Initially, I was a little hesitant about posting something so painfully personal and heavy here. However, I felt I had hidden behind my own ego long enough and reasoned that if even one person felt a little less alone in their struggle, it would be worth the risk of putting my story out there.
I'm not sure what I was expecting to happen in the aftermath. I honestly didn't give it much thought. I was more concerned with just getting the words out there, to explain now what I couldn't say to those offering me a helping hand back then. I certainly didn't expect thousands of people to read it or dozens to contact me with their own stories. I drastically underestimated the commonality of my experience.
After posting the link on both Facebook and Instagram, my inbox was flooded with messages from friends and strangers alike, all sharing their personal battles with depression and suicide, many mirroring my own battle. Comments poured in as people offered support, explained their own struggles, or were glad to have a better understanding of what their friends and family might be going through. My page hits exploded, increasing unique readership by 3400%. THAT'S CRAZY. At the time, I thought I was completely alone in my struggle and that nobody would understand. But oh, I was so very wrong.
Here is what I've learned from this experience:
1. PLEASE, PLEASE be kind to people. Both in real life and on the internet. You never know what could be lurking behind the scenes, no matter how happy and social they appear.
2. Don't compare your own day to day life with the highlight reels posted on social media. Nobody is perfect or perfectly happy all of the time; everyone has something they wish they could change. Try to focus on the things that you love and appreciate about your own life everyday, no matter how small or simple they might be compared to what you see online. They are important and they are yours.
3. You're not alone. No matter how isolated you feel in your darkest hour, you are not alone in your battle. There are 7.35 billion people on earth; we're all in this together. There are a million people who can identify with your pain, many within your own circle who are doing their best to hide just like you. Please share with close friends or family if you're not okay, even if you just send a simple text explaining "I'm not okay."
4. DON'T QUIT. Many of the stories were from people who persevered through their depression and who are living a richer life on the other side. It sucks but it's not forever. Please don't quit, you're stronger than you realize, give yourself a chance to fight.
So, thank you. I appreciate everyone who took time to read, share, and respond to my post. Especially those who sent me messages recounting their darkest hours and their long road to recovery. And those who are still fighting their own exhaustive battles yet still offered me words of encouragement and hope. It takes bravery to bare your vulnerability and I appreciate every single message and comment.