Turbulence: One student’s experience with mental illness and history of suicide contemplation

Ariell Christian ’17 in front of the Skillman Library on the Quad. (Courtesy of Ariell Christian ’17)

I wonder how it would feel to fly,
fix my feet to dangle above land.
Chipped nail polish stuck between the heavens and hell.
Would he accept me…

Listening to the drum against my chest,
I aim to float. I aim to please.
I sink repeatedly,
Yet my nose still bobs above the surface.
The cold caress to soothing candles,
Warm as my blood greets the temperature proudly.
I look at God. See his creation dance by me waving all the while,
I wish to dance again.
Move my feet in the earth’s liquid
Yet it manages to still touch the floor.
One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi,
Four Mississippi…
I cannot let go out its spelling.
Constantly repeating hoping I can forget and let go.
The drum gets louder,
banging against my ears.
Alarming my mental clock.
Would he accept me? Would I still not be good enough?

Scratching.
Rubber-band blues. Shredded Paper
Rain down your confetti.
Itch my field of insecurity. It is forever dry.

This poem represents my war with myself, 2014 the hardest. My illness has had more strength than ten thousand men. With anxiety and depression, it has been tough. I struggle making it to class; learning was my source of happiness, now my biggest hardship. I didn’t want to leave bed, sleeping for days or not all, staring blankly for hours. I could cry at any moment, sobbing for minutes to hours. I felt distant even with myself, like something fell off the shelf inside me; ashamed to go outside and be seen breaking at any moment. When anxiety steals the show, I feel a stampede on my chest. I lose concentration and get so uneasy that my vision gets blurry. I am in a race, someone is screaming to catch up, but I would never make it to the finish line. I become content with feeling hopeless. I have been so low, eternal darkness seemed like the most comforting decision.

My years at Lafayette have been the hardest of my life, but in retrospect, the most resilient years because I am still here. Each day, I gain a victory because I choose not to quit. To you, being genuinely kind can change the perspective of any person. Providing safe space and care for those who need support is life changing, assurance they are worthwhile. Moments of kindness have meant the most to me, taught me to be kind to myself again. As an ally, you have that power. As a human, kindness will always have power. My fellow fighters of mental illness, you are strong and full of purpose. I’m learning that when you lose, and fight back, you know what it’s like to win.

Written by Ariell Christian ’17. The poem is excerpt from her work, “Wire, Water, Knife.”

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