A Present Struggle.

By Brandi MathisOctober 31, 2013

I suffered from depression in high school.

No, I still suffer from depression.

I’m working on being real with myself. On calling things like they are. On not belittling myself to the point of invalidating whatever this thing is I am feeling. I’m working on facing this demon, my Great Sadness. Coming to terms with myself and fighting the grudge I have held against myself for too long.

You see, I’m good at encouraging other people to embrace themselves. I tell them mental health should be a topic of conversation, not taboo. That we shouldn’t feel shameful, embarrassed, or guilty about what’s truly going on in our minds. That it’s OK to not be OK. But I’m bad at implementing these things in my own life—practicing what I preach, embracing myself, admitting that I might not be OK.

Whenever I share my story, I tell it in the past tense. “I suffered from depression.” I tell it as a story that has a conclusion, a story with a beginning, middle, and end, all neatly wrapped up in the package that was my high school career. I rarely speak past the point of my freshman year of college, and if I do, it’s to say something to the effect that I am now happily in recovery.

That’s true—but only to an extent. Recovery is an open-ended term. Does it mean that the one in recovery no longer struggles? Or does it mean the person is still struggling, but actively working to find healthy means to get through it? I don’t know that it has one definition, but when I speak of it in my own life, I limit it to the former—and I’m not convinced that is right.

The truth is, I still struggle. I often find myself in times of inexplicable sadness, dread, and hollowness. I find myself surrounded by people, yet feeling completely alone. Numb.

If someone asks me about it, I usually dismiss it with a wave of my hand and say, “I’m just in a weird mood; I’ll be fine.” Then I’ll smile, make a joke, and laugh until I’ve successfully convinced myself and everyone else that I’m fine. Ignorance is bliss, right? This has become my coping mechanism, and it was just recently that I discovered this might not be healthy. Coping doesn’t necessarily equate healing.

So now I am on a journey from coping and ignoring to healing. I’m starting by continuing to call this thing by its name: “depression.” I’m working on not wearing a mask. I’m working on being honest with myself, allowing myself to say the fight goes on. I’m working on fighting the stigma, not only in society, but in myself. I’m trying to love myself enough to believe the words I tell other people on a daily basis—that I am not alone. That better days are ahead, people need other people, and I am loved.

This is me giving myself permission to not only be vulnerable with you, but with myself. This is me saying that my story is still being written. This is me no longer exempting myself from the fight against the stigma.

This is me admitting I struggle with depression. Present tense.

—Brandi Mathis, TWLOHA Fall 2013 Intern

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Comments (68)

  1. Danielle


    I read the TWLOHA blogs on a regular basis but never did one touch me as much as your’s did today. I couldn’t help myself but read it as if those were my words and not some fellow stranger’s. I find myself using the past tense too often when I know deep down that depression is a battle that doesn’t end with a peace treaty, it’s ongoing. Wearing a mask and “coping” are not the same as healing. People need other people, you cannot be replaced. It’s ok that we struggle with depression. Present tense.

    Thanks for your story, we are not alone.

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    1. Yvonne

      Me too

      Reply  |  
    2. Kay

      I feel the same way! This resonates with me deeply.

      Reply  |  
  2. Megan

    Thank you for sharing, Brandi. That connected with me, as I need to work at being more open with my struggles and myself.

    Reply  |  
  3. Gabby

    I do the same thing. My depression was at it’s worst in high school, and that’s also when i had an issue with self-injury. Besides my first semester of college, it hasn’t been as bad. Therefore i’m fine. I’ve healed. As if it’ll never be like that again. It’s true i’m doing better, but only because i ignore it most of the time. Brush it off like it’s nothing. When the truth is, i’m still fighting.

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  4. Amber

    Wow. Thank you so much for your honesty and bravery. I often find myself believing that vulnerability and openness are ok for everyone else but me. For years I have struggled with depression and self injury, but very few people know and those who do know believe it is a struggle from the past that I have overcome. I live a double standard, accepting the pain and hurt of others, but denying my own. Your words have encouraged me. Thank you for the reminder that it is ok to be struggling.

