Invisible Paths

#AKF, Always Keep Fighting, anxiety, bipolar, depression, encouragement, fibromyalgia, first impressions, health, humble, invisible illness, judging, judgment, stigma, to write love on her arms, twloha

Invisible-illness-under-the-surface

If there were a competition for invisible conditions, I would be quite the contender. Seriously, I’d have trophies I think. At least one of those super cool participation awards.

After years of unexplained, chronic pain, I received a diagnosis—the doc was like, “You’ve got fibromyalgia.” And I was like, “Doc, this is going to damage our relationship. I was just startin’ to like you.”

The diagnosis didn’t really come as a shock (my gray hairs, which I found out about recently, are far more shocking, I’ll be real). I’ve known something was up with my body for a long time. I ardently avoid doctors until I’m dragging a limb behind me (who am I kidding? I don’t even go to the doctor then). But I did feel a little bit frustrated at first.

My thoughts: Come on. I’ve got bipolar. I’ve got depression. I’ve got anxiety. No one can physically see those things most of the time. Some people don’t even believe in those things—they tell me “just be more positive,” “remember all you have to be grateful for,” “eat more bananas” (I’m not even making that last one up). They don’t believe in the invisible conditions I already have, and now I’ve got fibro? Another invisible condition?

I wallowed for a solid five minutes. I gnashed my teeth a little. I did that Hunger Games three finger-signal thing and whistled sadly. OK, OK, everything after “wallowed” is pretty much a lie.

However, what isn’t a lie is this: when I was done wallowing, it occurred to me that this is the perfect opportunity to talk about invisible conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar, fibromyalgia, lupus, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue, Lyme disease, etc. This is the perfect opportunity to remind others that yes, invisible conditions are out there affecting people in drastic ways. People are human. People are real. And just because we don’t see them struggling doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling.

You can’t see my blood type, right? No (and if you can, I really, really, need to know my blood type, maybe tweet me or something). Does that mean you don’t believe I have a blood type? Of course not. Everyone has a blood type, and even though we can’t see it with our own two eyes, we believe it. What makes it any different than invisible conditions that people struggle with daily?

My point is this: If you struggle with one or more invisible conditions, I recognize that it’s hard. You’re not alone—even if you can’t see that. You are valid. Your struggle is valid. If you struggle and you’re able to talk about these struggles, please do. Every person that speaks up helps erase stigma. Every voice that speaks up brings much-needed awareness. Your voice is so important.

And if you don’t struggle, and often invalidate the invisible conditions others have, please try to stop. Please try to understand that it’s no different than a blood type, and it could be you one day. We all—at some point—will likely struggle with mental illness or a debilitating chronic health problem. In the end, we’re all in the same boat, so let’s row together. Except me. I can’t swim.

I’ll cheer you on from the shore, though. Let’s walk these invisible paths together, friend.

28 Keystrokes

#AKF, afsp, Always Keep Fighting, american foundation for suicide prevention, anxiety, asking for help is not a weakness, depression, encouragement, live through this, mental health, self-harm, self-injury, stigma, suicidal tendencies, Suicide Awareness, suicide prevention, to write love on her arms, twloha

“If you know that a friend or family member struggles with self-injury, then you should know that they have trusted you with one of the deepest, toughest, vulnerable parts of their heart. Do not make them feel shame. Do not question their motives. Do not accuse them of attention-seeking. Just love them.”

 

With the following 28 keystrokes, I am going to write one of the most difficult sentences I have ever written to a public audience:

I struggle with self-injury.

Why is it so difficult to say? I have openly admitted so many other struggles. Depression. Bipolar. Anxiety. Suicide attempts. This is where I usually throw in a bit of humor to lighten the mood. You laugh. The tension releases. It’s hard to admit that as I write this, my throat is so tight that I’m at a loss for a punch line.

When my two-year-old daughter notices my scars, she touches them and says, “Mommy! Boo-boo!” I wonder about what she’ll say when she gets older. I wonder what she’ll ask when she gets old enough to understand what they are. I wonder what I’ll tell her. But yes, my child, they are there; they are boo-boos. They are the type of boo-boo that people don’t often like to talk about.

