In a secret folder on my laptop, I have poems stashed away that no one has ever read. I didn’t want any of my friends, professors or family to know about this folder because it’s a little dark and heavy. It spoke into the hardest part of my life so far—the most troubling, challenging and dull semester I’ve had at JBU.
A year ago this January, I started experiencing deep, unsettling grief. Just a few people knew about the turmoil tearing me up inside—some friends, two professors, my counselor and my family. But the sadness shadowed every part of my life, and everywhere I went, it gripped me. My professor told me to write out my emotions, to capture the raw, agonizing pain and slowly let it out of my system. Now, as I remember the pain, loneliness and grief I underwent over the last year, I have pried open that folder on my computer and re-read my words.
Titled “Grief,” this folder was a safe space for my creativity. It was never supposed to be edited, never supposed to be read by others and never supposed to be critiqued. I wanted to let it settle there on my computer and slowly work its way out of my system. But life doesn’t always go the way we plan.
Recently, I saw an article that implied I was and am not alone in my suffering. According to the National Network of Depression Centers, depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. among people ages 15-44. Additionally, depression is the most prevalent health problem for college students according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
I want to share an excerpt from my secret folder. Although I didn’t think it would ever get published, I am willingly letting you know the deepest words I’ve written. I hope this piece can be an encouragement to you no matter what stage you’re in today. This poem was where I was a year ago today.
“I have this black hole inside of me right now. It’s really been here for a few days. I feel anxious, I feel tired, I feel stupid, I feel lost. I have these moments with you, God, every now and then that are pure bliss. I walk away feeling satisfied and full of the Holy Spirit. But then the rest of my life starts to squeeze its dark, grimy fingers around the veins of my heart. And instead of listening to your guidance from the moments of peace, I start to panic. I try to pry away the fingers of my demise, but the harder I try, the more it strangles my almost-lifeless heart. I feel betrayed, I feel small, I feel alone.
“I hear you probing me to look back to you, and I occasionally do. I am re-directed, and I forget about the slimy hand of life, but then I glimpse back at those fingers and I can’t tear my eyes away again. I no longer feel the comfort of your presence but the fear of the hand.
“But I hate this anger building inside of me. I hate knowing that, like a volcano, I am sure to explode very soon. And who will survive this flood? By the end, will I have any friends? I will never deserve any. I’ll never be good enough. So why even try? I’m just going to wallow here, if anyone wants to be my friend, good luck to them. I’m just the devil in disguise.”
You may be experiencing real hurt, confusion, anger, depression or any other emotion this semester. I want you to know that you are not alone and your emotions are valid. This isn’t just something you can set your mind to get rid of and—poof—it’s gone. It takes time, help from others, friends and sometimes medicine to become better. What I am here to tell you is that you can do it. I am here for you. Your friends are here for you.
Although it may seem like you’ll never get out of the slump you’re in now, I’m proof that you can. It may have taken me a long time to feel like myself again, but I finally made it. Now, I am more joyful and at peace than I have ever been in my life.