Water rushed over a nearby waterfall as the breeze blew softly through the outdoor seating of the restaurant. I flipped through the menu but barely read the words, thinking over how I would tell my mentor and friend of over ten years sitting across from me what I was struggling with. I had met with her for lunch to discuss a mutual friend who was going through a really difficult break-up, but in order to voice my fears for my friend, I had to be honest about myself.
Much easier said than done.
After we ordered our meal, my mentor asked me how I was doing and I told her things were going well with the family but I needed to talk to her about our mutual friend and after admitting I was worried that she was struggling with depression and anxiety, my mentor asked me if I had been in a similar fight.
I said yes.
Photo by Parker Cunningham
She was the first person outside my family I had told and I wasn't sure how she would take it. The stigma in the church is so much harsher than I wish it was and I didn't know if she'd blame me or my sin for my struggles. Instead, she nodded thoughtfully, paused, and then told me she'd dealt with the same issues for the past thirty years.
I was stunned.
I had prepared for the worst and instead been met with acceptance, love, and companionship. Our lunch date went on and we discussed the issue at hand, but not before realizing we had a stronger bond than previously realized. She was still my mentor but now I saw her in a different light - as a friend. She was farther down the road than I but we still walked the same path.
It was the first step in realizing I wasn't alone.
Now, over a year and a half later, I've been blessed with the opportunity to do the same for others. Friends and acquaintances alike have come to me, asking for help or a listening ear. I've been able to cry with them, share resources with them, laugh with them, and celebrate milestones, small steps, and recovery. It's been the most amazing, encouraging thing I've ever experienced because while reminding others that they aren't alone, I remember that neither am I.
None of us are.
Please don't be afraid to reach out for help if you're struggling. You don't have to have an official diagnosis or be "sick enough" to get help. Find a trusted friend, adult, mentor, or church or school leader and ask them if you can share what you've been going through. It's hard and uncomfortable at first, but you'll be glad you did. Just talking to someone can make a huge difference.
Remember, you are loved.