If you struggle with self-injury as well, this is what I want to say to you: You know the stretches of time where you’re managing okay? Those long periods—you know—a day, a week, a month, a year, years. Those stretches? Sometimes they end. It happens. I want you to know that it does not make you a failure. You, like myself, sometimes torture yourself with guilt even though you shouldn’t. I want you to know that a lapse does not mean no other stretches will come. You will persevere. You will continue to more stretches of “managing okay.” Heck, sometimes you will even manage well, excellent, fabulously, [insert your preferred, positive adjective here]. Your lapses do not define you.

If you know someone who struggles, this is what I want to say to you: If you know that a friend or family member struggles with self-injury, then you should know that they have trusted you with one of the deepest, toughest, vulnerable parts of their heart. Do not make them feel shame. Do not question their motives. Do not accuse them of attention-seeking. Just love them. Just love them so hard it feels like it can wash away any wounds, any scars, any boo-boos.

Three words, a hyphenated compound word, and a period. That’s the structure of the sentence I struggled to type up there: “I struggle with self-injury.” If you’re wondering why I broke down the structure of sentence itself, it’s because I’m a neurotic-when-vulnerable-slightly-awkward-but-mostly-amazing-English-major (ah, there’s the laugh).

Stigma makes it hard for that structure to exist, friends. Stigma makes it hard for those 28 keystrokes to happen, friends. Stigma makes 4 words nearly impossible to write, friends. So, I offer myself, a vulnerable and terrified sacrifice, in hopes that we will continue to break down stigma with our openness. In hopes that when my daughter, fifteen-years-old, asks me about my scars, I’ll be able to give her an answer. Not the right one—it’s not about right answers. But an answer.

None of us can heal if stigma holds our lips together tight. And that goes for all mental health struggles, not just this one. However, this is the one I want to talk about today. So, know this: I’m not judging you, friend. Please be vulnerable with me, with others. Talk about your boo-boos. It might be the best thing you ever do.

Passion for the Important: Humanitarianism, Lives Movements, Toilet Paper

being better people, beliefs, change, changing the world, cultural shifts, human, humanitarianism, humanity, postive change, value, values

My fiancée and I disagree on so many things. It’s not what you’re thinking—we disagree on important things. Examples: opinions on sex work, thoughts on which countries we should focus on in humanitarian projects, #[INSERT TYPE OF LIFE]matters movements, who left the toilet roll empty again—you get the picture. Important things.

We can argue for hours. It’s not arguing in the this-is-meaningless-and-we’re-getting-a-divorce (oh wait, we’re not married until April 14th) way. It’s arguing in the we’re-critically-thinking-and-learning-about-alternative-perspectives way. For the record, I am always right in the end. *looks shadily to the left* 

What does this say about us as a couple? Not much. What does it say about us as people? We’re passionate. We’re passionate about what is going on around us in some way. That matters. She’s a liberal feminist. I’m a self-labeled reformed-Republican-gone-Democrat. We both have held some strong one-sided opinions in the past and we still do, to some degree, in the present. 

We both have flaws. My God, do we have flaws. But I heard something in my grad class today that made me realize despite our flaws, we are important people because we have passion about important things.

What did I hear in my class? “If you ignore it, it will happen to you.” 

Exactly. We have an obligation as humans to remain passionate about important things because if we ignore important things, we will find ourselves somewhere we do not want to be. 

No matter our opinions on sex work, if my fiancée and I ignore the issue altogether, we might find ourselves facing a reality we never expected—even if it seems like it is never going to affect us at all. If we shut down our thoughts on which countries we should focus on in our humanitarian projects and simply choose to do nothing, we may find ourselves in need of massive help ourselves, unaware that our help doubles as a prevention of terrible things happening to us too. If we support no particular #livesmatter movement in order to avoid the decision of which needs the most help or which is most credible or which is most all-encompassing, then we support no movement, which means one day when we need our own movement, we may be out of luck ourselves. 

As long as we as people, my fiancée and I included, keep caring about important things and passionately, it’s okay if we’re arguing (try to be civil, y’all). It’s okay to feel differently as long as you don’t stop caring. If we ignore it, it can happen to us—it will happen to us. So we have no choice but to care.

And we have to care about the small things along with the big things (let’s agree the toilet paper issue falls under the “big things,” okay?). We have to care about all things. Even though we can’t handle every single thing, we can continue to form opinions and care about all things…while working toward the number of things we can manage simultaneously. 

So care. Care about the important things. Be passionate. Fight, and fight well. Never give up.

“If you ignore it, it will happen to you.”

