Becky Hartung

AUTHOR. WRITER. HUMOR RESEARCHER.

Dealing with Darkness: A College Kid's Story of Depression, Social Phobia, and Finding a Good Book Club

Featured on To Write Love on Her Arms

I’m not much of a “journal-er.” In fact, I own a handful of journals with the first page dedicated to how I will force myself into journaling, and the rest is filled with blank, white pages. Recently, I found a few pages written on painful nights that prompted me to write this post. 

This is an excerpt from one of those nights: 

“Why do I hate the very thought of myself? The thought that I’m gulping the air from someone else’s lungs, someone else who is much more worthy of this oxygen than I, pains me to believe. I know truth, but truth doesn’t seem to matter in this moment. Why am I unable to feel truth? Why am I unable to feel? Would this world really be a better world without me? 

These thoughts are usually followed by silence. It’s a painful silence, and it comes with an apathetic stillness that hinders rational thinking and universal truth and causes my body to ache. 

My struggle with depression and social anxiety began at an early age, stemming from the abandonment I faced after my adoption. I was painfully shy when I started school, and my difficulties adapting to peers left me, often times, socially stunted. I hit my lowest point at the age of 16 when I attempted suicide for the first time. 

Depression makes living hard. I lose interest in things I was once passionate about, have difficulties controlling my emotions, and feel completely unhappy sometimes. There is still a stigma in society surrounding the issue of mental illness. People often oversimplify or misunderstand these struggles, reducing it to statements like, “Oh, they are just sad sometimes. It’s not a big deal.” 

The truth is that it is a big deal. I believe it’s a part of being human for some of us. The things we face in life are, in the truest sense, a “big deal.” Thankfully, the art of vulnerability allows us to see one another and be there for each other in the greatest moments of life. 

Being vulnerable with my community has become my greatest encouragement today. I remember a night walking into my friend’s house after a really tough day. As I entered the doorway, you could still see the traces of tears on my face. My friend looked at me and motioned for me to sit down. I remember his comforting words after I tearfully told him of the struggle that was surrounding my heart. 

“It’s hard,” I said. 

“The door’s unlocked,” he replied. 

This was what it meant to see each other. This was community. 

I believe we can share in our experiences. I choose to not look at my depression as an impossible hurdle but as a rare door that opens my eyes to see and understand people. We are not broken, but fully alive when we do life together. 

There is no perfect mold that we should fit into to be human. We each play a special role in the world in communicating love to one another. Sometimes struggling allows us to see the world in a new way. I believe that the anxiety and depression I deal with can be used for good, and I want to use my hardships to understand those who are hurting and aid them through seasons of doubt. The greatest connections I’ve made with people begin with the words, “I’ve never told anyone this before…” 

If someone opens up to you about whatever is a big deal in their life, don’t worry about having the perfect answer. Just be part of their community. Don’t ignore it. Don’t dismiss those in life you don’t understand. Just commit to sitting down with someone, in the midst of their darkest moments, and love that person. This is where people are seen.