The 'Little' Thing My Online Friend Did for Me When I Was Struggling With Depression
Editor’s note: This piece was published with Heather’s permission.
My favorite part of this community is getting to know you all. Once a week, I sit down and make an effort to email back or message anyone who reaches out. Usually it’s a good mixture between support, asking for advice and hate mail. But every once in a while, it’s something bigger — even if I don’t know it yet.
This January, I got an email from a young girl, a senior in high school, who was struggling. She was being bullied, struggling with depression and just having a hard time. Her last line of her email said, “I am scared a boy will never like me enough to take me to prom.” It broke my heart — because guess what girl didn’t get asked to prom? Right here. I reached out and we quick became friends. We spent two months emailing every day.
Then one day, I asked her, “Can I send you something?” fearing that I was sounded like a creep.
“SURE!” She responded.
So I sent her a letter — just some ramblings on loose leaf, just to let her know I cared. It said:
You are worth more than those words they say about you. Words cannot define you. I know those locker-filled halls feel suffocating right now, but I promise there is so much more to life. It’s more than what size you wear, whether you fit in with the “cool” kids or not or how much people like you. Always remember, the only person who has to like you — IS YOU. But I bet you’ll find beyond those walls, the people who like you. No — love you. Why wouldn’t they? Do you know how amazing you are?
Can you promise me a few things? Please.
1. Do one thing a day that scares you. I mean it. Really scares the shit out of you.
2. When the voices of those around you get too loud, trying to tell you who you are and who you should be, it’s OK to get louder. Use your voice to say, “No. This is who I am.” Some people won’t like it — but they’ll respect you for it. More importantly, you will respect yourself.
3. Go to prom! I mean this one! Even if no one asks you, go. Get dressed up. Dance. Laugh. Have fun. For you. Life is quickly going to start making you feel like you need someone to be complete. But you don’t. Life is just like prom. You can sit at home, wishing you had someone take you where you want to go. You can settle, and chose the easy way out and do what people tell you you should do or you can decide this prom (or your life) is exactly what you make of it. So you better have fun. Shake your ass. Do things that make you feel happy. Sure, people might judge you, but they always will. You have to just go to the damn prom anyway.
4. When you are sad, talk to someone.
5. When you are overwhelmed, ask for help.
6. When you are happy, give some away.
And no matter what, be brave. You won’t always be ready. You won’t always have the answers. You most certainly will not be able to control it. But you can always be brave. You won’t always feel strong, and that’s OK. But you are stronger than you will ever know, and if you ever forget, call me.”
And life went on.
And suddenly, my own life got messy. Scary. I felt out of control. I, most certainly haven’t felt brave.
Tonight, as I realized I was three weeks behind on checking my mail, I knew exactly why. I was avoiding it. I felt like I had no place to offer advice. I had no answers. My thought was, No one gives a shit, Shelby. You are one person. What you say doesn’t matter.
But, as life always does, I just did it. I went to my mailbox, and there it was. A hand-addressed letter to me.
I opened it up, and I saw a crumbled up, dirty piece of paper with a note attached. It looked familiar.
It was my letter I wrote to Heather, months before. I thought, Why the hell is she sending it back to me?
Attached to it was a photo copy of my original letter. It had edits on it, and a handwritten note on the back.
I hope you’re not upset that I sent your letter back. It’s not that I don’t want it. I have carried it around with me every day as a reminder of all the promises I made you. It served as a constant reminder to be brave.
But I have noticed lately in your posts that you seem sad. Maybe a little lost. That’s OK, you told me that. I thought maybe, I would let you hang onto it for a while. Just so you remember what you told me.
I am here if you need someone to talk to. I know it can’t be easy being vulnerable when people think you are strong. But are you doing one thing a day that scares you? Are you being brave? If not, this is your reminder.
I am sorry it’s not much. But, this note saved my life more than a few days.
So I am here.
So hang on to it. I may need it back, when life isn’t so easy.
Oh! And I want you to know I went to prom. I went and I danced my ass off. By myself. And had the best time of my life.
I don’t know where I am going with this, other than little things matter. You don’t know what impact you are having on another’s life. Everything comes full circle. Always. So do the little things. Return emails. Call up and check on your strong friend. And do big things, too. Go to prom, take that job offer and do things people told you you couldn’t and prove them wrong. Someone does “give a shit” what you have to say. It’s always important. The same people you think you’re helping, may end up helping you. We all need a little reminder some days.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Photo via contributor.