In this interview series we ask questions to people who are making a difference in our society, it can be big, it can be small, it doesn’t matter, what matters is their contribution. It can be anyone from any walk of life and from any country. Please, do send us suggestions of people whom you think we should interview for this series.
Elisabeth Horan is a poet, mother, and small press publisher living in the wilds of Vermont. She is the author of numerous poetry chapbooks and collections, and the Editor-In-Chief of Animal Heart Press. Elisabeth is passionate about discovering new voices and mentoring emerging poets. She is also a fierce advocate for those impacted by mental illness. https://ehoranpoet.net/books/
Following are her responses to our questions
- Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a mother of two young boys living in Vermont, USA. I am a very creative and sensitive person with a complicated past. I try to do the best I can every day, despite mental illness issues that I suffer with. I teach English and writing at my local community college, and run an independent feminist press called Animal Heart Press.
- What motivated you to write? Who are your favorite authors?
I spent twenty years of my life after obtaining my BA in English Lit, unsure what to do with myself. Instead of working to further my education I went back to being a waitress and a secretary. I was very unhappy and didn’t think I was worthy of any better kind of life. I went back to online graduate school when I had my two children, late in life, at 35 and 37 years of age. I wanted my kids to someday be proud of me, and know that their mom followed her dream to be a poet. So I did six years of online grad school and obtained my MA and MFA. I find poetry is a way in which I can be honest, and speak openly about my life and my struggles.
Some of my favorite authors are Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Robert Frost, Toni Morrison, Chinua Achebe, Sherman Alexie, Natalie Diaz, Kaveh Akbar, Louise Gluck
- Can you tell about your experiences with Depression and how you overcame it?
I have struggled with depression and anxiety my whole adult life. I think that humans who are creative, and perhaps, like me, very sensitive, succumb to this more often. I know that I feel everything so deeply. Everything upsets me – dead animals in the road, politics, knowing children suffer at the hands of adults, the environment, my own family… it feels often smothering and I can’t breathe due to the weight of pain in the world. I have not overcome it, in fact, I am deep in the oppressive water now. All I can do is survive somedays. I will never take my own life because I have children who need me. So I do the best I can for them, and stay here, and keep fighting, knowing that someday, things might ease.
- Why do you think people often choose to remain silent about Mental health issues, they have come to light quiet prominently across the globe as a result of lockdown due to pandemic, why do people hesitate in asking for help?
Because it is still embarrassing to admit we are not strong enough mentally to overpower this feeling of depression and anxiety… there is still much stigma all over the world – as if it is a choice… that if one chooses to be strong and feel better and be an adult, they can suck it up and be ok. I know this isn’t the case, when mental illness swallows you, it is very hard to fight back, and there is rarely a “choice” to say ok, I am going to choose happiness now and therefore feel ok. I think there is some aspect to choosing happiness, and outlook is very important to have a chance at surviving severe depression, but often times, when people are so ill, that choice is not relevant. They can’t see any way out of the darkness.
- How did you cope with the lockdown and pandemic, how did it change your life?
I have not dealt with it very well to be honest. I have two sons, ages 8 and 10. Their school closed March 3 of 2020, and I was home with them 24/7 until Sept 9, 2020, when their school reopened. I love my sons with all of my being, and one might think I would have been happy to have more time together, but I didn’t feel that way. I felt overwhelmed and isolated and trapped. I had to quit my job to be home with them. I lost time to write poems and handle my own life. I felt like all I could do was keep them alive and safe and try to survive each day. I started drinking way too much alcohol, and in August, 2020, I was hospitalized in the inpatient mental health unit for severe PTSD and major depression. I was there for 8 days. It was very very hard to get through that and be away from my children. I was ashamed and embarrassed that I had to be hospitalized. It still weighs on me heavily and I am often ashamed to tell people… I also don’t think it cured me, or solved much. It just caused me trauma.
- Which social issues concern you the most and why?
Hate concerns me. Trump, nationalism, shades of Nazi Germany and Holocaust type rhetoric. Black Americans being shot all the time by police. Mosques being burned, all of it – the way that people of power create fear between us as if one is to be feared and demonized as the “other”. Trump is maybe the worst thing to happen to my country in 50 years. And it is terrifying that he, or someone like him, will come back to power and charge the hatred again to the point of a civil war or loss of democracy.
- If you’d have power to make one change in the world, what would that be?
To save animals and children from violence neglect torture and death at the hands of adult humans.
- What would be your advice for emerging authors?
Don’t give up… if you get rejected, try again – it’s all about finding a journal or an editor who likes your voice… do research and submit to the journals where you have a chance. When I started, I didn’t understand that, and I would submit over my head, and so was rejected… Do research, look at what journals are publishing, and see where you have a chance for acceptance… be pushy, don’t give up. Believe in your writing and push yourself to get better. Support other authors, don’t make it a competition. :)
- What other hobbies and interest do you have beside writing?
I love to ride horses. I have ridden all my life until I had a rough series of events in 2018-2019. I had a bad fall and broke my back in two places, and also had to put down my two horses due to illness and old age. I still mourn them, and I hope to find the courage to ride again someday. I also like to sing in Spanish and dance. I especially like the salsa.
- Your message for our readers?
Don’t give up. Be yourself, be honest, stand up for what you believe in. And don’t give up hope.