“It gets better.”

By Jill JorgensenAugust 8, 2022

 “It gets better.”

For some reason, this phrase has been on my mind lately. Nothing extraordinary has happened. I haven’t slain any personal dragons, nor have any huge milestones been reached. Quite the opposite, actually. And yet…while completing mundane tasks over the past week, I find myself feeling grateful. Happy, even. And I find myself returning to this phrase.

If you have ever struggled in your life with mental health or dabbled on any sites that promote open conversation about personal journeys, you have probably seen the phrase: “It gets better.” Often used as a message to your younger self, I’ve heard it many times and even said it myself as an optimistic sentiment to a past version. But what does “it gets better” mean?

In the past, I interpreted it as “the struggle lessens.” You feel happier. You get less dark and twisty. You magically become this being who doesn’t struggle. But cleaning my kitchen tonight, in my condo that feels one mishap away from complete destruction, I felt like it took on a new meaning. I started composing a different letter to my younger self, starting with that same phrase.

Here is it:

“It gets better.”

You don’t magically become a new person, one who never knows dark-and-twisty thoughts. This is what I thought the phrase “it gets better” meant. That I’d go through some fabulous metamorphosis as an unlovable caterpillar and somehow end up this beautiful butterfly who had “come out the other side” of struggle. But that isn’t what happens. You still struggle from time to time. You occasionally have to remind yourself that scissors are for art projects and hair, not your body. Sometimes there will be no obvious cause of sadness and yet you’ll find your brain telling you to impulsively end your story. Winter doesn’t stop being an emotional cold bowl of soup either—you feel sad, you feel anxious, and you count down the days and minutes until Daylight Savings begins again.

But you DO become someone who realizes the dark-and-twisty moments and parts of you do NOT define you. You aren’t “less than” or a science project that has gone wrong for having these thoughts. Instead, when these thoughts come to you, you’ll start to understand that they are happening TO you and are separate FROM you.

“It gets better.”

You don’t reach a point where people always understand you or your intentions or emotions, or even what you meant when you said that one thing that one time… You will not only continue to need to advocate for yourself, but you will reach a place where this is comfortable and you see the necessity (and advantages!) of being assertively open. You will reach a point where this stops feeling like “defending yourself” and transforms into “loving yourself.” Helping others understand becomes healing. It also makes you a better teacher, someone who walks the walk—so to speak—and not just talks the talk. Teaching five- to eight-year-olds with social/emotional skill deficits to “use their words” feels like a genuine lesson when you do it too as a grown-up.

“It gets better.”

You don’t stop crying easily. I’m sorry, but you just don’t. I wish I could tell you that you reach a place where misunderstandings and negative reactions stop triggering your tear ducts. I’d love to tell you that you become one of those people who feign shock when picturing another person crying—but that isn’t your journey. You will still cry when your feelings are hurt. You will cry when you’re angry, frustrated, happy, and all the other intense emotions. Because you feel everything. EVERYTHING. Sometimes it feels like it’s the worst, but you will reach a place where you feel like it’s not a curse. It actually helps you significantly. Your ability to talk with someone and hear their story and empathize, gives you an advantage. You reach people and connect with people. It makes you a great teacher. When someone feels heard and seen, they feel validated and cared for. Anything meaningful between two people, no matter the relationship, begins with those two things.

I can’t tell you, younger self, that no hard times lie ahead. I can’t tell you that you won’t struggle and feel sad and wish you had a different set of emotional skills. But I can tell you one thing: it gets better.


People need other people. You are not weak for wanting or needing support. If you’re seeking professional help, we encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected].

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Comments (4)

  1. Eileen

    Thank you so, so much for this post! I also have depression and drag myself through winter and cry easily at every emotion. I also teach (middle school). Your writing, “Your ability to talk with someone and hear their story and empathize, gives you an advantage. You reach people and connect with people. It makes you a great teacher. When someone feels heard and seen, they feel validated and cared for,” helps *me* feel validated and seen. I started back to school today, with my students coming back in a week. Thank you for reminding me that the things that often feel like weakness are strengths. I hope you have a good school year!

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  2. Sarah

    Thank you. This blog post is exactly what I WANT to say to others but don’t always have the words for. I will gratefully share your words with others.

    Reply  |  
  3. Emily

    I am only 16 and I struggle tremendously when I was younger I was unaware of everything that was going on, Sometimes I wish it was still like this. This summer I had my very first panic attack. I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. My anxiety would give me terrible stomach aches. My legs would shake. I tried many medications, nothing would help me. I was hospitalized this summer for self-injuring my wrist, my panic attacks, my anxiety in general, and my depression. Since then I have gotten on a good medication for my anxiety. I still have panic attacks. And days where I forget to take my pills are awful. But my depression overtime has become worse and worse. I used to never leave my house without my room clean which may seem small for some but not me that is huge. Now I can barely get out of bed no matter what hour I go to bed.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Emily,

      Thank you for taking the time to share this with us. We really do understand how you’re feeling and what you’re going through. We hope you know how grateful we are for your vulnerability and for the fact that you are still here, still trying, still seeking options and hope. If you ever want a safe space to share or are looking for some encouragement and support, you can email us at [email protected]. We’re here and we’re glad you are too.

      With Hope,
      TWLOHA

      Reply  |  
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