Real-life: I curate inspirational content that lands in the inboxes of thousands of veterans and their supporters with the hopes of helping them on their path to wellness.
Also real-life: I struggle with episodes of major depression, and right now I’m crawling my way out of one. One moment, one day, one conversation, one therapy session, one hug, one workout, one yoga practice, one mindfulness meditation at a time.
Sometimes, life throws a lot at me all at once, and though I try to stay afloat, my brain connects too much of the here and now with the there and then. My worlds swirl together, past and present, and I start believing the lies that trauma creates.
This poster, with a message that I’ve tried to instill in the hundreds of people I lead, and which I have believed at a time applied to me too, has been sitting tucked away and out of sight. You see, when I’m struggling, I can believe its message of “Your story is important” for everyone—except for me.
These are the lies depression tells us: You don’t matter. You’re not good enough. You are hopeless. You are a burden. You are not lovable. You are powerless. You are alone. You are weak… and sometimes, if the lies go on long enough, depression may begin to tell us the most dangerous lie of all: that our life isn’t worth living.
These are the stories wired into the neural pathways of my brain by past experiences. These are the lies so many people believe to be true—yet only true about themselves—when they are suffering from mental illness. These lies try to keep us from reaching out. They try to keep us from hope. They try to keep us silent, in the darkness, suffering and alone, believing there’s nothing we can do to help ourselves.
If I, surrounded by people who have time and time again proven they love me to the ends of the earth; I, the preacher of hope and positivity; I, the badass bearer of Team RWB “Eagle Fire”, can be fooled into isolation and secrecy by the lies of depression, so can your strongest friend, your stoic coworker, your smiling neighbor, your powerful marathon-running teammate. And so can you.
My loving husband and I put this poster back up in my office on our 13th wedding anniversary, after working another late night and ordering takeout because I was too mentally and physically exhausted to do anything or go anywhere to celebrate. With his unwavering support, consistent therapy, daily physical activity, and my incredible circle of chosen family and friends, I’m trying, once again, to believe the mantra that now hangs on my wall and exists at the center of all that I stand for.
I’m working to believe, again, that I am neither too much nor not enough for those that have demonstrated their love for me. That I possess something in my spirit and in my story that the world needs. That my impact is real and my dreams, big and small, still have a chance to come true, through both hard work and grace.
Most importantly, I was able to hang this poster in my office once again because when I recently found myself in an all too familiar and scary place, I reached out for help. Help that I am leaning fully into. I told myself, the mere existence of this poster, of this mantra, of the organization I acquired it from, To Write Love on Her Arms, and the organization I belong to and work for, Team Red, White & Blue, means that I’m not alone in any of this. That the noise in my head and the familiar pain in my heart can and will once again be healed. I can live in the present, in this body, in this place of support, love, and hope, and not where the pathways of my brain have been wired to go. Even if on some days someone has to help me turn the pages, I can keep writing my story.
We don’t have to do life alone. We were never meant to.
Amanda works for Team Red, White, and Blue, a veterans service organization that connects veterans to their communities through physical and social activities. She leads their digital engagement efforts by providing daily bits of inspiration for veterans and team members taking manageable steps towards wellness.