Rise out of the Ashes Like a Phoenix–Nah, Scratch that–Like a Sri Lanka Frogmouth

#AKF, afsp, Always Keep Fighting, american foundation for suicide prevention, anxiety, asking for help is not a weakness, depression, encouragement, live through this, stigma, struggle, suffering, suicidal tendencies, Suicide Awareness, suicide prevention, Suicide Prevention Week, to write love on her arms, twloha, Uncategorized, You're Not Alone

Yesterday, my daughter, fiancée, and I completed the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s 2017 Out of Darkness walk in Orlando, FL. The event was a 5k walk around a beautiful lake, with humans, dogs, bunnies, and tortoises (no, that’s not a joke) all joined together to promote suicide awareness and encourage people around the world to help us end the stigma surrounding mental health struggles.

Signs, stickers, and posters featured phrases such as “I’m walking for” with the name of a loved one who died by suicide filled in the empty space—which reminded me of the empty place this type of loss leaves behind in a lot of our hearts. I thought about my own mental health struggles. I thought about my own suicide attempts. I looked at my fiancée and daughter, and thought, I never want them to have to fill my name in the empty space.

I never want to have to fill your name in that empty space, either.

We don’t simply overcome mental health struggles. Depression and anxiety do not dissipate overnight. Bipolar disorder does not go away when it gets bored. Thoughts of suicide cannot simply be turned off with a switch. These types of darkness don’t seem to have a light switch, and that can be hard for people to understand. But I understand. And I want you to rise up.

I want you to rise up out of the ashes (and darkness) like a phoenix. Scratch that. I want you to rise out of the ashes like a Sri Lanka Frogmouth. I know you’re trying to figure out if those last three words are the product of some type of autocorrect system wild on caffeine, but no—

I want you to rise up out of the ashes like a Sri Lanka Frogmouth.

The thing about this bird is that it is awesomely weird—much as I imagine you are, which is why I really don’t want to be filling your name in that empty space the next time my family walks. We need more awesomely weird people in the world, so I hope you’ll stick around. This bird is so underrated. But it’s not underrated to me—just like you’re not underrated to me.

This bird has a special call it makes every dawn and dusk. It cries out when the sun sets, but it’s also there to cry out again when the sun comes back. It has small wings…yet it flies. It flies quietly but with purpose. The best thing about this awesomely weird (and let’s face it, weirdly named, as well) bird is that it often disguises itself as a broken tree branch for self-defense. It’s apparent brokenness is what can save it at the end of the day.

So after walking with over 2,000 people who have been personally touched by suicide, I still manage to feel light. I know these people are hurting, yes, but they are using that pain to do something worthwhile. And I know many of us, myself included, are heavy with the weights of depression and anxiety, among numerous other types of mental health struggles…but remember this—

You may look like nothing more than a broken tree branch. But you are something solid, strong, real, graceful. You can take flight—you can glide. You are awesomely weird. And you are going to rise from those ashes, just like a Sri Lanka Frogmouth should.

p-king-sri-lanka-frogmouth

Minimalist Backslider: Rejuvenating the 30-day List

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I’ve been backsliding hard, and I’m here to admit it. On December 29, 2015, I put in place my first ever “30-day list,” a list which I told my friends, family, and co-workers would “allow me to put distance between the impulse [to purchase an item] and the…[actual] purchase,” in hopes of “ultimately kick[ing]..consumer addiction.” The end goal was to find value and happiness outside of mere physical possessions.

This was a successful endeavor…for six months.

Then, as often happens, I was sidetracked from my goals by a tsunami of turmoil in my personal life, leaving me hanging on for dear life (sometimes literally, as I struggled through severe change and grief, which only made my depression and anxiety worse). I drank and I smoked cigarettes and I cried and I raged and I hurt. But also…I began to spend again. Superfluously, as The Minimalists might say.

The not-so-amazing part that I found so amazing was that I didn’t even notice. It took months before I realized I’d stopped using my 30-day list. It took even longer to realize I was spending in an effort to cling onto some kind of happiness in a time of great personal crisis. We do this sometimes—we try to fill the voids of our life with physical possessions and it never, ever, ever…ever, helps long-term. It never produces the happiness we seek.

It was December again, almost exactly a year later, when I realized I needed to bring the 30-day list back.

