Editor's note: This article was originally published on Seth Adam Smith's blog SethAdamSmith.com. It has been used here with permission.
To all that are struggling with depression,
I don't know you. I don't know who you are or where you're from. I don't know your background, nor do I know your unique circumstances. I don't know if your depression is the result of your genetic disposition, or if it is caused by something terrible that happened to you in your past. I don't know if you're going through a major change in your life or if you're struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one.
There are a lot of things about your fight with depression that I simply don't know.
But let me tell you a few things that I do know.
I know how it feels.
I know how it feels to have no one understand what you're going through.
I know how it feels to feel alone in a crowded room; to feel like you're putting on a "happy mask" in public, only to feel like you're slipping further and further into an unsolvable despair.
I know how it feels to lose interest in things that once brought you joy and happiness; for foods to lose their taste, for nature to lose its beauty and for the world to lose its color.
I know how it feels to want to be left alone while simultaneously (and desperately) yearning for someone to reach out and help you.
I know how it feels to do everything - absolutely everything- to try to fill the growing emptiness inside of you. I know how it feels to try to self-medicate and mute the pain with anything and everything: excessive sleep, television, foods, pain killers or other addictions.
I know how it feels to fall to your knees and beg God to free you from the terrible loneliness of the darkness in your mind - only to feel like the ground has opened beneath you, plunging you into an even darker abyss.
I know how it feels because I've suffered from depression since I was a kid. In 2006, my depression culminated in a suicide attempt that very nearly claimed my life.
I know how depression feels and I'm intimately aware of the thoughts and feelings that lead to suicide.
But I also know a few other things. And this is why I'm writing to you.
I know there is hope
Just as night is defeated by the dawn, or as the winter is conquered by the spring, or as the darkness is dominated by any degree of light, I know that you can make it through this.
And what's more, I know that you can be a better person because of it.
Our lives are a journey on the earth. As we move forward, we will not only figuratively experience the geography of life: the exhilaration of high mountains, the tranquility of calm meadows, the isolation of treacherous canyons, but we also experience the seasons of life: the hope of spring, the abundance of summer, the harvest of autumn and, yes, the darkness and depression of winter.
Just as we continuously experience the change in seasons, we will also experience the contrast between canyons and mountains many times in our lives. Some winters and canyons last longer than others, it is true. But as someone who frequently struggles with depression, I can promise you that the springs do come and that there are paths out of the canyons and into the light.
I said that you are going to be a better person as a result of your depression. I meant it. Having dealt with depression for over 20 years, I can say with confidence that my depression has given me an incomparable appreciation for life.
If you move forward while holding onto the knowledge that the sun will rise in your soul, I assure you that one day, you will stand at the summit of a figurative mountain and look back on your life's journey. You will see your canyons of depression for what they were and realize that they taught you things you otherwise couldn't have learned. And, to your utter amazement, you will see how your experiences with depression, dark and painful as they were, only added to the overall beauty of your life.
For aren't the most beautiful vistas the ones that are filled with mountains, valleys, canyons and wondrous variety?
To all who are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts: you are not alone. We are all on this journey together. I promise you that there is hope. Let us reach out to one another and walk together in the sunlight.