Why Finding Yourself Doesn't Mean Hurting Yourself

Caucasian woman with convertible reading map on remote road
Caucasian woman with convertible reading map on remote road

Originally published on Unwritten by Molly Higgins.

Remember when we were younger, and sadness usually came in the form of a melted ice cream cone and only lasted for an hour and pain was a stubbed toe that stopped throbbing after five minutes? Loneliness was something that us young girls didn't want and didn't have because we were always running around with our friends or cuddled with our stuffed animals. Shame was telling our parents that we did in fact lie and eat that very last cookie.

When did it all change?

And by that, I don't mean why didn't it stay that way forever. I mean, when did we start seeking out what we once so vehemently avoided, and when did we start thinking of it all as beautiful? Somewhere along the line, we started romanticizing the notions of sadness and death and pain; we gave an undeserved beauty to the idea of drugs and loneliness and being forgotten. We imagined that hurting made us clean and that aching made us pure, and we thought that the only way to find ourselves was to do it on our own.

Depression is, after all, the world's most common mental illness, and you can be struggling without being full-on diagnosable. It is easy to get pulled into the idea that you can find yourself in your pain, especially when there are thousands of Tweets, Instagrams and Tumblr posts to make you think that being among the lonely is something elite.

But it is not.

There is nothing magical about being haunted, and there is nothing beautiful about being sad; in fact, the only sweet things about sadness is that it may end. We romanticize death and drugs and the concept of loneliness in ways which make us think that attaining these things will stop the pain. But is that really how we want the world to be? Because there is nothing romantic about mothers crying into pillows or blood pooling from cut thighs or withdrawal shakes keeping you awake in a night when all you want to do is sleep and remember how it all felt when you could actually feel. Yet, this is all what comes in the afterwords. When you play it out, it doesn't exactly seem like something to strive for.

When you are older, you will have faced enough adversity to have earned battle scars without looking for them. Challenges don't make you stronger or more mature if you wallow in the limbo that is not overcoming them, and often, there is a strong support system of people who will help you get through the tough times. Don't turn away from them; they are part of the fine line between what constitutes feeling lonely and being alone, and the latter is an experience that no one should have to suffer through.

It is okay to be sad; every emotion has it's purpose. But if looking for company means looking for those more miserable than yourself, remember that they will only be there on those bad days, feeding you a bleakness that you don't need. You need to turn on the lights, open your door, and head downstairs to talk to the people who can celebrate you in your happiness and your spontaneity and your life; not just in your sadness.

There is romance in love. There is romance in a sunrise, a smile, a day when you laugh so hard that your stomach hurts for three hours afterwards. There is beauty in family and friendship and dreams. But death? Depression? Drugs? They don't belong here. No matter how many movies they star in or TV shows they center around, they don't deserve the prime time.

But you, at your best, deserve it all. And you always will.

If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.