I have struggled with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember. They are like personality traits: funny, smart, anxious, depressed. No matter how hard I try to ignore them, there they are, tagging along like a pair of annoying younger siblings. Everywhere I go, they go. Sometimes they behave more like quiet wallflowers. Sometimes they want to be the center of attention. Oftentimes in my life, I have felt that they are relentless in their desire to cripple me. Some days, they triumph over me—and those are the days where I feel most like a failure.
I’m a Christian, and while my faith is important to me, certain rhetoric I heard in my youth was damaging. People who meant well said things like, “You can’t walk in faith and be depressed” or “Depression is an act of selfishness.” I began to think that if I were a real Christian, I wouldn’t experience these struggles at all. So not only am I defective, but I am a failure in my faith as well. Now, adult me knows that this is not true. But as a teenager and young adult, I spent so much time denying my struggles, trying to pretend that they weren’t real. I never dealt with anything. I just tried to mask the pain. I didn’t talk to anyone about how I felt, I developed an eating disorder, and I stayed in a toxic relationship for far too long. I felt stuck. Alone. Hopeless.
In my mid-twenties, I began to rely heavily on my faith to carry me through a tumultuous time. It was then that I realized, once and for all, that being a Christian and dealing with anxiety and depression are not mutually exclusive. It would be wonderful if having faith meant that I’m not privy to the downfalls of this world but that just isn’t so. Yes, having faith does give me hope. It does provide rest and peace. But I have to consciously choose to focus on that hope, rest, and peace—because I’ve learned that anxiety and depression will be relentless in their pursuit of me. And so I must be relentless in the pursuit of joy.
I used to get so mad that my brain was wired this way—that happiness, most of the time, did not just present itself as it seemed to do with so many others. Why do I have to work so hard just to live? It was a question I asked myself many times. But one day, for whatever reason, I accepted this perhaps unfair reality. I will have to pursue happiness. I will have to find the good. I will have to choose joy. I will have to fight to stay afloat. It’s the only option. We get one life, and while I have spent a majority of my time wishing mine would end, I have since realized that life is pretty beautiful, even when it isn’t. You will get hurt. You will get scars. But you will also experience love. The warmth of the sun. The smell of fresh coffee. It’s all a part of being here. Of being alive. Of showing up. And there will always be at least one person who depends on you to show up.
We convince ourselves that we’re only worthy of love, time, or patience if we are having “good” days. This is a lie. The sheer fact that we are living, breathing humans means that we are worthy of those things. There is no fine print that says we are only deserving of those things when we feel like we are easy to deal with. Conditions do not apply. Life will have many ups and downs. There are numerous mountaintops and plenty of valleys, sometimes in the same day. I have laughed in the presence of my friends and cried by myself on my bathroom floor all in a single 24-hour period. Both versions of me deserve love and compassion, from others and from myself.
Mental health is not a destination. Or even a journey—because journeys, too, come to an end. Mental health is simply a facet of living. I have made peace with the fact that I will, most likely, always have to fight to find the good. So I will keep gratitude journals, I will surround myself with inspirational quotes, I’ll decorate my body with meaningful tattoos, I’ll talk to trusted loved ones about my struggles, I will seek out help from a mental health professional, I will do whatever it takes to find joy.
If you also feel like you’ve always had to fight just to live, I hope you know you are not the only one. I hope you realize that although life can be incredibly tough, you are as well. I hope you know that you are always worth the energy and will it takes to stay. And I hope that you, too, will be relentless in your pursuit of joy.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.