Better Angels

This school can be a scary, oppressive place. It can be lonely and sad and deflating, and especially so if it’s the first time that you’re feeling those things in any significant way. It can wrestle you to the ground and just keep kicking and kicking until it 
feels like there isn’t anything left, and then it will leave you there, bruised and gasping for air. It can be cruel like that. It can replace any sense of well-being with deep, dark pits of anxiety or depression or perfectionism or an eating disorder, or, if it wants to, it can do all of those things at once. Just because.
Earlier, maybe mid-January, I was sitting by the river next to Weeks Bridge in the middle of the worst panic attack I’ve ever experienced. It started with a simple thought: I am alone. And, soon enough, like dead leaves circling a storm drain, my own alone-ness blocked out everything else. The thought clogged up my mind and left a thick layer of sweat on my face, which quickly chilled against the winter air. My heart banged up against my ribcage and I couldn’t control my breathing. It was long and scary, and, as I tried to process everything on a cold bench next to a wide river, it seemed obviously and completely true: I am alone. I am alone. I am alone.
I remembered then how, about a month earlier, I had come out to that same bench and noticed a string of police cars 
and ambulances lined up on the side of the Anderson Memorial Bridge. The officers and medics had their flashlights out and were scanning the nearly frozen water. It was black and glossy and intimidating. The Massachusetts State Police Twitter account told me that a man had jumped into the river. The search for him was “ongoing,” apparently. Their lights danced up against my cheeks and I felt guilty for taking their attention away from scanning the water, even for a second.
The panic attack ended when I finally gathered myself up and went inside, found a thick blanket, curled up on our common room couch, and waited for my roommate to find me. He asked what happened. I took a short breath. I told him everything.
Looking back, I have no idea why I was so hesitant then to tell him, or anyone, about the panic attack, or about the anxiety and depression that had hounded me in the previous months. He listened. He listened! He smiled. He related. He took in the poison that had beaten me to the ground that night, paralyzed on the muddy banks of the Charles River, and he balled it up and threw it away. It was beautiful to watch.
Stubborn as they are, the depression and anxiety have stuck around since that night, but so too have the kindness, grace, and understanding of my peers. This part of the story—in which I slowly open up about what I’ve kept inside for so long—is difficult to convey in writing. A lot has happened.
But suffice it to say: there are angels at this school. And, as 
it turns out, they’re everywhere. They care about you and they want you to be happy. They’ve been there and they’ve felt that. They know that on the other side of whatever it is you’re facing, there exists a beautiful, full world, and that it’s waiting for you.
There are angels here. They’re everywhere. One of them is lanky and clear-eyed, and he’ll put his hand on your shoulder and tell you that it’s going to be okay. One of them has beautiful sandy-blonde bangs and wears wool dresses, and she’ll smile and keep talking for hours and hours, if you want. Another drags his flip-flops across your floor and spends his free time listening to podcasts, and he’s been right where you are, and he’ll remind you that he struggled just like you’re struggling, once, but that he still made it. And there are more: with southern roots and dirty fingernails and piercings and gluten allergies and freckles and tote bags sagging with books and ripped jeans and glossy lipstick and poor eyesight and smoking habits and dimples and mismatched socks and scars of their own to brag about.
There are angels here, and they are everywhere. They might look like your friends and classmates, your tutors and professors, your parents and your brothers and sisters. But don’t be fooled. They are all angels, and they are all here for you. You just have to ask for their help.
Image source: Flickr/Tim Sackton

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