For so long I have wanted to write about my personal journey and struggle, but the fear of judgment has always kept me silent. There is a fire burning in me now, fueled by people who want to shed light on a crippling disease — depression. I want to be brutally honest about my lifelong struggle with this in the hopes my words might help someone out there who is in the grip of darkness. Know this: I feel your pain. I’ve been there all too often. I get it and I don’t want you to think you have to be alone. I just read another heart breaking story about a teenager who took her life because she couldn’t take it any longer. It does not have to end that way. Trust me, I know. I’m living, breathing proof that there is another way out and I cannot let fear of embarrassment or judgment from letting the world know that I too have struggled, prevent me from sharing that hope.

There is so much we can do; ways to make it better and save people’s lives. I have learned so much over the years and I want to end the stigma that is so unfair. I feel very passionately about this and I can’t be silent any longer. I’m going to write about it to let people know there is someone who gets it, someone who understands, but we need to talk about it without shame so it can and will be overcome. You do matter! You are worth so much more than you realize and holding on is worth the pain. You may not believe me, I didn’t believe people, but I promise you it is absolutely worth it. Depression does not define you or make you a lesser person. You are not weak and it is not all in your head. There is nothing to be ashamed of.

My other posts along with recent events have convinced me to take a huge risk. If it means someone may treat me differently then so be it. I can handle it. I have to be true to myself and if I can share something that might potentially help even one person then isn’t it worth the risk? I’m a teacher — what if the “wrong” person finds out? I’m a mom — will I embarrass my kids or will their friends’ parents look at me differently? Whether these fears are legitimate, I don’t know, but they are real. However, I truly believe that God uses our struggles to draw us closer to Him while helping us conquer the darkness. And He absolutely will if we let Him. I find tremendous courage in that. He did not allow me to struggle without a purpose and it took a long time for me to believe that. I am stronger, more determined, confident and caring because I’ve been in the pit and have also seen the light. I know without a doubt that part of my purpose is to use what I’ve learned first hand to make a difference.

I’ve been waiting for a plan to materialize and to have everything figured out about how to help people who are hurting from this illness. But right now I absolutely believe with all my heart that writing about my journey is where I need to begin. What will all this lead to? I don’t know. The only thing I’m completely certain of at this moment in time is that God is calling me to take action. Keeping quiet and being fearful of admitting my struggles is not ok with me anymore. Help me start the conversation. That’s how change begins. I will not let my struggles go to waste and I pray that what I share will end up making a difference.