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  5. Katie

    This is something I’ve begun to accept myself. I hit a pretty bad low about two years ago, and then I started climbing. I saw a therapist and took medication until I felt okay again. I thought it was over, so I stopped. And then I took another nose dive. I’m learning that recovering from depression is not like recovering from a cold or a sprain. It doesn’t just go away, but it’s okay. And I’m learning to deal with it in healthy ways.

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  6. Rachel

    So many true words, you wrote so beautifully exactly what’s been going through my head these past few days/years.

    Reply  |  
  7. Anonymous

    This was beautiful!

    Reply  |  
  8. Kristie

    Thank you for sharing. You’re never alone. You’re precious.

    Reply  |  
  9. Anonymous

    I find this really meaningful. I am more willing to talk about mental health as a freshman in college. Although I am still unable to fix my own issue or feel comfortable talking about it (my mental issues) personally. Some kids at my school have already committed suicide and its suddenly hitting me that its better to be strong and receive help then hide it and let it fester. (but like I said I haven’t applied this to my own situation yet) although I do want to change things but that first step is always the hardest. :l

    Reply  |  
  10. Nikki

    I know all of these feelings way too much, especially lately.

    Thank you<3

    Reply  |  
  11. B

    More power to ya, Brandi…..and join the club.
    Been struggling with depression and everything that comes with it for, ha(!), probably 20+ years. It’s never easy, it never gets easier….things just change. And that is what is important….to change with it. If we cannot change/adapt, then we are lost. You are not the only one, you are not alone.
    You are Becoming. Always Becoming.
    Reach out. You will be ok. And you will Rise.
    ~ in solidarity, B

    Reply  |  
  12. Monique Ghiron

    Your courage to step forward and openly admit to not only to yourself, also those of us whom find TWLOHA an important place to come to for times of encouragement.
    I’ve had my fair share of dealing with depression & attempting twice to end my life.
    I am thankful that I did not follow through & came to realize that I did not want to end my life just the pain that’s bottled up inside.
    The past two years hass been hell, Dec of 2011 my dad tried to take his own life. the attempt left him crippled with the support of a ventilator. He passed in August of 2012. This took a total on everyone int he family. I took my mom in for 3 months & soon realized she was so bitter at my dad for leaving us like he did that she never really had closure. Even after the funeral she did not want to see anyone of us cry, if we did she would yell at us for being weak.
    I love her & also realized I could not live with her. Made me feel depressed even more. I am trying to overcome & find my own closure.
    Dec 2012 I came down very sick & I am still trying to recover. Life stopped somewhere for me.
    Very much like you, through out the past 2 years I’ve given out constant words of encouragement & reaffirmations to others (family & friends), I haven’t given myself the chance at encouraging myself, just berating myself constantly.

    I am more than a daughter a sister an aunt stepmom & wife. Put all of those pieces of the puzzle together & mix in artists writer music lover & explorer. All of this makes up who I am inside & more.
    Thank you for reminding me that it is OK to be vulnerable at times.

    Brandi ,You are a beautiful soul.

    Reply  |  
  13. Anonymous

    This, somewhat, hits close to home. I tell others that it’s okay to feel the way that they are. That though they may feel like it, they’re truly not alone. I try so hard to convince them to share their story with someone, but I don’t share my own story.

    Reading this, it has inspired me to do just that; share my story. This gave me the strength, and for that I thank you.
    I hope that your journey with this struggle will allow you to not only heal yourself, but also heal others along the way.

    Thank you once again,
    A Friend

    Reply  |  
  14. Joseph

    I discover in this that I am not alone in the fight against depression. Sometimes I feel the same way, I mean, I can encourage other people to fight against their demons and fears but I can not follow my own advices. So you make me feel that all is in myself and the first step is accept my problem and then I am able to fight against all my fears and win the battle.

