Talking about the darkness that lives inside me hasn’t always been easy. It took years for me to tell anyone other than my parents. When I was first diagnosed with depression, I felt so alone. I was surrounded by people who didn’t understand what went on in my head every day, and it was a difficult thing to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it.
Looking at me and my life from the outside, you’d never know. I work hard to slap a smile on my face every morning. It’s never easy, but it’s necessary. I greet everyone I pass with that same smile and a “hello” hoping to make their day better than it was before. It reassures me I’m still needed on this Earth. I try to be as upbeat and as chipper as possible, even though I know it will completely and totally exhaust me for the rest of the day.
From the inside, you’d see the darkness that dwells in my soul. You’d see the hurt that creeps into my heart and shatters it into a million pieces. You’d see all the tears I hold back on beautiful, sunny days as I lay in bed, too exhausted and sad to greet the world. You’d see the terrible things I think about myself held behind my tongue and bouncing around my brain fighting to escape my lips.
One day, I decided to let the light in. No one would ever choose to live in darkness. I started telling people who were close to me about my diagnosis. I then talked with extended family members, classmates and coworkers. A funny thing happened once I started to share my story. I found out I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was. I heard the phrase, “Me too,” come out of many people’s mouth. I found out that I wasn’t the only one who struggled.
It is an incredible feeling to know there are people just like you in a world. We cried together about the bad days and celebrated the little victories we accomplished.
When it all comes down to it, I share my story for two reasons. The first one is for awareness. Mental health needs to become a priority in our country. We cannot be afraid to talk because with more awareness comes more support. With more support comes more programs and professionals who can really help people in need or in crisis.
I also share my story to shine my light for others. For the people who can’t navigate the high seas of sadness, I am the lighthouse. For people who can’t find their way through the depths of depression, I am a flashlight. I shine the way because others have shined the way for me. We cannot be afraid of this light. You must shine it for others to guide them through this confusing and terrifying journey. It is a beacon of hope on cloudy days and a sign that we are never alone. Collectively, we will bring light to this condition and make sure no one is afraid of the dark ever again.
Image via Thinkstock