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Black and White, Dark and Light - Anna Welch

How do you continue to live when your heart is missing? How do you continue to live when there is a big chasm of nothingness in your soul? How do you continue to live when you are nothing and the darkness is all?

I am a hollow, empty shell. That is all that is left of me. The dark swirling storm has taken over my soul, my insides, all my vital organs. And the pain of it is unbearable. Comments, life events, a misplaced word are but shards of glass in my hurricane. They cut me to the bone. Every second of every day. But the shards are insignificant in comparison to the inky wind.

It is not sadness. It is absence of feeling. But its more than that too. It is an absence of self. An absence of purpose. An absence of any sense of attachment to any other form of life. The darkness is me. The hurricane is me. There is nothing else visible in my world. No ray of sunlight on the horizon. No silver lining to any cloud. Just black and my shell.

There are flashes of light. They are blinding. Painfully bright. They throw everything that is and that ever could be into a stark relief. It is hope. It is joy. It is a love so intense. A love of life. A love of people. A love for the future. Until the raft of unending possibilities forms a storm of its own. The winds of this storm are so powerful they rip my breath from my body, make me dizzy. Until the hopeless, bottomless pit of darkness is ready to swallow every shred of bright and sense of self up again. Until there is no me left again.

I live for the light. It is intense, it is all encompassing. But it is passion. It is full of life and hope. The light is where the last vestiges of me can be found. Tattered. Torn to shreds and shattered. Sun bleached and ink stained. But undeniably, irrevocably, me.

But perhaps the scariest part is that you never notice the hurricane. You never notice the intensity of the light. You never notice when light turns to dark like the flick of a switch. All you see is my mask, my shell. The girl I have created, we have created, that has no emotion to show, yet all emotions to feel. A mask, created to protect others from my greatest fears. To protect you from me. Created so that the darkness will touch only me, but so that the light can shine out to all. A mask created to protect me from you. From your pity, from your fear, from the fact that one day you too will give up on me. Will leave me. Because who would stick with a girl who no one even knows exists? Least of all me.

Yet is it irony that, when the winds of the storm are all of my soul, all that I can ask of you is please don’t abandon me? Is it irony that, though I have no sense of self, I see you clearly and I love all that you are? Is it irony that, although I see no reason to live, no reason to stay, I can’t abandon you to cope with the storm in my absence?

For the storm will endure. Without my shell which of you would it choose to inhabit? Which of you would it hollow out? Though I care not for myself, I love you far too much for that.


"Hello, I'm Anna, I'm 22 and live in the UK. I am studying to become a vet at Cambridge. Animals are my passion. Their unconditional love has seen me through some tough times and I hope that in the future I will be able to help a few animals in their moment of need in return. I love sports (rowing, horse riding, running), music (I play piano, clarinet and bassoon), travelling or, failing that, a good book to escape into. I am hard working and determined. I enjoy my studies and try to put my all into them. But this has been made very difficult by my mental ill-health. I have been diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety and my psychiatrist has also given me a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. I struggle with suicidal thoughts, self harm and panic attacks. I have been struggling for years but I learnt to hide it all behind my mask. The mask broke for me 2 years ago, resulting in a complete mental breakdown and forcing me to reach out for help. I am now taking a leave of absence from university to try to find out what recovery can look like for me.

Writing helps me a lot. There is something healing about spilling your soul onto paper. When I am at my lowest I find it very hard to talk out loud. Finding a way to string a sentence together in conversation feels impossible. So I have learnt to turn to writing to try to explain what is happening for me to those around me. I have found it very hard to cope with the stigma that is attached to mental illness, especially from within my own family. Writing has become my way to try to explain to them just how crushing it can be and how I can’t ‘Just cheer up’. Paper was my confidante when I felt completely alone. Poetry has become one of my most vital coping mechanisms. I write it when the suicidal thoughts and my voices become overwhelming. I find that making a rhyme and a rhythm slows my thoughts down enough that I can find myself again."

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