Trigger Warning: The following stories contain references to hopelessness, self-harm, loss, and suicide.

Editor’s Note — Izzy, Aliyah, Anjali, Maryam, and Lorraine submitted stories to our May Writing Challenge. I was impressed by both their writing and the content, and it struck me that together they create a larger story– one of despair that, ultimately, turns to hope, self-love, and understanding. If any of you are struggling with mental health issues, grief, suicidal thoughts, or depression, please see our Help page for resources. And know that you are not alone.

Izzy Lee, 15, United Kingdom

When Fine Means the Opposite

When asked “Are you OK?” after being lost in thought, my in-built response is to say “I’m fine,” knowing that the answer should be reversed. For in my brain are warring words, pulling me in opposite directions, until I lose track of the real. Even surrounded by beauty– like right now on a beach with crashing waves– I’m taken back into my mind.

A friend of mine, who knows me like the back of her hand, comes and says, “Are you OK?” Then, “Don’t answer that. I know you’re not.”

I smile because I’m not alone and the words can’t hurt me here. 

Aliyah Barnes, 13, United States


The summer sun; her gleaming glory. I slip and land in the numbing lagoon. 

My foot is fixed underneath a rock. Gashes adorn my ankles. 

Burning from lack of oxygen, panic grows in my chest. My vision is tainted. Tilting my head, I angle my face toward the sun, the surface only an arms-length away. 

I reach for the surface unsuccessfully. I need air. Pushing my arms towards the rock concealing my ankle, my fingers slip. I lose the rock. 

I’ve lost any and all hope. My lungs tighten. I fill my lungs with water, ready for the inevitable. 

Anjali Shah, 16, India


He marked the first summer day of the year on the calendar and went to his dressing table. He stared at his own reflection when tears rolled from his eyes.

He said, “Why were you so insane to leave him there? It was completely your fault that you didn’t understand him. He was fighting with this colorless, dark world and his creative mind to make you feel alive. But you were the one who misunderstood him and thought his creativity was madness. Today you got the results as not having him by your side. Dear, forgive me!”

Maryam Akhtar Hussain, 22, England

Let Her Go

Suffocated by the constant remembrance of my pain. Sweating beside the fire, with nothing but a letter that gave me peace yet broke me, all at once. Smudged ink from tears I’ve let escape. The constant desperation to throw my past into the fire, let the words disappear with her and start again.

I let the summer air escape, pleading for a sign. I conjure up every fiber of my being, holding together my broken pieces long enough to do what I should have done to begin with. I throw her into the fire and I finally let her go. 

Lorraine Ann Cleope Rebadulla, 25, the Philippines


It was 15th of May, 5:30 AM on Saturday. I woke up because of that warmth feeling. The sun had settled up in the blue sky. 

“Isn’t it a good day to start?” I asked myself.

This summer reminded me of a warm embrace, a peck on my cheeks, and a smile after that sorry. Sitting while eating Taho and listening to “Leaves” by Ben&Ben, thinking how to start this day to forgive.

When will I be able to learn to forgive myself for all the things that I can’t control?

Tears fell. I hugged myself and comforted.

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