Struggle: this is a word I am familiar with. Sometimes too familiar, sometimes way too familiar. Hourly I find myself asking, “Will my struggle always be real?”

Talking with my counselor earlier this week, she said something very Oprah-esque. “You either struggle backward or you struggle forward.” As my counselor and Oprah would encourage me to do, I reflected on this statement.

Since childhood, I have struggled with severe depression and general and social anxiety, terms and conditions wrapped up into the taboo subject of mental illness. My mental illness has been a secret I have long tried to hide, unsuccessfully so for the poor unfortunate beings who have been around me as I wreaked havoc in my own life (i.e., self-sabotage). Good grades, great friendships, positive choices – forget that. I would experience the sweetness of living well just long enough to struggle tremendously once I lost it.

Set back after set back followed my poor choices. Binge drinking and drug use, missing class and failing courses, and throwing away friendships for the smallest of infractions, if any infraction at all, left me bitter, drained and alone. And while those choices were chipped into existence by the fractured state of an untreated mind, I still made those choices. It was in those times I was struggling backward.

Yes, today I struggle but the difference is in the direction. I have a therapist and psychiatrist working in unison to help heal my head and heart. I have a few trusted souls who will listen while I cry and speak out loud the hurt I hold inside. And I have my writing, my dear old friend always in reach who gives me the courage to share my story. Like cutting the ribbon tied to a helium balloon on a windy day, I am releasing the burden of hiding my mental health “secret” with every word I write.

With my reflection complete, in this sweet moment I understand I am struggling forward.

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