“There’s a crack in everything., that’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen
In June I turn the big 4-0. It is a funny age. One people have huge celebrations for. In fact I recently had the pleasure of meeting Molly Ringwald, my childhood icon, and she told me life truly begins after 40. To be honest it is an age I am completely looking forward to. In fact if you had asked 20-year-old me I would have told you it is an age I never thought I would reach. The truth is if you ask my husband or my mother they will also tell you they never expected me to reach 40. Many people, including myself, thought my depression/PTSD would engulf me into the darkness from where I would never return. Perhaps that is why each birthday has become so special to me because I am grateful that I won the battle and to be able to share my stories to help others. I have learned a lot these past almost 40 years. As my daughter now struggles with depression/anxiety I thought it would be appropriate to write down some of the things I have learned.
• I love the saying by Leonard Cohen above. This is so true for life. You would think in the age of social media and vast Internet resources we would be more emotionally honest. However, I think it has just led to less honest emotion and more show. This in turn has led to people struggling more with mental health issues. We are faced every day with perfect stories, smiling pictures, and pure happiness. However, we need to remember each person in this world has struggles. That smiling selfie may come from a person facing mental health struggles. The happy family photo may be a family struggling with thoughts of divorce or economic struggles. There truly is a crack in everything as Leonard mentions and we need to remember that as we approach each day. There is no shame in cracks because through them we repair and learn amazing lessons. We find the light.
• Be emotionally honest. If you are having a dark day or difficult time do not deny it entry into your spirit. By doing so you are only putting off the inevitable and could be making it worse. We live in a world where happiness is advertised on every street corner, but they should simply be showing us how to embrace it all. Emotions are meant to exist. They are lessons on who we are and what makes us tick. Tears, anger, frustration, hopelessness, and laughter…the list is long. Our spirit needs these emotions to grow. In my younger years I used alcohol and loud clubs as a way to escape my dark friend, but when I came home those emotions were still there knocking on my door.
• We are all not the same and that is fantastic. The world would be boring if we all looked, dressed, and acted alike. The moment you stop worrying about what others think about you there is a vast amount of freedom gained. You will also begin to better understand those around you when you take the time to love who you are cracks and all. I have viewed some of the most amazing pieces of art that exist and do you know what? Each line is not always perfectly centered. We are the same. There are no perfect brush strokes or flawless canvases. However, if you look closely those imperfections are what truly make the artwork beautiful. Those little details that an artist struggled to make perfect, but in the end their existence created the beauty of the piece. So show the world who you are and do not be afraid.
• Words. Words are interesting. They can be used to create pure beauty or can be jumbled and torn. However, each word belongs to the ones who own them. You will not always change the words or erase the thoughts of those around you. Again it comes down to individuality and personal responsibility. Be responsible for the words you speak and expect others to do the same. Your opinions may not match someone else’s and that is okay. You can educate and also listen as they educate you on their thoughts, but it is okay to walk away with different views. For me there are people who told me never to talk about my past or my mental health history, even now when I have been free from mental illness for many years people still tell me not to talk. However, there are words inside of me and stories to share. It is my responsibility to use those words to help others. Be wise with your words and take responsibility for them.
There are so many lessons I have learned on this journey and there are many more to come. Embrace them. Do not be ashamed to shine as you are. Welcome to this diverse world that is full of beautiful cracks. Let that light come through. What lesson have you learned on your journey?