Please welcome today’s guest writer, Brianna Busscher. Brianna (’18) graduated from Calvin with majors in biochemistry and writing. After a year in France teaching English, she began a PhD program in biomedical sciences at Case Western Reserve University. When not working in the laboratory, she can be found roaming the streets of Cleveland hunting for Pokémon (“Gotta catch ‘em all!”), eating pastries at the Italian bakery in her neighborhood, and perusing Goodwill for books to add to her ever-growing collection.
I sat down to write this piece, intending it to be essentially a thank-you. I was going to write a rich and moving love letter to all you writers and readers of the post calvin for providing me with a community of faithful and faith-full thinkers whose words were helping me feel less alone. But when I write sappy things, it doesn’t sit well, and I never finish. That draft ended halfway through.
Part of the problem was that I had no idea what to say about the past nine-ish months to help explain why your stories were so meaningful to me. So I went back to some of my journal entries from last August and then further to July and even June, trying to remember what I felt and what I was experiencing then. I retraced my path of slowly falling in love with someone for the first time, realizing it wasn’t going to work, and breaking up with him. It sounds so clean and tidy when written like that, but the emotional, communal, and spiritual consequences of the relationship and its splintering wreaked havoc on my heart and mind. Nevertheless, throughout August my entries remained hopeful. I appealed to God and to logic to help me through, and I called friends and family to keep the loneliness at bay. I was in deep pain, but there was still light.
I don’t know when things changed or precisely why they did. The onset of winter was probably a contributing factor and the pandemic-forced isolation certainly was, too. What I do know is that the light was lost. I remember sitting behind a building on my graduate school campus crying into the phone to my mom and hearing her say the word depression. (1)
I should have sought help then, and perhaps some of the scarring that occurred later could have been avoided if I had, but I didn’t. Pride was in that decision—“It’s just a break-up. (2) People go through this all the time, and I’m going to look silly for making it into such a big deal,”—but also fear. I felt as if all the people I knew were not who I thought they were. How, then, could I confide in anyone, let alone a stranger? Hadn’t all the people I’d met in Cleveland proven they didn’t actually like or care about me? (3) Why run the risk of trusting another person who would inevitably disappoint and probably hurt me?
In the darkness, I took some comfort in reading. the post calvin was one of my favorite places to visit when I was most lonely and needed people who understood enduring struggles, wrestled with unanswered questions, and found beauty in the midst of great sadness. Here there was honesty, raw and real. I needed that realness. I could not tell my story to anyone in Cleveland for a variety of reasons, but I could listen to and read yours, and they gave me a sense of kinship that I was missing.
(Hmmm, the sappiness is starting to seep back in…)
I contacted Alex Johnson a few weeks ago to ask how someone might become involved in this community because I felt a growing need to respond to what I had read by sharing some of myself. I had things to say.
To the editors and writers, I wish to say simply, “Thank you.” (Ha, this turned out to be a thank-you note after all!) Your stories gave me a community when I felt I had none and created for me a larger framework from which I could start to make meaning of my experiences.
To fellow readers: You are the deeper reason I am writing, I think. I’ve been yearning for a place where I could speak and where those listening would accept me, not because of who I am (a daughter, a friend, a peer), but just because I am. Thank you for listening. Thank you for receiving this fragment of my story, and in doing so, receiving me.
(1) My mom is not a mental health professional, and I do not claim to know what living with depression long-term is like. My point is that I was so unwell that daily life was a struggle.
(2) It wasn’t just a break-up. It probably never is.
(3) Big caveat here: There are a number of people in Cleveland (and many elsewhere!) who do care about me and who expressed that in their words and actions. I simply did not have the eyes, ears, or heart to accept their care as sincere. If I’m honest, I’m still half-blind, deaf in one ear, and guarded as all get-out, but my ability to perceive and trust their kindness is growing.