My Public Plea

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Be kind.

Always.

High school already seems like an entire lifetime ago. At only 21, I feel like it’s been far longer than a mere 3 years that I found myself hanging around those hallowed halls. The above featured photo is one of my graduating class back in 2013 (blurred to protect the privacy of anyone who may not have wanted to appear here), and while calling high school the ‘best four years of my life’ would be a stretch, I will admit that I miss the simplicity, innocence, and camaraderie of it. I know, I know; a good portion of the people we may have been close with in high school are only labeled as such because we spent 7-ish hours a day, 5 times a week together. Many don’t make it to our adult lives beyond graduation for that reason, too. But, at least for me, it was the last time I was consistently surrounded by people I at any point considered “friends”.

In these years since graduation, I have seen so many beautiful things happen for so many deserving people; babies, engagements, weddings, graduations, promotions, etc. I know that that’s naturally what happens with time and as we “grow up”, but seeing it happen to people I used to spend every day with is beyond surreal. The days of napping during film class, awkward school dances that no one ever admitted they liked, and attending assemblies in the auditorium are now replaced with nights spent up with newborns and relentless toddlers, obtaining college degrees, and muddling through the new realm that is marriage. A large part of me simply cannot come to terms with the fact that this is happening – despite I myself being guilty of the latter – mostly because I refuse to accept that I am old enough for this to be “the norm”. These things come with age, especially the range in which a lot of my former classmates and I are now well into, but I still can’t help but feel that we’re too young for all of this. I can’t really be old enough for these things to be not only accepted, but encouraged at this stage in life, can I?!

One thing I know for a fact that we are entirely too young for, though, is the painful abundance of loss that I’ve witnessed occurring all too frequently as of late. It appears to be coming in waves, but the number of people I knew somewhat – if not very personally – from some point in my high school career is quickly approaching the double digits in the short years since graduation. There are undoubtedly people out there who think we are still too young to be procreating, or getting married. But something I am absolutely certain of is that we are far too young to be burying this many of our classmates, our acquaintances, our friends. We are just entering the prime of our lives, yet so many are being cut short right before getting there. I don’t know many specific details surrounding a lot of them (because, quite frankly, it isn’t my place), but what I’ve picked up on merely from observations is that there are quite a few people who are not only struggling with severe issues, but losing that battle raging within themselves. Some are able to conquer and overcome those inner demons, and that is inspiring to see. Others, unfortunately, aren’t hardwired the same way and struggle with finding the “light at the end of the tunnel”.

 Which brings me to my point:

I am an average human being. I have problems and hardships of my own, some more severe than others. I can’t guarantee that I’ll understand exactly what you’re going through or feeling, but please, lean on me. Take advantage of my willingness to simply be there, to listen, to attempt to comprehend or relate. I won’t try to downplay your sentiments or concerns. I won’t attempt to alleviate the situation or blanket your feelings with an abundance of emotionless clichés. I never have, nor will I ever, claim to be some kind of professional, but as someone whose seen my own struggles through, and have had a faceoff of my own with depression and self-harm, at the very least, I can provide a shoulder to lean on, a hand reaching out against the darkness. We may not have talked in months, years, or ever before in our lives, but let none of that matter; I am merely another person with a desire to help others that may need it in any way I can. I can’t promise that it will suddenly resolve everything, but let it be a start. Let it start with me, or someone like me.

Please seek comfort, an outlet, help. Not at the bottom of a bottle, through drugs, etc. But in another human being. This world can indeed be an ugly place, but the ability to find refuge in other people when we cannot find it in ourselves is a beautiful thing that needs to be utilized more often. My heart shatters a little more every time I read an article or hear the news of another person, young or old, taking a very permanent end to an otherwise temporary problem (or problems). Parents losing children, children losing parents, spouses & friends losing loved ones, this universe losing the only one in existence that can ever be uniquely “you”. We cannot let this become some new variation of normal – the extreme should not be the go-to coping method. It is a disservice to our fellow man/woman to knowingly turn a blind eye to someone else’s suffering. Every person you encounter throughout your day is fighting some kind of battle in one way, shape, or form. Depression doesn’t always look like someone who can’t find the strength to get out of bed, tear-stained faces and all. Sometimes it’s the person constantly surrounded by a large group of friends, yet feels completely alone with their thoughts. Sometimes it’s the inability to escape a traumatic past event, or even drowning in day-to-day duties. Some may be more vocal, others stand in silence – some of the brightest personalities and loudest laughs disguise those in need the most.

Always be good to other people; you never know how much someone needed that kind word or simple smile today.

You are not alone. You are so loved.

Crisis Hotlines:

I cannot personally vouch for the validity of these numbers, but they are all current and up-to-date to my knowledge.

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1 for the Military Crisis Line) – Text: “ANSWER” to 839863

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Admin. National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357

Active Duty Military/Veterans: StopSoldierSuicide.org – 1-844-889-5610 Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm ET. – VeteransCrisisLine.net

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