To Everyone Who’s Helped Me Through My Mental Illnesses

I am alone.

I am scared.

I am worthless.

I am unlovable.

My depression starts out as a soft whisper. So soft, I can’t hear it right away. But it waits. My depression is patient. The longer it waits, the louder it becomes. So loud that I can’t do anything but listen.

My depression wants me to hide.

My head is spinning. An endless sea of thoughts swirling through my head. Thoughts of yesterday, thoughts of today, thoughts of tomorrow. Random thoughts. Thoughts of you. Thoughts of me. Thoughts of us. Thoughts of them. More random thoughts. Thoughts trying to make meaning of other thoughts.

Just stop thinking. I can’t stop thinking. My brain won’t stop. The thoughts are getting louder and spinning faster. Why can’t I stop thinking? I have to find something to stop these thoughts.

My anxiety needs me to hide.

Ouch, that hurt! Oh, it was just the wind blowing, I’m OK. I’m safe. Wait a minute, why does the wind hurt? Why does everything hurt so bad? I’m not safe. Someone stole my skin. All of my nerve endings are exposed. I’m feeling things I’m not supposed to feel. I’m in pain. I have to stop feeling.

My post-traumatic stress disorder is forcing me to hide.

So I hide. I hide behind the bottle. I hide behind the blood. I hide behind the scars. I hide behind the pills. I hide behind the food. I hide behind the empty stomach. I hide the way I’m hiding. I hide the monster I think I’m becoming. I hide.

But you see me. You see the empty bottles and unkempt hair. You see the fresh scars peeking through the tightly wound bandage. You see the mess that I’ve created, the mess I’ve become. You see me. And you’re still here.

You see past the disheveled look and confused gaze. You see past the thick walls I build up around me. You see past the depression and anxiety. You see past the pain. You see past the ugly ways I cope with the pain. You see it all, you see past it all and you see me.

Thank you for seeing me.

Thank you for looking in when you wanted to look away. Thank you for reaching out, even if you knew I wouldn’t reach back . Thank you for staying when leaving made more sense.

Thank you for giving me life when I was so close to death.

It was you. You were the one who saved me. You saw me when I couldn’t see myself. You walked in when I shut the world out. You believed in me when I had no faith in myself.

You loved me when I felt unlovable. You breathed for me when I had no breath. You lit the way when I saw only black.

You cried for me. You cried with me. You fought for me. You let me go.

You held my hand when it was shaking. You were my feet when I couldn’t stand. You lifted me up when the world crumbled beneath me. You gave me hope when I was hopeless.

You are my mother. You are my father. You are my sister. You are my brother. You are my husband. You are my friend. You are my son.

You are my therapist. You are my teacher. You are my doctor. You are my coach.

You are the woman who sat next to me in the waiting room. You are the stranger who smiled as we passed on the street. You are the boy at the checkout who asked about my day. You are the mom whose nod said, “Me too.”

Thank you to all of the beautiful souls in my past, present and future who give me moments of connection that make life worth living.

I am me because of you. I am alive because you looked a little bit deeper, leaned in a little bit closer, loved a little bit harder and held on just a little bit longer.

You are the pieces that keep my heart beating.

Thank you.

It wasn’t just one person who helped me through my mental illnesses — it was several. Some I know well. Others crossed my path once. Still others continue to help me on a daily basis. My mental illnesses try to rob me of the one thing I believe humans are wired for: connection. Someone looking me in the eye when I feel invisible gives me strength to get through just one more day. Connecting with a friend in a deep, intimate way gives me worth when I feel worthless. Hearing someone say, “Me too,” when I feel like no one understands heals me in the most profound way.

Human connection.

One moment is all it takes.

Be kind. You never know when your smile could save a life.

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