    Reply  |  
    1. Jade

      You have spoken in a way that finally allowed all of my feelings to come out onto what I call a ‘puke’ page. I get out a Notebook page on my computer and just start to write. It is a stream of consciousness/unconsciousness? I am truly not sure which, what I do know is that when I am done I feel better for a while.

      I feel the same way, even though I fight for others to understand that they are not alone. Sometimes, I feel like a hypocrite! I can say the right things to help other people so why can I not practice what I preach?
      I am here for both of you; just as I know the two of you would be here for me if I called upon you.
      I am grateful for all of the amazing people I am meeting as a member of the Street Team for TWLOHA.

      Reply  |  
  15. Brandi

    I could have written this post, word for word. It gave me chills how closely this follows my own life.

    Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  16. Bree

    Thank for being vurnerable…..I know from experience how hard it can be. I relate to all you said ..thank you for sharing your hurt so others like me can relate. I do belive and know in my heart and spirit that God can heal deppression, because He’s healing mine. But I to do what you do. It brings me to tears, because we are not alone. It gives me hope and encourges me. Yes recover is an ongoign process, spritual maintnence but I also know God can heal deppression. So thats what I am sharing with you. Thanks again for being transparent with all of us. You are a blessing , I pray that God will work in you, stregthen you and heal of this deppression and continue to use you in mighty ways that bring glory to Him to touch other’s lives who suffer. In Jesus name, amen. God bless you Brandi. -Bree

    Reply  |  
  17. Jan Lauber

    Thank you for giving me relief!
    You are brave!

    May you find healing soon!

    Reply  |  
  18. Lisa - withouttim.com

    Great write-up. I speak about self-worth, embracing life and grief recovery after losing a son to suicide 5.5 years ago. When asked if I am recovered, I usually respond: One if never fully recovered. It’s an ongoing work in progress such as dealing with addiction, depression, and any/all mental health issues. Peace to you. Lisa withouttim.com

    Reply  |  
  19. Melisa

    Wow, I feel so identified with this article. Thank you for sharing!!

    Reply  |  
  20. Mary

    Wow, this hit me. I struggled a great deal with depression in my teens. Now in my early twenties, I feel some sort of peer pressure to suppress my pain and pretend like I’ve “outgrown” it. But the truth is, I still have depression. I still struggle with thoughts of self destruction and suicide. I have learned a lot and I’m less likely to go through with suicide, by the grace of God. But the depression is still there, it didn’t magically disappear when I became an adult. People call me immature and rebuke me when I share about my struggles, so I think that’s why I’ve tried to pretend like I don’t have it anymore. Thank you for sharing your story, because I feel like it closely resembles my own and helped me admit to myself tonight how I really feel.

    Reply  |  
  21. Lutfy

    Thank you

    Reply  |  
  22. Just Jazze

    Thank you. I really, really needed to hear this today. You put into words things I was to afraid to admit. It hits so close to home for me because that is me. I always talk about my depression in the past tense, when in reality that struggle is still there and its still real. Thank you for this honest and vulnerable piece of writing.

    Reply  |  
  23. Mandie

    It’s like you’re telling my story. Encouraged to know I’m not alone. Of course I KNOW I’m not alone, but it’s nice to be reminded. Of course I would never wish depression on anyone. Know you are loved and prayed for. Even if we never meet. #YouAreEnough

    Reply  |  
  24. SpaZ

    This is me. 100% me. Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone.

    Reply  |  
  25. Sammi Tesoriero

    I thank you for this, from the bottom of my heart. I couldn’t find the words and through you, I’ve found them.

    Reply  |  
  26. Laura

    story of my life. right there with you. we’ll make it.

    Reply  |  
  27. Peter

    Thanks for sharing your story I’m sure you not only touched my heart but everybody who is going through depression. I’ve never been diagnosed but I carry all the signs of depression especially denial. I’ve never read the twloha blogs before but I’m am greatful I got to read this blog.

    Reply  |  
  28. Pamela

    I try to read the posts as often as I can. But very rarely do I read one that makes me feel as if they’re my own words. You’re truly an inspiration. And I wish you the best.

