Student uses love of math and writing to publish book


Patrick Li

Alyssa Loving is a graduate student in Mathematics. Her book, “4 Gone Conclusions” details her journey through her studies and job.

By Megan Bradley, Staff writer

Alyssa Loving spent her summer creating a book of poetry to take a break from mathematics, which she studies as a graduate student.

The self-published book “4 Gone Conclusions” was a way for the Ph.D. student to confront and attempt to deal with some of the extreme anxieties she’s been facing since being involved in a car crash in 2013.

The crash occurred during Loving’s junior year of college. She attempted to carry on with her education, hoping that time would be the solution to some of the feelings she was experiencing.

Loving said the initial feelings of guilt and depression were aided by her family.

“After that I just sort of assumed that it would take time. I was just kind of expecting things to get better,” Loving said. “So I dove into a graduate program here and I decided to just wait it out.”

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

During her second year in grad school, Loving said she realized her situation was not getting better and she was still dealing with intense anxieties. Being in a car, crossing the street or worrying about her family back home were hard for her and caused distractions in her daily life.

Sarah Loving, Alyssa’s younger sister, was there every step of the way during her process. Sarah said that herself, along with the rest of their family, had always encouraged Alyssa to write a book, which she finally got serious about the past summer while she was home.

“She knew that her mind needed a break from the math that has consumed it over the past couple of years at graduate school,” Sarah wrote in an email. “Art and literature had always offered my sister a respite, so she finally decided to self-publish a book that would reveal her innermost being.”

After a formal diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, Alyssa said she realized there were things she needed to do to attempt to improve her situation.

“I was like, ‘OK then, I’m gonna take this summer and try to do everything I can to kind of work through some of this,’ and writing is what I had found in the past to be therapeutic so that’s what I decided to do,” Alyssa said.

Alyssa said she had always used writing, especially poetry, as a way to process strong emotions or traumatic events that happened in her life. Her writing had left her with a collection of poems from before and after the accident. Partway through the summer, she said the idea came to her to organize the poems she already had into a five-part book.

The book is split into several sections, each with different types of illustrations created by Alyssa to emphasize the feelings she was experiencing throughout her healing process. It begins with a more nostalgic feel as she is getting ready to leave for college. It then goes through the feelings she felt about a shooting that occurred far from home but was the moment she realized that sad things do happen in the world.

The third section of the book is a poem about the accident Alyssa wrote shortly after it happened and is illustrated with photographs that she took of herself.

“I wanted it to be photographs as opposed to drawings or charcoal representations,” Alyssa said. “I wanted it to be real because the other ones were reflections, but this one was about something that actually happened, and it happened to me.”

Alyssa said throughout her project, beauty was a main factor and something she strived to create and show. It is something she said she felt in conflict with when she was trying to let her anxieties go with time. She said she was unable to see the beauty in writing or in the mathematics she had always been able to.

“I’ll continue to do math, but I’ll also continue to write because of the beauty there and I think that sometimes I have students who, I think they’ve never heard anybody say that math might be a way to express beauty,” Alyssa said.

She said she wanted to show that there is no such thing as strictly a math person or an English person and part of her motivation to write came from these desires.

Since writing her book, Alyssa said she noticed changes in her anxiety levels and in the dreams that she used to struggle with. Changes in Alyssa’s behavior were noticed by her family and by her boyfriend, Derek Jung, graduate student in LAS.

“The nightmares have decreased dramatically since writing her book, dropping from several times per week to a couple times per month,” Jung said. “There is still work she needs to do, but it was a great relief for her, through the book, to finally be able to discuss the monumental impact that the accident had on her life.”

According to Alyssa, her friends and family have loved the book, not just for what it has done for her mental health, but for the beauty that they find in the poems.

“My older brother, who I was really surprised by his reaction, I didn’t show him any of the process,” Alyssa said. “I just sent him an almost completed draft and his response was just, ‘This is very beautiful,’ and that made me very happy because my main goal was to make something beautiful.”

[email protected]