless” written the beginning of January 2021. It was a meta prose piece because it explored losing words and the potential of losing faith in words by using words themselves to communicate that fear. I have written numerous poems about depression through the use of metaphors, imagery, and colors in a very imaginative way such as my poem “Imagining 42 Tiny Scuba Divers”. Some poems of those were written retrospectively from the depression as in a stable mood reflecting on that challenging mood.”
“I learned about myself that with writing, I can build more resiliency in the face of adversity by using this as a form of self-expression and releasing trapped and intense emotions. I attend therapy weekly (currently virtually) and take prescribed medications on a daily basis.”
A word from Sophia Falco to someone living with bipolar
“Seeking help is not a sign of weakness even though unfortunately stigma is still heavy in society, but instead a sign of strength, and that it can get better, and that you can still pursue and achieve your dreams with the right support.
What Sophia Falco thinks about mental health awareness
“I do not think there is enough being done when it comes to mental health awareness, therefore I consider myself a mental health advocate through my poetry, and I have been a blogger for the International Bipolar Foundation. My 9th blog post to be published by them is titled: “Trapped Light” and is forthcoming this February.”
Bipolar disorder affects over 45 million people worldwide according to WHO. If you know someone or think you might be experiencing symptoms, talk to your doctor because only a medical mental health specialist can diagnose this disorder. There is no cure but there are effective treatments like medication and therapy as Sophia Falco stated. You can find her work on her website, sophiafalco.com and you can also get her chapbook here