When you struggle with depression or anxiety it’s like looking at the entrance of a dark, treacherous forest in the middle of the night.
The forest is all the pain you’ve been through and inherited. It’s the experiences that have traumatized you, the fears that you’ve refused to look at, the unresolved wounds that’ve been passed down to you,
It’s too scary to go through, yet you can’t get around it.
You try to run in any other direction, realizing hopelessly that the forest is all around you.
So, instead of going through it, you curdle up in a ball, you close your eyes, you pray it’ll go away.
But every time you wake up. Every time you open your eyes. It’s still there.
Soon, you find yourself hopelessly stuck. Incapable of getting out of bed. Unable to have normal conversations.
Maybe you’re given medication that makes the forest a little less scary. Maybe it’ll trick you into believing the forest has disappeared.
Or maybe you look to drugs and alcohol to avoid the forest altogether. Only to sober up and realize it’s still there.
Or you think you can succeed or buy your way out of it. Only to end up with accolades and a big house that do nothing but remind you that the forest still exists.
Until one day, maybe a few months, years or decades later, you finally understand that the forest can’t be prayed, slept, medicated, drugged, succeeded or shopped away.
That unless you go in, it will remain.
To go out you must go through.
Trust me, I wish there was another way. Because, going through the forest is more excruciating than anything you’ll ever experience.
Precisely because it’s unique to you.
It will mean revisiting your old terrors that you were too vulnerable or too afraid to deal with at the time. It will mean allowing the pain to come up instead of suppressing it. It will mean giving your darkness a voice. Letting it express itself. You’ll have to sit with it. And when you do it properly, it will feel like a million knives to your chest. Like you’re letting Dementors into your body. Like it’ll last forever.
That’s why most people are too terrified to go through. They know what awaits.
That’s why you need your guides.
These are other people who have been through the forest, and are now basking in the sunshine. They’re beaming. They trudged through lonely nights of pain only to come out stronger.
And many of them want to help you. There is no forest for them anymore so they can come back and stand by your side. They can guide you through.
They can help you avoid pitfalls and wrong turns.
They can lead you in the right direction.
And most importantly, they can reassure you that the pain won’t kill you. That you’ll survive. That yes, it will feel unbearable, but you must keep going. They’ll remind you that it will be worth it.
These people are close friends, therapists and even complete strangers.
You have to seek them out. You have to ask for help.
Because it’s nearly impossible to trek through your forest alone. It’s too overwhelming.
I’m still going through mine as we speak.
This year has been exactly that...a decision to no longer avoid my pain, my past and my trauma. A decision to say enough is enough. To get off my ass and step into the darkness.
I’ve suffered the most serious bouts of anxiety, depression, existentialism, confusion, and loneliness because of it. I’ve gone through some darkness I didn’t even know existed within me.
But I’ve thankfully been able to surround myself with people who hold me tight, keep me company and remind me that it’s going to be ok.
And because of them, I’ve been able to inch my way forward.
And now I’m starting to see it.
The light that everyone who’s gotten to the other side talks about.
The joy of a simple day.
The warmth of a belly laugh.
The gratitude of a slow breath.
A life led by love, not fear.
I don’t know how long I have left through my forest.
It might be a few months or a few years.
It might be a whole lifetime.
All I know is that when I look back and see how far I’ve come, I’m so damn happy I started walking through it.
It’s not as scary anymore.
I now trust that I can make it through.
And once I do, I’ll come back and find as many people who are too afraid to take that first step.
I’ll let them know that I too was where they were.
That there is light at the end of the tunnel.
That if they’re willing to seek discomfort. If they’re willing to accept that they can’t hide from the forest. If they’re willing to courageously step in...
Then they too will get to experience the beauty of a life led by love.
A life without a forest to fear.
The only life worth living.
To go out you must go through.
PS - If you feel like you have no one to talk to, we made an Instagram post specifically for this. Thousands of strangers in the Yes Fam commented on it expressing that they’re willing to listen and be there for you. Ask for help. You’re not alone.