A Letter to My Daughters on Our Family History of Depression and Anxiety
I sometimes inappropriately joke that mental illness is the gift that keeps on giving. It was handed down to me by my parents, who inherited it from theirs. One of my greatest fears as a parent is that my girls will struggle with depression and anxiety, too. If they do, this is what I want them to know, and what I wished I had known so long ago.
My Dear, Sweet Daughters:
You will never have to face depression and anxiety alone — even on days your body aches with loneliness and you feel no one could possibly understand you — I will be there to hold you, support you and listen. I cannot take away your pain, but I can sit with you in the darkness and celebrate with you when the light returns.
When depression and anxiety tell you lies, I will always tell you the truth. You are worthy of love, happiness, success, beauty, romance, friendship and every wonderful thing that comes your way.
You are so much greater than depression and anxiety, so much stronger, even when you feel terrified, powerless and so fatigued you want to sleep forever. Depression and anxiety may wash over you like a wave, but hold on to hope like a life jacket. Reach up and grab my hand. Choose to save yourself instead of sinking into the abyss.
Please know, everything is temporary — pain, darkness, worry, crying so hard you are left exhausted. Each new day brings an opportunity for joy, dream-chasing, laughing so hard you can’t breathe and opening your eyes and heart to new possibilities.
Living with depression and anxiety takes bravery. Being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t terrified of the battlefield. You find the courage to withstand the battle. You will get knocked down. You will be hurt. There will be wounds that feel like they will never heal. You will be so exhausted from fighting that you consider surrendering. Be brave, my sweet girls. You are not fighting alone. Each day you choose life is a victory.
Even though you fight, let yourself be vulnerable by letting down your walls and asking others to join you in your journey. We aren’t meant to walk alone. Love and let others love you. Let them see the real you, not the mask you hide behind. Let yourself have an authentic connection to others. Your courage will inspire them to remove their masks, too. Let them see your silliness; tell them of your struggles; let them dream with you and join you on your adventures big and small. There will be people who break your heart, but there will be others who love and cherish you for who you are and what you mean to them.
Accept depression and anxiety are just a part of your life-long journey. They are a part of your life, not your life. Some days they will be front and center and cause chaos. Other times, they will be nice and quiet and fade into the background. Be prepared when they come to visit because they undoubtedly will. But celebrate every day without them. Even though they cause you pain, they also help you appreciate the wonderful things in life.
My sweet daughters, I love all of you, every part — the light and dark, your sass and spirit, your profound compassion and loving hearts, your courage and conviction, your silliness and seriousness, your brilliance. I promise you, others will, too. You can love these things in yourself.
With all my love,
Getty image by jackSTAR