The Storm

By Gretchen Van Lithe

Like most anything, it started small — a single, ivory puff pinned to an otherwise spotless sky. Left, then right, I yanked my laces taut and shoved off the concrete step, leaning hard into the fall air. Bounding one after the other, my feet carried my body for miles, until the only cloud visible was the one escaping my lips with each breath. Day after day, I ran like this, not knowing whether it was the promise of the sun or fear of the storm that fueled me. Chasing or fleeing, I moved.

One morning, rays peeking past drapes did not awake me. Instead, sleep was stolen by a rumbling so inauspicious I dared not raise my lids. I remained dormant and waited for silence to settle in.

How foolish. Hadn’t I learned? Stillness can only be found in movement.

Out of bed and into my shoes, my soles hurled me toward my only retreat. I pounded down the steps only to be met by a barricade of fog. Swiftly, it snatched my vision. I accelerated, hoping to pierce through to the uncertain, perhaps fictitious, clarity on the other side. But the cadence — it was all wrong. There was no beat in my step, no security in my motion. Dry leaves skirted quickly down the curbside, taunting me in my sluggishness. My muscles quivered and seized. I crumbled into the concrete.

“How am I not fast enough? I have always been fast enough.

I stared down at bone white hands, but all they clutched was disbelief. The clouds were thickening, expanding as rapidly as the pace of my breath. Density rose until, finally, no longer could they support the sorrow welled up within. Raindrops popped from the ducts of my eyes. Gently, at first, then in a great flood they descended, cutting canyons in my cheeks, washing away all color. The downpour raged beneath my temples, wind burst from my mouth in sharp sobs. With little vacancy left in my skull, the monsoon blustered down into my chest and surged against my rib cage. Frightened it might drown my heart, I cried louder. I cried harder. I thrust forward every emotion within me in a fit of thunder, and I cried until there was not an ounce of water left for shedding.

When the last of the lightning ceased, I loosened my tightly fastened eyelids and gazed at the puddle below. Gleaming like oil, pain swirled on its surface, dancing softly around the reflection of my features. But, it was clear — the darkness no longer belonged to me. The two cloudless pools peering back were evidence of that. Held captive in my mind’s atmosphere for years, the heartbreak within me had finally been set free.

The storm was over.

A breeze, warm this time, brushed through my hair and across the pond before me, sending a final ripple to its edge. With it, the glare of affliction dissolved, leaving a calm, undisturbed expanse. In this new silence, I studied my likeness. The gray hues of my irises had returned to their youthful green. My ebony brows stood tall and sturdy like stocks of wheat. From ear to chin, freckles dotted my jawline like scattered seeds and thousands of hairs on my scalp were like stems ready for blossoming. Watered by the showers of suffering, my soul had been made a garden a garden tender, yet rooted in resilience, one created to sprout and flourish.

So now, I sit patiently reflecting until the season of reaping arrives. And when it does, I will climb from my quiet rest, gather a bouquet of courage, nestle a single bloom behind my ear and listen to its petals as they whisper, “you don’t have to run any more.”

Art from my Instagram: @gr.etcha_sketch
“Hope – hard to find when the mind is clouded, but always there.”
Behind the author and written work:
With a hectic college schedule behind me, I finally found time this summer to reflect on my experience with mental illness. "The Storm" describes how it felt to have depression and anxiety follow me like a cloud, and the relief that resulted when I finally sought assistance and addressed it on a deeper level. The writing process itself proved to be pretty therapeutic too, so that was a bonus. 

 


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