I don’t talk openly about this chapter of my life too often.
When I do, it’s often for a well-timed, calculated purpose.
This time, it’s because a little voice in the corner of my heart kept telling me to share.
I am an adjunct professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho. I love my job. I love my students.
One of the things I love most about them is their strength. It astounds me.
And not just physical strength. I’m talking mental strength.
I see so many student who carry tremendous loads and do so with grace and dignity. They bear the burden of anxiety. They trudge through the trenches of depression. They rise from the ashes of their pasts as pure, refined and triumphant champions.
But the scars are still there. And sometimes, the wounds are too deep to ignore.
I get it. I mean I really, really get it.
I’ve struggled with mental illness my entire life.
I’ve been on and off medications, in and out of day treatments, even hospitalized twice as a young teenager for suicide attempts.
But I am not my past.
We are not our bleakest moments, whether those moments are locked on a replaying loop or ended years ago.
A 2013 study by the American College Health Association showed that among a sample of college students, 57 percent of women and 40 percent of men reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety.” Additionally, 33 percent of women and 27 percent of men reported experiencing debilitating depression.
The statistics of those who suffer are staggering.
If you do struggle with mental illness — and I pray that you don’t — know that there are dozens of good, strong, successful people who have felt what you feel and walk where you have walked.
They love you and support you.
I love you and support you.
Though my life is highly flawed, I thank God every day for how it turned out.
I’ve come so far, pushed so hard and prayed so fervently to fight this monster.
Often it is a daily battle to choose peace and joy rather than succumbing to the darkness that always threatens to cast a shadow over my life.
And as one that has swum in the deep side of despair, I want you to know that I believe in you. I believe in your strength to shoulder these heavy burdens.
You are doing better than you think.
Don’t be ashamed of your challenges. As cliche as it sounds, they really can mold you.
One of the greatest things I’ve learned from mental illness is my capacity to withstand challenges.
Allow the demons to refine you, not define you.
You are worth your struggles. You are worth your fight.
I know this because you’ve sat in my classrooms. We’ve chatted in my office. I’ve seen your strength, your triumph and your endurance.
Thank you teaching me what it means to press forward.
Let’s fight together.