    Reply  |  
  29. Allissa

    I read these blogs every time one is written, but I can honestly say that I have never related so closely to a blog as I have with this one. It was honestly as if I had written this myself. Thank you for your words. Thank you for giving me some much needed courage to step outside of my comfort zone. I’m working on all of this, but it process that I must work on every day, every hour, and sometimes even every second. Thank you for this, though. I hope you see from these comments that your story has been very helpful to many and that you too are not alone. I wish you the best of luck on your journey.

    Reply  |  
  30. Fellow traveler

    I’ve had depression for 40 years now, beginning when I was 11 and my parents divorced. Back then, there was no treatment for young girls. No one even acknowledged that teens could be depressed. “Snap out of it!” was the thing I heard the most.

    I hated myself for the mood swings, for being so damn emotional all the time, for feeling helpless. I’m grateful I inherited my father’s temper because I got really pissed off and fought “the thing.” Fortunately I didn’t choose drugs and alcohol, but work and school as my weapons. For quite a while, I could fend off the thing. But not forever, and not consistently.

    I finally got treatment when I was 34. It changed my life for the better. But I also learned that I have the type of depression that is chronic. I’ll never be able to go untreated, but I don’t care. Since being treated, I’ve been able to endure some pretty serious life challenges without the thing overtaking me.

    So as a 51-year-old woman who’s battled depression all her life, I say to you and others on this site: Life CAN get better, but only when you fight for it. Depression has NO right to you whatsoever.

    Reply  |  
  31. Anonymous

    This is a beautifully written aand your transparency is inspiring! Thank you for sharing!

    Reply  |  
  32. Shannon

    Hi Brandi,
    Thank you so much for sharing this. Lately I have been feeling the same way–surrounded by people, only feeling the loneliest I’ve ever felt. I crawl out of bed late in the afternoon only to crawl back in by early evening. I’ve been missing classes and meetings just because I don’t have the physical energy or drive to get up and go to them. I thought maybe I was just sick or in a funk, but your post really opened my eyes.
    I also struggled with depression in high school. I was hospitalised for it for a week during my senior year and after I got out, it was like everyone around me expected I had been cured–that it was that easy. So I started believing them. I mean if the doctors said I was okay to go home then I must be alright, right? Then when I felt like this again, it must just be in my head. Well, I’m slowly coming to terms with the idea that this isn’t true.
    I go through the same thing–telling people how to embrace who they are and be comfortable with who they are, and then being unable to do so myself. Since I obviously can’t share that with the people I help, for fear of making it more difficult for them to be happy with themselves, I end up just isolating myself.
    Really, I just wanted to say thank you. This post helped me tonight more than you can imagine. It’s a hard thing to accept that you’re not as okay as you might think. And it’s even harder to accept that it’s okay to feel that way.
    Thank you for helping me not feel so alone. xxx

    Reply  |  
  33. Megan Burns

    I cannot believe the good you are doing for the world, and I am sorry I couldn’t hear your hurt over mine when we were close. I admire your inner beauty and I admire your personal strength and growth. Brandi, you are truly one of the most amazing people I know and I know life is going to take you on the most amazing journey. Thank you for sharing your story with the world, and for sharing in my childhood. Stay beautiful.

    Reply  |  
  34. Ryan

    Thank you for this entry. I’m in the same boat. You could swap your name with mine and it’d be accurate, other than being a TWLOHA intern.

    Reply  |  
  35. Becky

    So beautifully written from your heart. This is where the healing really begins not only for yourself but for so many others. My daughter is one of them and I can’t wait for her to read this. The stigma of mental illness is so sad. The stigma when you say those words “I suffer from depression” is beyond what I can even wrap my mind around. So brave of you to be honest not only for your self but for all those around who either suffer in silence or denial. Thank you for being so real and helping others to be honest and real too!

    Reply  |  
  36. KnowMental

    You speak the story of so many fighting “Depression” including my own. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply  |  
  37. Kasey

    After I read this, I felt like you had somehow known what was going on in my head and were able to write it down in a way that made it seem so simple. Then I read other people’s comments and saw that they felt the exact same way… as if your words were their own.

