The holiday season is here. And while a lot of us are happily picking out décor and planning parties, too many of us are struggling and hurting. This time of year can be challenging for many, especially those dealing with mental illness and/or the lasting impact of trauma. In the below piece, Brooke Cone lovingly acknowledges the brave struggles of these Dear Loved Ones. And asks us to pause in our planning, reminding us to be kind, be supportive and be present for those fighting the unseen fight against depression and trauma.
Dear Loved Ones,
You are brave. I know you wake up every day not knowing what it will hold. What smell or sound will trigger a bad memory, what balanced or what unbalanced state your brain and body might be in. I have seen you, frightened of yourself at times, and other times, just so very tired. Morning greets you, and you feel like you’re swimming through water with weights on your limbs, feeling resistance at your every move.
While you might feel like a failure, an oddball or even lazy, I see you trying. You go to appointments, you drag yourself out of bed to take walks or see a friend; you go to school even when you can barely think with the foggy brain of depression or are consumed with social anxiety. Life feels chaotic and overwhelming, but you try. You catch glimpses of your talents, your joys, the possibilities of what you can be, but it is as if there is a giant chasm between you and all your hopes and dreams. Some of you are building a bridge over that chasm, and some of you are dealing with construction delays, but you are all making plans, trying to find the way over. You debate taking medications and you endure their side effects. Sometimes everything seems so normal and some days it seems like your life and your body are cursed.
For many of you, the pain you feel has made you very beautiful. You are humble, you care for others, and you pay particular notice to the needs of animals and small children, the vulnerable among us. In spite of all your hurt and struggle, you long for connections with others, for healthy families of your own, for meaningful work. Many of you are artists, giving the world beautiful pictures, poems and songs which express vivid emotions and help the rest of us understand ourselves more deeply.
Stand up and fight, Dear Ones! Depression and trauma tell lies. They tell you that no one can be trusted, that you are not good enough and that all hope is lost. They convince you that this moment is who you are, where you have landed, and you forget that you are on a journey and this is not the end of your story. These lies make you out to be a victim instead of a survivor and a failure instead of a student. They make you think that other people have perfect lives and easy paths, and they distort the normal struggles of every human. They tell you it is best to numb and avoid; to hide away from others or never stop moving. These are the false choices that they give you. Numb yourself with drink and drugs, food and TV, sex and adrenaline--these are the false solutions depression and trauma presents. Fight against these lies.
Brave ones, there is no easy answer. But there is hope. As Emily Dickinson wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul/and sings the tune without the words, and never stops/at all.” This pain is real, but it will not be wasted. You were put here on earth with a purpose! Remember that love and hope are soft and quiet, and they will come to you if you let them. Be patient but bold. Say “yes” to health, “yes” to support and love, “yes” to God, “yes” to scary things that have great possibility, “yes” to making a plan, and “yes” to the discomfort of learning and healing. Love may come in a way you do not expect--a friend instead of a lover, a grandmother instead of a mom, a neighbor instead of a best friend. Be open to all of it! Let love, connection and hope remind you that life is messy but beautiful. You are messy, but beautiful. We all are.
A Loved One
If you or someone you love needs additional support right now, please call SLO County 211 at (805) 549-8989.