Read This When You Feel Lost and Alone

I read a funny post on Tumblr once that went something like this: One user asked, “How do I get rid of my depression?” And after scrolling through plenty of pandering advice (like “Get out of the house more!” or “Make more friends!”), someone wrote, “Love it. And eventually, it will leave you, too.” That got a good laugh out of me. But you know what? There’s something I’ve since then come to realize about that joke: only depressed people find it funny. Isn’t that interesting?

Now, I don’t like to talk about my depression, because…well, it’s depression. The whole point is that it makes you not want to talk about anything. But sometimes I find that expressing how you feel can make you feel better. And, if nothing else, it can make those around you going through the same thing feel less alone. So here goes, an open letter to anyone who’s ever lost and alone in the world:

If you’ve ever felt like you were too different from the people around you to ever fit in, then I’m sorry. If you’ve ever felt unseen or unheard or misunderstood too many times to count, then I’m sorry. If you’ve ever felt like nothing you said or did even mattered because no one seems to care about you, then I’m sorry. I’m sorry because I know what it feels like to be in your place, and I know how hard it is to keep hanging on, day by day, feeling like you’re so insignificant to everyone around you and isolated from all the people you love.

But most of all, I’m sorry because I am going to have to ask you…to keep going…

I know it’s not easy, and I know this may be the last thing you want to hear right now, but believe me – there is hope that things will get better. There’s hope that, at the end of that dark tunnel, there are better days waiting for you. And I can’t promise it’s going to come soon or that it’s going to be easy. I can’t even promise that it will stay that way once you get there. But the only thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that it’s going to be worth it.

Happiness isn’t something you have to go out and find. It’s not something that’s just going to be waiting for you at the finish line, once you land the job of your dreams or find your true love. No, happiness is a choice. It’s a choice you have to make for yourself, every single day.

And yeah, some days it’s hard. Some days it feels almost impossible to listen to anything but the loneliness and the grief and the fear that’s been haunting you for years. But letting yourself be happy doesn’t mean lying to yourself about how you feel. You don’t have to fight all the bad things you feel or pretend like it isn’t there. You just need to decide if it’s really worth caring about more than the things that make you happy. Because the truth is, the secret to being happy

Whether it’s simply being able to get out of bed, or taking a shower, or making it through a meal without crying, happiness can be found even in the tiniest everyday things. Maybe a stranger smiled at you, or held a door open for you; maybe you had a nice nap, or spent some time in your garden, or played with your pet; maybe you called up a friend, or went outside for a walk, or chatted with someone while you were waiting in line. Whatever happiness comes to mean for you, as long as you open your heart to the possibility, you’ll find that there are actually dozens and dozens of little ways you can help yourself get better.

So what if your life isn’t exactly like how you dreamed it would be? What if things didn’t go the way you planned and you’re still not where you thought you would after all this time?  Let go of all the things you think your life “should” or “ought to” be, and instead, embrace everything it is right now, here, at this moment. You’ve come so far and done so much. And you’re not even anywhere near stopping! You’re going to go on and do so many amazing things and meet plenty of wonderful new people, but the most remarkable thing you’re ever going to do in life is to let yourself be happy and not let your depression define the rest of your life.

I know it’s so much easier said than done, but everyone’s got to start somewhere, right? This could be the beginning of a brand new chapter for you. This could be the very first day of the rest of your life. Release the hurt. Release the anger. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your own self-doubt and negativity. The energy it takes to keep holding on to the past is keeping you from moving forward and making a better life for yourself. It’s time to let your old wounds heal and bring love back into your world.

It’s time to take a good long look at your depression and finally say, “I don’t want you in my life anymore. I want to be free of you. I want to be free of this pain. I want to smile without straining, laugh without aching, and wake up each day without feeling hollow. So now I am going to leave you behind, and where I am going, you cannot follow.”

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