    I’ve always considered applying to be a TWLOHA intern. Giving hope to others, letting them know they are not alone is something I have always found fulfilling. For some reason, however, I didn’t think that advice applied to me. Thank you for sharing your story and reminding us all that we, truly, are not alone.


    Reply  |  
  38. Kerry Martin

    Thank you for being brave and vulnerable. Not sure if you’re familiar with Brene Brown or not, but she equates vulnerability with courage and it’s only by being vulnerable = courage that you can dare greatly. Google her TED talks on Vulnerability and Shame … they are witty, insightful and awesome.
    Rock on your awesome self.

    Reply  |  
  39. Anonymous

    this is exactly what i’ve been struggling with for the past two months- after so long of convincing myself and everybody else that i’m doing fine, i’m scared to bring up the fact that i’m not. but thanks to you, tomorrow i’m gonna be honest. and it already feels like a weight off my shoulders. so thank you.

    Reply  |  
  40. Tammy Lou

    I too have depression. Im not sure if I call myself in recovery because I will always have it. I take meds for it and if I don’t I become so low and start falling into that dark hole. But, I still have battles with it. Stuff, crap inside my head and sometimes it likes to beat me up. When you have depression you get good at pretending, convincing, etc… so that nobody knows. Someone asks if you’re ok and you make something up to convince them you’re ok. Many times Ive hidden in the dark, my darkness, my aloneness. I am not as bad as i was and have come a long way since the onset of all this madness (what i call it). A lot of people would never guess I have depression now. But it i will always have my battle with it I just know how to deal with it much better. Thanks for posting this! 😀

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  41. James

    Thank you for sharing you’re story. I’m sure plenty of us could relate to your situation, myself being one. Just by sharing your story reassures a lot of us that we’re not alone. There’s others out there that have felt the same as us. Theres others out there fighting to be better. Just that thought takes away a lot of the loneliness many of us feel.

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  42. TC

    This is beautiful, Brandi. I am so touched by this because I can relate, & I am inspired to accept my depression & open up about it the way you are! Thank you for your inspiration.

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  43. Emily

    This is omething that I’ve been thinking about and tossing around in my mind the past few weeks, and now I can see that I’m not alone. That people still struggle, and I’m not the only one who used the past sense. That life goes on and I can accept myself, and that I shouldn’t be ashamed. Thank you!

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  44. Anna Harding

    Wow. story of my life. Thank you so much for this.

    Reply  |  
  45. Cearra

    thank you for posting this. i feel like a lot of people (myself included) can relate to every word of this post. very eye opening…. i appreciate your honesty

    Reply  |  
  46. Ashley E

    Thank you for sharing. I see so much of myself in that description. Thank you for admitting what I still cannot admit myself

    Reply  |  
  47. Christa

    Hi Brandi,

    I SO resonated with this. Thank you for sharing it. I’m so good at faking, hiding, smiling. But inside, my chest physically hurts from so much pain. My goal has been authenticity, but I grew up in the church and people don’t want to deal with your issues. “How are you?” means…. “hi”. They don’t really want to know. I feel so empty, so lonely and so sad inside. I feel like I want to sob and sob and sob but no tears come. But on the outside, I smile and people literally have told me they think I have it all tegether. LIttle do they know i’ve been to three treatment centers, more counselors than I can count and tried multiple medications that haven’t helped. I want to scream out cause of how much it hurts inside. I want someone to see ME, past the mask, past the smile…into ME. And see that my heart is bruised and bleeding and barely hanging on. And see that it just wants to be held close, tenderly nurtured and gently touched. It needs to be protected, not taken advantage of. It needs to be taken care of. I have desired for so long for someone to hold me close while I can let out years and years of pain through sobbing. But I can’t even tear up when I’m with someone. The mask is too strong. This is why I cut. Because it lets out what’s inside. Thank you for writing. I resonate so much. If you have any thoughts for me, I’d love to hear them. Thanks.

