For a long time in my life, I let my pain define me. Years of struggling with depression, anxiety, and self-injury made me believe that I was destined to be broken. I thought anyone I told about my struggles would abandon me. I felt alone, and I was terrified. I feared myself, I feared my voice, and I feared my honesty. My fears kept me silent, and I began to believe every lie depression told me: My voice doesn’t matter. Hope doesn’t exist. I am worthless. Healing isn’t possible.
I hid my pain beneath a mask that told the world I was happy. Even my own family and my closest friends didn’t know about the hurt that was always lurking beneath the surface. They did not know about the demons that haunted me or the fears that kept me up at night. Depression told me that I could not ask for help because, if my friends and family really knew me, if they knew who I really was with all of my pain and brokenness, then they would know that I was unlovable.
At the beginning of my senior year of college, I was at an all-time low. My self-injury was worse than it had ever been, and I came extremely close to a suicide attempt. This made me realize that I couldn’t live in silence when the pain and loneliness of depression were threatening to take my life. I decided to give up self-injury for good, and I put an end to my silence. It took all my strength to find my voice, but I finally began to be honest with myself and with others.
I began to open up about my struggles to some of my friends and to my advisor. They didn’t run away. They didn’t think I was “crazy.” They didn’t see me the way I saw myself. They knew I was more than the pain, and they still loved me. For the first time in my life, I knew I wasn’t alone. I finally began to believe in hope and healing, and I began to learn what it meant to love myself again.
A year later, when depression reared its ugly head and came back into my life, I finally decided to get professional help. I was able to be honest with my family and more of my friends, and I learned healthy coping mechanisms and techniques for managing my mood when things get tough.
Today, I can honestly say that I have reached a point where I am happier than I’ve ever been. I am thankful to be alive even though my life is still far from perfect. Recovery is a choice I continue to make every day; I’m human, so I still struggle. I have days when I would rather not face the world. I have days when I hear the whispers of fear and self-doubt come creeping back into my mind, and I fight hard not to listen to those lies anymore. I don’t know if I will ever be free from that, but struggling is just a part of life. I’m learning that sometimes we still hurt even after we find healing, and that’s OK. Now when things are difficult or I have a really hard day, I try to look for the good and the beauty even in the broken. It takes a lot of work, but I can always find it. Even though that doesn’t make the pain go away, it strengthens me for the fight.
If you’re struggling, I want you to know that you are not alone. You are more than your pain, more than the brokenness, more than the lies you’ve learned to believe. In the midst of your struggles and suffering, it can be very easy to forget the truth, so let me be the one to remind you. Life was never meant to be something you do alone. Don’t let your fears keep you suffering in silence. Vulnerability is terrifying, I know. I’ve been there. But vulnerability is the first step to freedom, and honesty means that the lies don’t hold you anymore. There are people out there who can help you win this fight. You were always the one meant to walk away in victory.