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‘Shards’ uses poetry to illustrate Huntington Beach teenager’s battle with depression

Huntington Beach High School junior Colin Parrott, 16, poses for a portrait in his neighborhood on Wednesday.
Huntington Beach High School junior Colin Parrott, 16, poses for a portrait in his neighborhood on Wednesday. Parrott is holding a book talk event on Friday at Community United Methodist Church.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Colin Parrott was excited about going on a Model United Nations trip earlier this year with his Huntington Beach High classmates.

It represented a good opportunity for the 16-year-old junior. Parrott just didn’t anticipate packing depression into his carry-on bag.

“We had to turn in a long 10-page paper as a prerequisite,” he said. “A week before that was due, I had not been working on it, and I had not felt motivated. It was really that Sunday that I had the first real breakdown, where I was like, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ The next morning, I told my mom that I had been trying to tell myself that I am just a little sad sometimes, but I think it might be something more than that.”

Parrott was battling depression. His mother and father, Debbi and Jesse, were worried about him on that trip to the Big Apple. But that was when he started writing down some of those thoughts as poems.

Debbi Parrott, an English teacher at Pacifica High in Garden Grove, was floored by her son’s daily poems.

“I showed it to colleagues and they were like, ‘Wow,’” she said. “It just poured out of him … There’s moments where there’s some lines like, ‘Write, wipe your eyes with a pen.’ There’s a line about the concrete rebar. He notices these details.”

Colin decided to release some of his poetry in book form, to try to help others. “Shards” is available on Amazon, and he is having a book talk, signing and question-and-answer session on Friday night at Community United Methodist Church in Huntington Beach. Preregistration is requested and can be made at eventbrite.com/e/shards-book-release-celebration-tickets-346349660157.

Huntington Beach High School junior Colin Parrott, 16, self-published a poetry book that was written over a two-month period.
Huntington Beach High School junior Colin Parrott, 16, self-published a poetry book that was written over a two-month period in real time.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

NAMI Orange County and Project Hope are partnering with the event to provide resources.

“Not a lot of people are open to talking about [depression], so the fact that [the book] is able to be out there, it’s a conversation-starter,” Project Hope program manager Mary Lu said. “It’s not like someone is going to read it and be like, ‘This is exactly my process,’ but they can relate, talk to somebody and start that conversation.

“I think what’s really cool is the order. It shows that it is an ebb and a flow of these symptoms. It doesn’t just go away in one go, it’s more of a process.”

The poetry book is a collection of about two months of Colin’s poems, from March to May (each is dated). “Shards” is divided into three parts: depression, recovery and acceptance.

“We were originally going to have Part 3 be ‘joy,’ or ‘hope’ or ‘closure,’” Colin said. “But as we went on, I realized that isn’t really something that you get to. You can’t really fully recover from depression. It’s not just going to magically go away … I wanted to show people just how up and down it is.”

Huntington Beach High School junior Colin Parrott, 16, and his mother, Debbi, pose for a portrait at their home.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Colin has been taking medicine, Lexapro, for his depression, and his mother said he has recently been able to string together some good weeks. However, there were two times before that when he attempted to hurt himself, the second time with shallow knife cuts on the top of his arm.

“I’ve never experienced that with any of my kids,” said Debbi, who also has an incoming high school freshman, Ash, who is a transgender boy. “He showed me that as soon as it happened, and it was scary. We locked everything away and he slept with us that night. He made a contract with us and the therapist that he wouldn’t self-harm.”

Colin said the moment definitely was a low point for him.

“I didn’t think it could get any worse, and it just got worse,” he said. “You have all of these negative thoughts that drive you to want to punish yourself because nobody else is punishing you. That’s what drove me to do it … but I’ve been doing better, and I hope I continue to do better.”

Colin, who has a 4.02 grade-point average at HBHS, is also on the Huntington Beach city Youth Board. He said he wants to one day be a lawyer or United Nations ambassador.

His favorite poem in “Shards,” which can be painful to read at times, is one called “Sunset (Relapse).”

At one point, it invites the reader to “take a tour through me, let you peek under the rug and behind the curtain, see the disjoints, the jumps and missing pieces like a broken record.”

In the book’s afterword, he encourages those who might be dealing with depression to find their own outlets. The book ends with listing the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255.

As for Colin’s journey, he knows it is not finished, but he’s happy that the book is complete.

“Twenty poems after this, I’m still writing,” he said. “It’s still a cathartic experience.”

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