Stages written by Leah Barker at



written by: Leah Barker



Stage one: Denial.

Apparently the first is one that’s supposed to stay a while,

But I guess my situation is different.

I wrapped up every sense of inclination that claimed I wasn’t sick and sent it away from deliverance

It dragged away with it a myth called hope and every good thing that went with it

I always knew I’d test positive. For a second I became nothing but indifferent.

Then stage two kicked in:

Anger. Fury. The shedding of my sheepskin.

Why me? It’s my brain, it belongs to me! Surely I can control it!

This piece of paper claims that I’m sick, but I will never allow my body to commit.

It’s just a number! God, you’re taking away my birthright

To have a family, to grow old. You’re replacing who I am with a blinding terror that causes me to lose sight.

It’s not fair! I’ve done my part and given you the embodiment of my life.

And this is how I’m repaid? By receiving a sickness that I can’t even fight?

I hate this piece of paper. I despise this so-called “life.”

I’ve done nothing wrong and now living will become a constant strife.

Rage overwhelmed me as my hands grew into fists

And I scraped away at the old scars that spread up and down my wrists.

I am weary.

Stage three: I’ll bargain.

God, I’m sorry for what I said.

I promise that if you take this away, I will live my life wholly until the day I’m dead.

At least take it away from my mom, please! I’ll carry all the weight.

You can have all of my hopes: Growing old, having children, and loving a soul-mate.

I will be good, I promise, just change the numbers embedded into my brain

I will arise a new person; I’ll let my anger and doubts wash away with the rain.

You have the power to do it! Your Word says only to ask.

Throw away everything I’ve pleaded for, and make this Your only task.

I’ll never want for anything more as long as I have breath

If only you would save my body from the turmoil of living on after my brain’s death.

Your silence is killing me, can’t you see my family’s tears?

If the power of prayer is so promising, why have you answered by cursing us with all of my fears?

Where did you go?

Stage four: Depression.

It came with a vengeance as I’d readily expected

For six long months desolation became my paramour as my mind grudgingly subjected.

My bed became my safety net, and what I’d once known as passion

Became caught inside its chaotic web, causing me to miss my “call to action.”

I lived inside of sleep, where I deemed my nightmares more fitting than reality

Consciousness only reminded me that everything I stood for was nothing short of temporary

And that I begrudgingly let my dreams be swept away by stormy sea.

I couldn’t step outside without jealousy’s fists around my throat

As I watched everyone else live their lives with their high hopes still afloat.

The sun became too bright and the night always too black

A constant reminder that testing was my choice, and now there was no going back.

Well I tried to turn my ship around, but the current was all to strong

And I can’t deny I didn’t fall in love with the storm’s thunderous song.

When you’re stuck at sea and forced to hoist the sails day after grueling day

Your arms become strong and your sea-legs turn steady as fear of the unfamiliar starts to decay.

I see it now.

You are here in the calm and you are here in the storm.

Give me the strength I need to wage this war and transform.

Stage five was supposed to be acceptance, but I guess that day never came

I threw out the rules for the”Steps of Grief” and gave stage five a new name.

“Embracement” seemed fitting.

Six months of rough sailing had calloused my shipwrecked mind

So I finally opened the curtains, clenched my affirmative results, and claimed the disease as “mine.”

No more denial, anger, or bargaining left, I took my mind back from despondency

Uprooting all of the overgrowth to make room to plant my tree.

“No more feeling sorry for yourself. You were made for a greater destiny.

You asked God to fashion you as a light for others, and begged for opportunity.

Fall out of love with your sadness. It’s time for self-loathing to take a bow

This is your chance, so cherish it. Your time to start is now.”

I grew up that day, readily exchanging the old for the new.

There was a fire lit behind my eyes, burning bright enough to change my worldview.

My heart began beating to the sound of war-themed drums.

And I turned in my waterlogged airway for a pair of iron built lungs.

No more drowning.

So head held above water, I began waging my war

I let the waves wash away my doubts to be thought of no more.

What was once a downward spiral stopped spinning in its tracks

And I tied a rope around my mind to claim all of my thoughts back.

This is my great destiny, you’ve been telling me all this time

That everything good thing I’d buried had been woven into my soul, so I’m claiming it as mine.

There will be times that I will break down, lose hope, and want to give up altogether

Hold my hand, guide my sails, and lead me through the stormy weather.

I am a woman, I am weary, I’m a warrior who is wounded

But in my weakest, you are strong, and I know that I’ll get through it.

Secure my head up high, and cover every inch of me with armor

I will march in the infantry of empathy, and help others stand with honor.

“Embracement,” seemed appropriate for my stance on this overwhelming illness

And I will finish this race with every ounce of strength I have.

My name will be known as Fearless.

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