I need to hold myself accountable again. I need to create that separation between the impulse to purchase an item and the actual purchase of the item. The space—a mere 30 days—has proven time and time again to be all the time I need to determine if an item is something I actually need or want (a want that will bring value to my life, of course)…or if the impulse to purchase was simply an impulse with some other, often subconscious, ulterior motive.

To keep myself honest, I am making my 30-day list public. It can be found on my website (you’re already here!), by visiting the “30-day List” link in the main toolbar. Or just click here. On my list, you will find the item, the date I added it to the list, the links or pictures (if relevant), and the date I finally purchased the item (if applicable).

I encourage you to take this challenge with me. It was rewarding and taught me so much about myself the first time I established the list. Now, as I rejuvenate the 30-day list, I expect it to be just as rewarding and insightful as before.

Dear __________: A Letter to the Person Who Has Lost the Life They Imagined

change, changes, Dear __________ (A Series of Letters), Dear __________: (A Series of Letters), encouragement, letter, letters, Uncategorized

Dear Person Who Has Lost the Life You Imagined,

I want you to know I offer my genuine condolences for the loss of your old life—the life you imagined. To feel heartbreak and frustration and confusion and frenzy is okay. Stop letting others who don’t understand your loss tell you otherwise. Your feelings are valid. If I could send you away with only one detail from this letter, it would be that: Your feelings are valid.

Where are you at right now? I don’t know. You could be staring at a stack of divorce papers or perching at the gravestone of a child or waiting outside the doors of a courtroom or locking all your belongings in storage or sitting across the room from a therapist or removing the debris from your flooded home or moving across the country or clearing the items from the desk at the job you just lost or simply sitting, crying, crying, crying, crying.

Because the life you imagined is gone.

I don’t know where you’re at, physically. And even if I did, that would have no bearing on my understanding of where you are mentally, emotionally—because despite what many people say, it is okay to accept that we don’t understand how people are feeling, that we don’t understand their unique situations 100%, that at best we can only “relate,” but we can never truly “understand.”

So I am saying to you: I don’t understand. I may be able to relate.

Perhaps you’re smack in the middle of the loss of the life you imagined: maybe the cop has just showed up at your door to tell you a family member has died. This person you loved and valued and needed and envisioned a future with is suddenly gone. The life you imagined is still shattering, right now, and it feels like you can’t possibly hold the pain in. Perhaps that’s where you are—and I don’t understand. But I can relate. And as hard as it is to imagine right now, it’s not that life goes on without them—it’s that life adjusts itself to hug you in a different way. I don’t expect you to see or feel or believe any of that now. I don’t judge you if you think it will never be true for you because at the end of the day, I cannot judge what will be true for you. I can’t know. No one can know. But it is my hope for you that I am, at least, partially correct—and life adjusts itself to hug you in a different way.

Perhaps you’ve finally accepted the loss of the life you imagined and you’re looking around at the wreckage, wondering where to start: maybe you’re sitting in the hotel room you’ve been living in for the last four months staring at the letter you just received that says your divorce is final. The life you imagined shattered a while ago, but the insurmountable feelings of heartbreak and frustration and confusion and frenzy have abated. Most days, you don’t even cry anymore. Most days, you feel ready to move on, but a little overwhelmed at the prospect of doing so. Perhaps that’s where you are—and I don’t understand. But I can relate. And I’m telling you it’s okay to sit passively staring at the wreckage as long as you need to. It is not necessary to jump up before you’re ready and start cleaning up the mess, as if it to pretend it were never there. Just because you’re no longer in the middle of the loss doesn’t mean you’re at the end. Your timetable is unique, and if people make you feel guilty about that, then those people are under the impression they understand. Hopefully, one day, they’ll realize they can only relate. I can’t know. They can’t know. No one can know. But it is my hope for you that when you are ready, you will feel strong and powerful and more than able to clear the wreckage.

Perhaps you’ve put the life you imagined behind you, and you’re in the process of imagining a new life: maybe you’ve just left the therapist’s office, and he told you that the medicine is working, you’ve processed most of the pain you’ve been through, and at this point, a check-in every couple of months is all he recommends. The life you imagined shattered a long while ago, and you’re looking at the sun and realizing your new life started at some point when you weren’t even thinking about it—your imagination kicked back on and you didn’t even notice the flare of creativity. Perhaps that’s where you are—and I don’t understand. But I can relate. And right now, you’re not standing in the sun feeling the heartbreak and frustration and confusion and frenzy. Right now you’re feeling the warm leap of a possible future. I don’t judge the feelings you’re having right now at all. I can’t know. No one can know. All I can say is that I hope they are joyful feelings.

