Essay: Crossing The Bridge

The following poem was selected as one of the winners of this year’s Refuat Hanefesh Creative Expression Contest. Age group: College and Up.



Message from the Author: While the inspiration for this piece was someone who deals with obsessive thoughts and compulsions, the message is universal. We all want to get better, and we all want to be completely healed from our struggles. The reality is that for many of us, if not a majority, our challenges are not going to just disappear. And that is perfectly ok. Sometimes, we get so caught up in trying to conquer that which we struggle with, that we forgot that learning to live with our struggles is just as much of a success.

“Cross to the other side!” you say.

But I am unable.

“Its better here,” you call out.

“Look at how much fun we’re having,” you attempt to entice me.

I know. But I can’t make it.

I can see that. But I cannot come over.  There is a bridge. It is the only way across.

“Its not so bad,” you tell me. “Just walk!”

I don’t. I won’t. I can’t. I am afraid. Afraid to cross the bridge.

“Take a few steps! Then you’ll see its safe.”

I understand. But I won’t even take a step. Its too high. I will get scared.

“So don’t look down!”

I wish it was that easy. It is not. Anytime I am high, I look down, and I freeze. I cannot cross the bridge.

You call over someone else. Now you both shout out to me, “You can do it! We know you can.”

I wish I had your faith. But I don’t. I won’t. I can’t. I am terrified of that bridge.

“We need you on this side! It’s no fun without you.”

I know this. I know people are waiting for me, expecting me, begging me to cross. But I am too afraid.

I turn around, so I cannot see your expectant face. I am ashamed. I am tired. I do not want to fear this bridge. I know I should not be afraid of heights. I wish I could just walk across. But I don’t. I won’t. I can’t. I am too terrified to cross that bridge.

The other person you brought over now leaves. They know I will not cross. They do not want to wait. And I do not blame them. Why wait for me? I will not cross the bridge.

I prepare to leave. To walk away. I cannot bear to watch you on the other side if I cannot join you.

“Wait,” you call to me, much softer. “I have an idea.”

I turn back around. I am ready to listen. But I am ready to be disappointed.

“Close your eyes.”

I pause. I think. I don’t know if I have tried that before. How can that work?

“If your eyes are closed, you can’t look down.”

I am skeptical. I will be up high. I will panic. I will open my eyes. I will look down, and be terrified.

“Not if you keep your eyes closed. You can look around, but keep them closed. Trust me.”

I pause again. I think some more. This is something different. Perhaps this will work. Maybe, just maybe, I can cross that bridge.

I look at you. You nod encouragingly. I take a deep breath and shut my eyes.

I take a step forward. The ground is still solid. I am not yet on the bridge. I don’t know If I can do this.

You notice me pause. “Don’t stop!” you shout, “just keep moving forward!”

I take another breath. Another step forward. This time I feel my foot hit the bridge. It is wobbly. I want to open my eyes. To look. To be scared. To run away.

“Keep them closed!” You yell. “Keep them closed!”

I oblige and I do not look. I take another step. Both feet are on the bridge now.

“You’re doing great! Keep moving forward!”

Slowly, very slowly. My eyes stay closed. I sense I am high, and I sense my fear. But my eyes remain shut. I cannot see how high I am. I cannot feel how afraid I usually feel.

“Halfway there now! Don’t stop!”

Step by step I carry on. Toe by toe. I move like a snail, like a turtle, like a sloth. But I continue onward. Inching forward. I know I am high, but I cannot see how high. Fear bubbles, but it does not erupt, and my eyes stay closed.

“Almost there!”

I can’t believe it. I am so close now. I feel something else now. I am not sure what.

I take another step, and I hit something harder. I have reached the other side. I pull my other foot forward. I am now on the other side. 

“You can open your eyes now.”

I open my eyes, and I see. See that I have made it to the other side. I now recognize that new feeling. It was happiness. It was triumph.

“See, I knew you could do it!”

I laugh. You were right. I spin to the bridge, ready to stare it down, finally victorious!

I look at the bridge. Dizziness hits me. I feel afraid. I feel terror. I won’t. I can’t. I do not understand how I could have crossed that bridge. That newfound, glorious feeling fades away. The happiness has faded. The triumph is gone.

I look at you, stricken. “I did not do it! I did not conquer the bridge. I am still terrified!”

“Yes, that’s true,” you smile at me. “But you crossed the bridge.”

Please click here to read other pieces pertaining to general mental health

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