    Reply  |  
  48. Anonymous

    Oh my gosh. This is me. I feel like it was directed right at me. I love this.

    Reply  |  
  49. Chrissy

    Thank you for being honest! there are not many words when someone else says what you have never been able to say. so yah.. thank you

    Reply  |  
  50. Ellie

    Dear Brandi,

    Thank you.

    Me too.

    Reply  |  
  51. Scott R. Conwell

    You have so eloquently explained my situation in this. Hopefully I can use this to explain to others my issues with depression and get them to understand that it is never something they caused, it just exists as a part of me.

    Reply  |  
  52. sarah

    Thanks you for sharing this. Thank you for letting me know I’m not the only one to feel like this.

    Reply  |  
  53. Peyton

    This really spoke to me. I am also dealing with the same things. I’m a great advice giver to all my friends and family, but when it comes to myself it’s a whole different story. Putting on different masks is what I’m good at. Reading this definitely brought so much into light. I hope the best for you.

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  54. Taylor

    I’ve struggled with depression for as long as I can remember. I get overwhelmed with emotion and then I get ashamed because of the way I feel. I try to shut it out and ignore it. I’ve been seeing a counselor once or twice a week for over a year and I still haven’t entirely opened up to her. Opening up is my biggest problem. I feel pathetic and useless so I bury it all deep down inside. I want to be better. I don’t want to live this way anymore. I’m tired of being sad all the time. I just don’t know how to fix myself.

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  55. Darci Mitchell

    I’ve been stuggling with depression for a long time same with cutting. A boy at my school has been bullying me which adds on to my depression, and I can’t stand up for myself because I would get in trouble for speaking my opinion of him harrasing me. Over the summer I had begun cutting and stoped a few weeks ago because I realised that it wasn’t geting me any where and it was only hurting me and friends, I had a lot of trouble staying away from things like that lately I’ve been in alot of pain with all the crap I have to put up with in middle school.

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  56. kirsten

    i know how you are feeling. i always tell people im fine nothing is wrong when it is a big lie. i struggle with depression. i have done self harm for 3 years now. im trying to quit and be happy it is not easy, and it does not help when my parents say i do it for attention. i dont have them on my side. ive been trying to quit nuy its not easy when no one can understand why i do it. i love these stories thank you to everyone who post!

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  57. Caitlin

    I recently came to terms with my depression. I too ignored it and denied it for years because I didn’t want to “admit I was crazy”. But I’m very normal and very much Not Alone. I as well act as though nothing is wrong and create this wall around me, afraid to let anyone in. I do have someone I can confide in but they are many states away. I thank you for the encouragement to acknowledge my depression each day and not deny what is actually going on. I pray that I find Peace as do all who struggle with depression, self-harm, or any other ailment of sorts.

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  58. joyce

    Brandi – when i read this post… from the first 5 words – it felt like i had written it myself. every single word here – is so true, and i completely understand and feel your experience within me.. right now. thank you – for being so strong, and continuing to be strong.

    Reply  |  
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  62. Pingback: The Golden Moments. « TWLOHA

  63. Kayla

    I know this sounds ignorant but reading these stories makes me want to become an intern when I’m 18. It would be great to do the summer before switching from a community college to a four year university

    Reply  |  
  64. Debra

    Hi. Im alone right now. Just finished watching twloha movie. Find myself crying again. Things have been better for over a year now, I consider myself my happiest, but wonder why sometimes when I’m alone do i still cry an old sadness within me that i thought was gone? Does it ever go away? I think I’m pretending, that I’m scared, is all of this normal? I’ve never reached out like this before, but have no one to talk to. My boyfriend or family would be to concerned if i talked about feeling these kinds of feelings again, so i don’t. But i feel alone. ..thanks for reading this.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi Debra,

      Thank you so much for your comment. We’re glad things have been better for you recently, and we’re sorry to hear that you are scared right now. Would you mind emailing [email protected]? We’d love to talk with you more and to send you some encouragement.

      Reply  |  
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