So, wherever you are—physically, mentally, or emotionally—I still want to offer my genuine condolences for the loss of your old life. There is probably no universe in which you forget about that old life entirely, and that’s okay. You’re okay. There is probably no universe in which you don’t sometimes, no matter how far apart the feelings are stretched, feel a tiny pang of longing for the old life you imagined, and that’s okay. You’re okay. And there is probably no universe in which the old life you imagined doesn’t influence the new life you’re imagining, and yes—that’s okay, too. You’re okay.

All that matters to me is that someday you get to a point where you aren’t afraid to imagine again. I won’t give you a time frame, I won’t tell you how to process, I won’t expect anything from you, specifically. But because I love you, all that matters to me is that someday you begin to imagine again.

Imagining is beautiful. And so are you.

Stigma: “I Am Not My Damage—I Am Not My Past—I Am Not My Current Struggles”

anxiety, depression, eating disorders, mental health, OCD, self-harm, stigma, suicidal tendencies, Uncategorized

Stigma: A mark of disgrace or infamy; a sign of severe censure or condemnation, regarded as impressed on a person or thing; a ‘brand’; A distinguishing mark or characteristic (of a bad or objectionable kind).”

On my heart today: stigma. We are destroying people with stigma. It is said that nearly 75% of people who struggle with mental health issues do not seek help due to the shame attached to doing so. This means a majority of our friends and family members are not admitting they struggle with depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, mental health disorders, eating disorders, OCD, etc. because we have created an environment where they feel judgment will be attached to these admissions.

And I say this: look at your friend. Look at your family member. If they suffer from depression, are they that depression? If they suffer from anxiety, are they that anxiety? If they self-harm, are they that self-harm? If they are suicidal, are they that darkness? If they are diagnosed with bipolar or schizophrenia, is that label who they are? If they struggle to eat, are they their barely touched meal? If their OCD “quirks” prevent them from functioning at optimum level, are they those quirks?

Let me spell it out for you: N-O. No.

This is not the world we desire to live in, friends. Those who struggle are real people with these amazing, unique personalities who also happen to struggle with stuff. Because newsflash—everyone has stuff. Your stuff may simply be that you hate your job, that your relationship is failing, that your health is poor, that your home is damaged, but you have stuff. You are not defined by that bad job or floundering relationship or poor health or four damaged walls. For this very reason, we cannot define our loved ones who struggle with mental health issues by their mental health issues.

And I’ll tell you this, too. It is not enough to simply say we support these people wholeheartedly, and we want to end stigma. We must live it in our daily lives.

If we are only supporting those with mental health struggles outside our inner circles, we are part of the problem. If we do take these people into our inner circles, but we cannot accept those we love who struggle with these mental health issues as people who can actually contribute positively to our lives—if we still keep them at arms length in the important moments/things—we are part of the problem.

In those situations, we are fostering an environment that creates stigma. We are saying, “This person has too much damage or mental baggage to come all the way in and perhaps make some kind of positive difference in my life.” We are essentially saying that these people are good enough…but only to a point.

Don’t. Be. Part. Of. The. Problem.

Let’s not foster an environment ripe for stigma. Let’s embrace these people, these friends and family, as people who live these awesomely different lives and also happen to struggle with one or several mental health issues as well.

Instead, let’s say to ourselves, “My friend is an activist, a mother, an artist, and also happens to struggle with depression.”

Instead, let’s say to ourselves, “My mother is a teacher, a Christian, a book lover, and also happens to be bipolar.”

Instead, let’s say to ourselves, “My daughter is a writer, a student, a member of the LGBT community, and also happens to be a suicide attempt survivor.”

If you are someone who struggles with depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, mental disorders, eating disorders, OCD, etc. say to yourself: “I am not my damage. I am not my mental baggage. I am not my past. I am not my current struggles. I am me, and the rest is details.”

If you are a friend or family member of someone who struggles with depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, mental disorders, eating disorders, OCD, etc. say to yourself: “My friend is amazing, unique, loved by me. They have struggles that do not define who they are. I will not generalize and label them—I will simply love them for every part of their beautiful soul.”

We all play a crucial role in either the creation or destruction of stigma. Which role will you play?

