A fast scroll and quick glance at this square and all you see is a happy-in-love couple. (Keep reading).
What you don’t see: fear, shame, someone needing help but not sure where or how to find it, and ashamed to ask for it.
But I’m going to be vulnerable and share the behind-the-scenes of this picture because I believe we all need to share more of our stories-more of our true selves. We were meant to live and thrive in community with a sense of belonging. We were not made to do this life alone, figure it all out on our own, or have it altogether all the time.
I thought my greatest lessons, teachings, and guidance for my four kids would come from my hard work, my successes- but actually the most growth for Matt, the kids, and myself has come from me “falling down”- me needing help, me asking for help, me getting the help, and me getting back up again.
This picture doesn’t “look” like I’m someone who needs help. It doesn’t tell the story of my long, hard, scary battle with insomnia, anxiety, and depression. I share this to remind you that we have no idea what kind of fire others may be walking through. Behind the smiles, the “I’m fine”s could be someone breaking wide open.
This picture was taken almost exactly 5 years when I was at the beginning of my struggle. No one, outside of my immediate family, knew what was going on with me. I didn’t know what was going on with me. I started school that year thinking I just needed to get back to work and a routine and I would feel better. Didn’t happen.
As October rolled around, I ended up needing to take time away from teaching to take care of myself. When I on went on leave, one of the first things people said was “I had no idea. You seemed like yourself. You were still always smiling and teaching with such care and love.” That’s why I write this. We often can’t or won’t see/notice when someone is hurting and breaking on the inside.
I share this because tomorrow is the first day of September and it begins National Suicide Prevention Month. I share this because I want to help put an end to the shame that surrounds mental health struggles/illnesses. By being vulnerable, by sharing my story, the more comfortable and confident I feel. By sharing my story my hope is to help create a sense of community, compassion, and belonging.
So ask the people around you- your family, friends, co- workers, how they really ARE. Not a quick “how are you” in passing. But stop, look them in the eyes, and listen. More people will be willing to share their story, their struggle, and ask for help if we all just open our arms and hearts a little more. Talk, really talk, and listen, really listen to what others have going on.
If you are someone who has been through this war, I applaud you for fighting and being here. If you are someone who feel you have a loved one that may be struggling, I encourage you to reach out and offer support. If you are someone who is in the midst of a struggle, I urge you to ask for help.
Asking for help is a sign of strength, bravery, wisdom, and maturity. Needing help is not a weakness, and you are not alone. We all need help sometimes. Think about all the good that can come when we’re honest and share our struggles, our weaknesses, our worries, and fears.
Beginning: “What is wrong with me?”
Middle: “Will I get through this? Will it ever go away? Why is this happening? Will I find a good counselor? Will medicine help me? Will I find a medicine that works for me? What are others thinking about me?
“End”: the battle is an ongoing journey- daily choices and actions to take care of and protect my mental health- fear of sliding back
You don’t get over this kind of struggle, you get through it.
I am grateful for the man in this picture smiling alongside me. I don’t look at this picture and see it as “fake”. I look at this picture and see the man who loves me- he loved me before my struggle and he loved me through my struggle. He didn’t ignore it. He didn’t take charge and try to “fix” it. He just fought right alongside me. Forever grateful.