I’m Living Proof: Navigating Through the Darkness


I'm Living Proof Letter to my younger self Maddie

Dear Maddie,

I am so proud of how far you’ve come. You’ll see, by age 26, your life will be unrecognizable in the best way possible. Everything you feel now will shape who you become in the next nine years. Although part of you still lives within the woman I am now, there has been so much shedding, growth, insight, and peace that has come with trial and error, diagnosis, and time.

I still remember how it feels to be you, in high school battling panic attacks for weeks straight not understanding what they are or where they are coming from. Frozen with panic in chemistry class, in dance class, in the lunchroom, in crowded spaces, anywhere too far from home or too far from a hospital, just in case. I know the depression has settled in fully by now, and I have to tell you that the next year of your life and the final year in high school, it will become worse than ever.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. By the end of December your senior year, you’ll be diagnosed with severe chronic depression by the school psychologist. You’ll be put on medication with the help and support of your therapist and mother, and it will help. Your therapy sessions will remind you there’s nothing wrong with you, you aren’t losing touch with reality. I know it feels like that right now, but it won’t last forever.

I want you to know how resilient you are. You’ve already put up with secret mental suffering and exhaustion for a few years now, but you are still alive and kicking. And you will be at 26, too. The road after 18 won’t necessarily be smooth though, there will still be relapses and setbacks. Medication changes, new therapists, life changes. But you will learn to recognize the signs and be able to get help before things get out of control again. It’s not necessarily about “reaching the other side,” but rather learning to navigate the darkness.

By 26, you’ll have a system down. You’ll be able to live life day-to-day without panicking every time you leave the house. You’ll be able to get out of bed most mornings and you won’t have to take so many naps to escape life for a few hours anymore. You’ll make it through college with a degree, you’ll land an AmeriCorps position in Chicago.

You’ll learn to make space for joy when everything else is working against it. I am so happy you pushed through.

There might be a lot of people along the way who don’t understand, who have never been where you have in the depths of darkness, but don’t let it invalidate how you’re feeling. Don’t be so afraid to reach out for help. In the end, reaching out is what will save you time and time again. There is a special power in asking someone for help, and I’m proud that you will do it soon. There’s a whole support system waiting for you on the other side of diagnosis:­­ family and friends who will understand, and young people in DBSA across the country who have struggled like you.

It’s hard to think about you suffering, but just know it won’t always be like this. Things will change for the better, I promise. I am living proof.

26-year-old Maddie

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I’m Living Proof Archive

I’m Living Proof created to share inspiration for young adults living with mood disorder. These archival posts represent the stories shared between 2015-2020.

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