A Tomato Walks Into a Blog Post About Depression…

#AKF, Always Keep Fighting, american foundation for suicide prevention, asking for help is not a weakness, depression, encouragement, live through this, Suicide Awareness, suicide prevention, to write love on her arms, twloha, Uncategorized, We'll See You Tomorrow, You're Not Alone

What you may or may not know about depression is that it makes it difficult for you to accept help and love.

Mostly love.

Because depression convinces you that you’re not worthy of either. Depression is an insistent little gnat that says, “No one can help and love you like you are.” So you assume help is not out there. You assume love is not out there.

Mostly love.

Even when both are slapping you in the face with a sliced tomato (something that—logically—we assume would be quite noticeable), you assume they are not out there. So you don’t see them out there. You don’t see help and love.

Mostly love.

So, for the love of all that is fruit-related/vegetable-related (this depends on your particular views and beliefs about the tomato), try to stop being slapped in the face with a sliced tomato. I know that’s a lot to ask and may not be possible. That’s the whole point—depression sometimes (often) gets in the way. But try to accept help and love.

Mostly love.

You are worthy, which is why you have to try. Plus…the tomato. There is a figurative tomato slapping you in the face. How do you feel about that? But more to the original point, you are worthy so people are likely trying to help and love you.

Mostly love you.

Show that tomato who is boss, open your eyes and heart, and let those people help and love you—if you can.

And friend, absolutely no judgments if you can’t.

Forgetting (and Remembering) My Own Message: A Confession of Sorts

being better people, beliefs, encouragement, human, humanity, judging, judgment, kindness, postive change

I have a dare for you.

Let’s say you didn’t know me at all. Let’s say you just happen to read my blog, I reach out to you for this dare, and you decide to come try. And this is what I do—I gather a handful of my friends, most of my acquaintances, and all of my co-workers into one room…then I dare you to tell me which of these people:

  • Has recently had an abortion
  • Has been the victim of a hate crime
  • Has recently been accepted into a prestigious college
  • Has lupus
  • Is going through a divorce
  • Is on a diet
  • Is losing their home
  • Is in therapy
  • Has recently received a community service award
  • Almost died last year

I know that you know that I know that you know where this is going—you probably can’t successfully complete this dare. At best, you might luck out in identifying some people correctly, but overall, the reality is that you have no idea what any of these people in my life are going through. Even our closest friends go through things we’re unaware of at times.

Part of neglecting your own message is that you often forget the message yourself. We’re human, so we get distracted by the day-to-day, or our lives sometimes crumble a bit, and we forget what we’re standing for because we’re too busy picking up the pieces to repeat our message to others—which means we’re too busy to (sometimes) keep that message in mind ourselves.

I’ve been guilty of this lately.

I’ve never tried to pretend that I’m perfect. I’ve never even tried to pretend I’m in the top 10th percentile of this living a nonjudgmental life thing. In fact, the last time I was in the top 10th percentile of anything was probably elementary school. To be perfectly honest, I’ve been so unfocused lately that I’ve been neglecting my own message to the degree that I’ve been working against it.

The message I’m talking about is the one that’s closest to my heart: don’t forget that people are human, people are real. 

I had a few reminders yesterday that I’ve been too caught up in my own troubles to live by this. One of those reminders was that I reacted to a person and a situation in a way that represents who I was probably two years ago, rather than who I am now (or who I want to be). I let my own feelings of anxiety, frustration, and overwhelm keep me from remembering that the woman in front of me—the woman I was dealing with—is just another human soul like me.

I saw nothing but the interaction we were having. I saw nothing but my own reaction to that interaction. I fumed and I held onto the negativity of that interaction for most of the day. And all through that, I never once stopped to remind myself (as I often do, until lately) that she’s human, she’s real. Whatever struggles I’m having right now, she is having her own as well. They may be worse than mine. They may be better. But human struggling isn’t about measuring and winning at hurting—we’re going to need serious help in this world if it ever comes to that.

Human struggling is just human struggling—period.

And as difficult as it is, we must remember that everyone is struggling with something at any given moment in time. No one lives a perfect life. No one is without sadness or joy or pride or anxiety or fear or weakness or creativity or love or pain or confusion. Everyone is human and everyone is real.

We have to live like we remember that. We have to live like that because that’s exactly what the world needs. Have we looked around lately, everyone? The world needs more love, more empathy, more understanding. We have to keep spreading the message—and we certainly can’t afford to forget the message.