On my bedside table lies a small wooden box.
To a visitor, it seems insignificant
perhaps an elementary school art project.
However, to me, it serves as a powerful reminder.
For a majority of my life, I have never been quick to share my personal feelings
I keep them in a mental vault
locked by distraction and denial
safe and protected from any potential outside judgment.
My reserved demeanor intensified in 9th grade
when I lost my mom to cancer.
In the cruelest of magic tricks: one second she’s there and the next
I felt dazed
the chains around my mental vault grew tighter.
I tried my best to distract myself.
I jumped headfirst into school
preferring to work through math problems instead of my
My aunt saw me drowning
and threw me a lifebuoy
"a bereavement group"
Excuses dove off my tongue
If I couldn’t tell my close friends how I felt, how could I do so with strangers?
It would be more traumatic than advantageous.
my mom’s death forced me to face that
I could not trap my feelings inside forever.
Eventually, I’d have to open that vault in my head and face
the monsters inside
and let others help me battle the pain.
Despite my fears,
I decided to give bereavement group a try.
It was a choice that would unexpectedly change my life.
I still vividly remember
the crisp November afternoon
of my first group meeting.
Standing on terrified tiptoes
and peering through a window on the door,
I saw teenagers settle onto a bright red rug
beginning to paint blank wooden boxes
I heard faint murmurs escaping from the crack underneath.
Paralyzing fear held the door closed in front of me
an invisible force pleading with me to turn back
“you don’t want to open up and see what’s inside,
those chains hold it closed for your own protection”.
I ran through a motivational monologue in my head
Hoping to drown out this forceful fear
and reclaim my motor skills.
"once other people see what's in the vault they'll never look at you the same-
don't open up".
After a conclusive
I stunned fear long enough to
open the door with shaky hands
and walk into the room filled with strangers.
Three years since that cold November day, my decorated box sits bedside like a trophy.
The silver spirals delicately gliding up the sides
are reminders of the gradual weeks
turned to months
and then years
since I began my journey of restoration.
My fear of judgment faded as I bonded with others experiencing similar complex emotions.
I look to the box as an acknowledgment of my mental vault
slowly opening to myself
and those who support me.
The demons inside are slowly losing a war
against my newfound