Dear Past Michelle,
It’s April 2012. I’m reaching out from 2015 because you’re in a pretty weird place right now, and you could probably use a little insight.
Actually, let’s go ahead and cut the crap—you’re in a horrible place. You’ve gotten used to smiling when it’s time to smile, and you know how to laugh when it’s time to laugh. You even have an occasional good day—a really good day—that almost makes you think that things are going to be okay. Almost.
A night is coming in a few weeks. This night will be worse than all the others. And I know the sound of that horrifies you, because all those other nights have been unbearably painful. How the heck can it possibly get worse?
Since we’ve already agreed to cut the crap, I’m going to be straight with you: Depression has managed to weasel its way into every corner of your brain. If that sounds terrifying, that’s because it is. You’re going to reach the end of your rope. You’re going to feel more alone than you ever have. You’re going to feel abandoned, and you’re going to feel like you’re in the way of everything and everyone, and you’re going to just feel…done. You’re going to be locked in a bathroom—yes, the same bathroom that’s become your hiding place—wondering how much more of this you can take.
You probably want to run now. You’re probably even tempted to check yourself into a hospital because the sound of feeling more alone is impossible to comprehend and you can’t fathom the concept. And as much as I wish you would reach out for the help you desperately need and deserve, as much as I wish you understood that you’re worthy of life and love and happiness, the truth is that you’re too scared to do that, to admit that you’re not okay, even with this warning. You don’t want people to think you’re anything less than perfect. Even more than that, you don’t want to worry others, to feel like a burden.
So, you’re going to do what you’re used to doing: You’re going to pretend that things are fine. That you’re fine. That it’s all going to be fine. Heck, by now, this is second-nature. But hiding from your problems never works for long. (You’ve been doing that for two years now—how’s that working for you?)
Now that I’ve been through that night, I’m going to give you a heads-up: That night is painful. That night is paralyzing. That night brings confusion and hurt and heartache.
That night also changes your life.
It’s when you’ll realize that miracles still exist. It’s when you’ll realize that you’re not alone. It’s when you’ll realize that you are strong enough to face another night. It’s when you’ll realize that you can’t do life on your own. It’s when you’ll realize that asking for help is not only brave, but necessary. It’s when you’ll realize that you’re actually going to stay and face this life-thing.
Now, I want you to lean in and listen closely. Here’s what’s going to happen:
You’re going to start taking antidepressants. You’re going to find an amazing therapist. And you’re going to be forever grateful that the pair exist.
You’re going to have a blast with your family. This summer? FULL of memories. Because now the fog is gone, and you can see—really see—their love for you.
You’re going to realize that the church you’ve been attending truly has open arms and the warmest of hearts. That church will soon feel like home.
You’re going to discover that yes, God is still in the business of miracles.
You’re going to laugh and smile, but this time, you’ll mean every single one of them.
You’re going to stumble.
You’re going to fall flat on your butt.
You’re going to get up again. Because now you know that, while falling is inevitable, there is strength in the standing.
You’re going to write another book. You’ve written books before, but this one is different. This one is full of thoughts you never imagined you’d share. It’s also full of hope and love, because now you know that hope and love are possible after the fall.
You’re going to get an email from an editor on a hot Sunday morning in July 2013, saying she’d like to talk about your book.
You’re going to freak the freak out. And then rein it in, because PROFESSIONAL.
You’re going to work harder than you’ve ever worked on a story before. You’re going to pour even more of your heart and soul into those pages. Some days will feel like it’s just not gonna happen. And then that same editor is going to remind you why you’re doing this, and she’s going to remind you that yes, it’s hard to tell these stories, but it’s also so very worth it.
(Spoiler: That book comes out this month. And your heart, the same heart that was once so full of pain, is now full of so much love and gratitude that it could burst. And yes: it is so, so very worth it.)
You’re going to learn about the indescribable power of stories. And while it’s hard, you’ll become more and more comfortable sharing your own.
More than anything, you’re going to love. You’re going to love fiercely and fearlessly. You’re going to see that life can be messy, but beautiful. Chaotic, but peaceful. Hard, but worth it.
Do you see how many times I’ve said “worth it”? Because it is. It so is.
So, I could tell you to run and hide, like you always do. Or I could tell you to hang in there, because this tunnel won’t last forever. And that the darkness you’re in now will only make you appreciate the light so much more.
Hold on, sweet girl. Your best days are not behind you. In a way, your life is only just beginning.