"The days have been rough and at times I wasn't sure I could make it another day. I spent more then a few nights holding my little girl as she slept weeping because I wasn't sure I was going to be a good enough father for her."
In two poignant posts that have gone viral on Facebook, a young Las Vegas dad has opened up about the challenges -- and the wonders -- he’s encountered as a single parent.
Richard Johnson, 21, is the dad of a 10-month-old baby girl named Persephone. In a letter this week to Life of Dad, a social network for fathers, Johnson explains how he ended up raising Persephone on his own.
The baby’s mother left when the child was just a month old, Johnson said in the letter, which was posted to Facebook by Life of Dad on Tuesday.
"We still don't know exactly why [she left]. But we suspect post-partum depression played a part," he wrote.
In the days that followed his ex's departure, Johnson admits he felt lost and scared.
"I came from a family where everyone is either divorced or a single parent. My father wasn’t in the picture, and I never wanted that for my kids," Johnson told Yahoo Parenting in an interview this week. "When [Persephone’s mom and I] decided that we wanted kids, I wanted to give them the life I didn’t have."
But, he said, "the more I thought about it, the more panicked I got. I didn’t know what it meant to be an involved father except from what I saw on TV or movies."
In an effort to assuage his fears, Johnson says he scoured the Internet and other parenting resources. He read "every 'new parent' book" he could find, and clocked "over 1,000 hours" watching YouTube videos on everything from "braiding hair and painting nails to theories on how to deal with common parental issues."
It was around this time that he says he stumbled upon Life of Dad, a resource that proved enormously helpful to him.
"I … saw that there were other fathers out there who were in similar predicaments as me. The page started to turn into a major confidence booster and really helped me through all of this," he wrote in his letter.
Life of Dad’s Facebook post has gone viral this week, racking up more than 14,000 likes to date. Many netizens have come forward to praise Johnson for his honesty, and have offered him words of encouragement and support.
In a follow-up message posted to Facebook on Wednesday, Johnson said he's been blown away by the positive feedback.
"Thank you to each and every single one of you. You truly can't understand how much everyone's words mean to me. I am constantly criticizing myself on how I can be a better father and this was just the right medicine I needed," he wrote.
Johnson also described some of the tough times he's experienced in his new role as dad. He recalled nights when he would weep while holding his sleeping daughter, as his heart filled with anxiety about the future.
Ultimately, though, he says Persephone has helped him keep strong and carry on.
"One night in particular was the night she first crawled. She came to me and laid her tiny little hand on my cheek and stared into my eyes. I took it as 'Come on Daddy, we have a lot to do.' So I told her no more crying for either of us and we were going to fight to be happy. We’ve kept true to that promise," he wrote.
Johnson concluded his note with some words of advice for other single parents out there.
"If you ever feel like the load is too much or you're just not good enough. Look into your amazing child's eyes and just tell them you love them," he said. "You'd be amazed to see how much strength you have when someone else is counting on you and loving you more and more for what you're doing. You'll find strength where you thought you had none."
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