Allowing Myself to Be Known

By Nell SundraJanuary 10, 2019

“I need to do this on my own.”

“No one can know I’m hurting.”

“It would be a burden for them to hear about this.”

“I’m too broken to be loved.”

“No one would look at me the same if they knew.”

These were the lies I believed. I felt broken, let down, unwanted, and just plain rejected. Depression deceived me into believing that I was alone, and anxiety refused to let me reach out. I bought into the lies that told me no one wanted to hear about my pain, that they wouldn’t believe me if I told them, and that the knowledge of my sadness would be an inconvenience. And although I deeply ached to have someone standing with me through the pain, I refused to give in.

I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety in the fall of my sophomore year of college. I wasn’t sure what triggered that season of my life, and that lack of a cause spurred on even more turmoil. I felt guilt and shame over the fact that I didn’t have a “real reason” to be depressed or anxious. I was surrounded by caring friends, a supportive family, and I was pursuing my dream career. What was there to be sad about? If I couldn’t even rationalize my mental illness to myself, how could I ever explain it to anyone else?

Because of this, I spent a lot of time alone. I spent more time than I’d care to admit hurting in silence because I was too afraid and ashamed. I chose to live in isolation instead of letting anyone see the hurting parts of me. But by refusing to let anyone in, my mental illness thrived.

Community isn’t a catch-all cure for depression, but healing very rarely comes from isolation and hiding. For a long time, I desired nothing more than to be fully seen and loved without allowing myself to be fully known. I wanted someone to know all the dark parts of my heart and love me completely, but I wasn’t letting anyone close enough to see those parts. Although I often toyed with the idea of reaching out, I instead listened to the fear surrounding me.

The fear of people’s opinions prevented me from experiencing the grace they could offer. When I decided to accept that fear and tell someone anyway about the depression and anxiety I was experiencing, I was shocked and even overwhelmed by their support. “I still love you. This doesn’t change how I see you. We’ll get through this together,” I was told. There was the freedom and the space to be broken. No need to pretend to have it all together or to be whole. A community was cultivated when I spoke up and asked for help; people carried my burdens and loved me despite the parts of me I had grown ashamed of.

I won’t tell you that there are only sunny days to be had once you build a community. I continue to have hard days. I continue to wonder if I’ll always have these feelings. I continue to sometimes feel as though it’s all too much. But I am reminded that there are many parts to me, and the dark ones are not the only ones defining who I am.

Life will never be perfect or pain-free—of that, I am certain. But I am convinced that we are better together. When we refuse to let each other go through life alone, we become stronger. It isn’t easy to build a community, but extending a hand and welcoming the brokenness of others is a place to start. We are not meant to do this alone.

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Comments (15)

  1. Patricia Mathews

    I am in the same boat. Now I have to develop a social personality without allowing people to hurt me.

    Reply  |  
  2. D.

    This text really expresses everything I feel towards TWLOHA, last year I did not know how it would go so far and be alive a year later I am surprised and happy. Thank you, you are part of my table of salvation. You made me feel so understood that I stopped sinking alone to realize that outside people are struggling. I know that hard times will come back, finding reasons is also an obstacle, but I’m advancing. Thank you all, the night I found them was the worst and I could not bear it anymore, the decision was taking force and I was saying goodbye but I read one of his articles and something was caught inside me. At the moment I felt selfish, I still do, but I have been taught that together we are supporting each other and we have each other. Thanks a lot. You saved me. I would like people close to me to understand and stop branding me as conceited. I just want to draw attention. But it doesn’t matter, I count on myself and now I’m starting.

    Reply  |  
  3. Heidi Sinderman

    Beautiful thank you.
    Being deeply known is what I most long for and what I am scared of. Or maybe I’m scared about feeling scared. Regardless, this resonated with me.

    Reply  |  
  4. Kris J.

    I totally need to hear this. I was just telling someone today about an experience I have had with all of the same issues. Interesting timing.

    Reply  |  
  5. Melissa

    This is an awesome story. I too would isolate and not let any see me but then I discovered an awesome program that could help me with this and it was the best thing that I could of done for myself.

    I also have bought some books from this website that I enjoyed reading. It’s nice to know that there is a website like this that recognizes all of these things and gives us inspiring messages to help us get through everything.

    Reply  |  
  6. Teresa

    Thank you.. So much. ♥️

    Reply  |  
  7. Jarrett Davis

    I don’t suffer from depression or anxiety, but this still rang true for me. I rarely show people the dark places of my heart because I am known by family and friends as “strong”; it is often one of the first things people say about me. They don’t know I gain strength from their love.

    Reply  |  
  8. Jarrett Davis

    @ Patricia Mathews – People WILL hurt you – until you find the right people. You know about TWLOHA, so I think you have found some of the right people. You will eventually find a circle of friends who are the right people; we all have. Chin up, sister! You matter.

    Reply  |  
  9. Cheri

    I resonate with this so much. It is so easy to tell ourselves these kinds of lies, and to live in fear of people not understanding our pain. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply  |  
  10. heather fischer

    Im not sure why i came across ur story today but im glad i did. As i sit here with tears streaming down my face bc once again anxiety/depression are controlling my mind, i read your story && it gave me a little hope knowing that these dark days wont last forever && Im not alone. And no matter how “crazy” i feel right now that Im not crazy && Im not alone. Thank u so much

    Reply  |  
  11. Calla Papademas

    Thank you for this. It speaks deeply to my experience, too.

    Reply  |  
  12. Jane Coyle-Hart

    Neil Sundra: thank you for sharing your feelings and experiences of
    Loving with depression and anxiety.
    I used to think I would “outgrow”
    these feelings of self-doubt and miserable fear of failure at everything I tried doing. But we don’t. The lens gets sharper as we realize when we let our guard down and like you said , it isn’t easy to “allow others” to really know us-but distancing ourselves from
    Others who truly love
    And want to support us is the Achilles heel. If we take that risk, they will know our weakness, and them wont like us.
    Thank you for inspiring many readers with your message that enlisting supporters is a sense of Community and we MUST be courageous enough to allow
    Others to accept ya ‘just as we are’, afterall, we accept them as they are-who also may have hurts or hang-ups that we don’t even know trouble them. It is a 2-way street. Being a friend doesn’t mean that not showing your best side.
    It means revealing your true self.
    For your own good and to learn to accept we are human beings, we all
    have inferiorities and questions of self-doubt. No man or woman is without Flaws, and accepting them as they are is what we hope they do for us.

    Reply  |  
  13. Joey

    Love this

    Reply  |  
  14. Gabrielle

    Building a community has continued to be my number 1 challenge. As a teenager, I never opened up to anyone so I didn’t really have friends. Now, far into my 20s, I’m still perpetuating that same pattern of not letting anyone in. I’m so lonely and as pathetic as it sounds, I really don’t know how to go about making friends still.. I won’t give up, though.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA


      We’re so glad you’re making that choice to not give up. To keep trying and living. It’s hard to let other people in, but it’s OK to need other people for love and support. You deserve those things. Please know that you can always reach out to our team by emailing us at [email protected] when you want to share or are in need of some encouragement. You are not alone, Gabrielle.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
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