The Roar Sessions: Denise Ullem

A Beautiful Hallelujah

by Denise Ullem

Mistake, misstep, judgement, embarrassment.
Unfit, misfit, damaged. For years and years

I swept them, hid them
with broad swaths
under my proverbial rug.
A muted sherpa,
cowering under its weight
quiet, powerless.

The secrets started gasping for air. For light.
An escape, hands held, heads tucked,
whispers in the shroud of night.

With courage rising,
the secrets and underground tributaries
escaped as salty tears and chopped exhales
with worried, backward glances over rounded shoulders,
my life’s story packed in tattered parcels,
they journeyed.

Driven by some north star
which only they could see,
they followed their need to be free.


Steam rising on the morning winter pond
they rose
and I rose

I/they/we became bold.
I gathered them near and
spoke them in the raw sunlight.
Depression, uncertainty, fear.
Doubt, rage, anxiety.
Feet pounding in solidarity
we joined arms and stood tall. Proud.
Dancing in the wide swaths of air,
intoxicated with freedom, honor
glinting in the golden sun.

Silhouettes began to appear
inky black on paper.
Anointed by acceptance
words gained traction
and marched onto notebooks,
crumpled napkins,
porous and soaking up
broad swaths of my heart.
Fears pulsed, dark swills of doubt.
Expert pundits launched their campaign:

What Will They Think.
Who Are You.
No One Cares.
Be Quiet.

I typed and typed and typed
my story stretching from years of cramped living.
The creak of the joints and the pulse of my fingers
and I told the fear mongers to


Each letter, a rebellion,
connecting to build each word
lain upon each word,
architecting sentences and
freedom and life.

Hard-lined borders between
you and me and them and us,
blurred and smudged and ceased.

Arms and hearts opened wide, pulling me close
hearts beating,
their salve words
a beautiful Hallelujah:
Me too. Me too. Me too.


DeniseDenise Ullem is a writer whose work has appeared in Parents Magazine, Brain, Child Magazine and The Huffington Post. Her blog, Universal Grit, features essays on life, the nuances of being a woman and mother, and why depression can suck it. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children.

5 thoughts on “The Roar Sessions: Denise Ullem

  1. dhenryb says:

    Denise–This was a wonderful writing. You pictured the slow, careful, hesitant, developing process of facing something difficult—probably from the past. This is so helpful—because I know from work I’ve done with those who suffer from the past (as well as myself) that this kind of suffering is different than simple mental illness categories and treatments. They need to be brought out slowly and carefully. It is a whole different process.
    Then you brought in the helpfulness of having others who can share and support you. This can be so needed.
    Then you showed the value of writing out what you have felt, feel and experience. A final step that can whoosh you forward.
    A very moving and helpful writing. Thank you for sharing this with all of us.



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