A way with words - Tucson Local Media: El Sol

A way with words

Tucson painter turns to writing to overcome depression

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Posted: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 6:00 am | Updated: 12:01 pm, Thu Feb 24, 2011.

“I made that choice with one single voice.

No reason to keep looking back.

But every now and then, when the old feelings begin,

I catch myself going over the tracks.”

— From “Rhyme or Reason” by Steve Hiller

Steve Hiller vividly recalled an unexpected moment of creative inspiration. He was driving down Ina Road with his daughter when, out of nowhere, he began reciting words to the poem “Rhyme or Reason.” “Write these down,” he asked her. “Sounds too much like a song lyric,” she replied in typical teenage fashion.

Her brutally honest critique made him smile and think about how far they had come from the darkest days of his depression, when he pushed away everything he loved and cared about – family, friends, career.

Fortunately, Hiller, 47, found an outlet for his emotions. The poems in which he poured his love, anger, sadness and joy lifted his spirits and helped him rebuild a life he never thought he could recover.

Now, Hiller has published the verses as “Serenity, Love, Hope” (Publish America). 

The Flowing Wells High School graduate divided his 60 poems into the three headings that comprise his book’s title. The content reflects the roller coaster of feelings he has undergone while trying to let go of the emotional baggage from his childhood. The negative feelings sent him into a deep depression. He didn’t realize how deep until he had bottomed out.

“I lost everything. My wife, my home,” said Hiller, a painter by trade and a creative spirit by heart. “Life has a way of telling you, you have to change, and life will only give you so much time to do it. If not, life will whisper, ‘I’m going to do it for you and you won’t like it.’”

In the beginning, he sought help to save his marriage, and then that changed.

“I decided that the reason I wanted to help myself had to be about me. It was the first thing I ever did just for me, and it is the best decision I’ve ever made,” the father of two noted.

He found solace in writing, something he had done as a youngster and then buried deep below the layers of his depression. Rediscovering the creative release as an adult proved to be life-altering. So did the day he read the poem “Dance with Me,” a love verse to his ex-wife, to his psychologist.

“I felt different. It was like the dam broke. I couldn’t stop the voices that came out as poems,” he said of the revelation.

At this same time, Hiller began reaching out to old friends on Facebook. He didn’t know if his work was good until he began reading it over the telephone to a friend in Ohio. The words of encouragement gave him the strength and courage to publish his poems, which now numbered enough to fill several books.

“I told my friends on Facebook that my darkest days gave birth to my brightest star,” he said.

Hiller admits he “didn’t have a clue” about how to get published. He started searching the Internet and found PublishAmerica.com. He submitted his work on a Monday and received a confirmation two days later that the company could take up to 10 weeks to review his submission. But on Friday, the publisher notified him that it would print “Serenity, Love, Hope.”

People who have read Hiller’s verses comment they can see themselves in some of the poems.

“Even though each person’s depression is a personal thing, there is a common thread among us,” he said.

Opening up about his depression has helped Hiller look at life in a more positive light. It helped him realize his family never left him; that he was the one who pulled away so that his wife and children would not see how sick he was.

He recommends others talk about their feelings, too.

“Don’t isolate yourself. Depression is not a sign of weakness,” he advised. “I was lucky enough to find a person (his psychologist) and an outlet in a phone book.

“As you get help and start to see clearly again, you look at what you’ve done to your family. That’s the hardest thing to accept.”

The book’s original title was “I Am.” Hiller changed it to “Serenity, Love, Hope” for two reasons: 1) the new title reflects his journey back to a productive and happy life and 2) the initials of the three-word title are the same as the initials of his name, Stephen L. Hiller.

Hiller has a whole new outlook on life these days.

“The book has made me stronger and better. I’ve been humbled, my god, have I been humbled,” he said, softly shaking his head in wonderment. “Knowing I can love in the truest sense has made me a better man.”

“Serenity, Love, Hope” can be purchased online at www.amazon.com.

© 2014 Tucson Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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