Every once in a while, there will be days when we feel lost, and all hollow inside, and as if we were standing on the edge of the world alone. We call this emptiness an "off day," a temporary sadness, as a term set aside for something we deem a rarity in the norm. Then there are some of us that feel this more often than others, a phenomenon cannot explain. We call this depression, a term that deems this a rarity we cannot tolerate. We call this a vulnerable case of a person.
No matter where you go, mental illness is a sensitive topic. It carries a negative stigma that we talk about in whispers and hushed voices behind backs, as if afraid to acknowledge a taboo. It's not a topic you bring to dinner or use as an icebreaker when meeting someone new. Depression is one of the mood disorders that occurs more frequently, and according to the World Health Organization, that's 350 million people around the world who carry negative stigmas for a condition that they never wanted, that no one knows how to cure easily or at all.
And that can leave you hollow on regular days, and a bit more empty than usual when you wonder how people who are not living with a mood disorder can do that. Not to mention, you can feel the tightness in your chest hitch your breath when you overhear people disregarding the existence of mental illness ("because they just have to learn to "get over it"") or when you accidentally scroll by a 'triggered' meme on the internet. Your illness is treated like a joke, and when you finally muster up the courage to tell someone, there's half of a chance that you'll be shot down because "you're being ridiculous." That can leave you feeling lonely, hurt, and lead you to turn inwards more, cocoon yourself, and shut out the world.
Being someone with self-diagnosed seasonal affective disorder (or SAD, depression that comes around at the same time each year,) I know what it's like to curl into yourself and feel vulnerable in your own skin. I know what it's like to taste the dry of your throat and stuff every bad thought your mind is offering down your gullet so that you can swallow it in an attempt to get rid of them. I've felt the aching inside that won't go away when it's night, and I've stared into the void and thought about the reasons for living. It doesn't get easier to bear - mental disorders aren't supposed to. But despite that, there are still upsides of hope.
If there's anything that we've learned from the trials and tribulations of 2016, it's that troubles don't stop, sadness never really fully goes away, and that fate sometimes doesn't differ between the good and the wicked. If there's one solace that can be offered, however, it's that we are able to seek comfort in the world around us - through nature, through the trees, and the sun, and the oceans, and the sky; through the people around us, by our families and by our friends; and through ourselves, by learning about everything that makes us the people that we have always admired most. There's so much to live for and admire. Maybe when we start learning to associate ourselves with other lovely and beautiful things, we'll start healing too. Vulnerability and fractures can't make us weak, not when we are learning to heal. After all, the best way to fix something broken is to build it back up through care and support.
Stephanie Tom is a high school student who lives in New York. She's an editor for her school newspaper, and an assistant editor for her school literary magazine. She has previously won a Gold Key from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her poetry, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Dear Damsels, Hypertrophic Literary and elsewhere.