“I look around for an escape route of old routines. There doesn’t seem to be any other way.”
I remember sitting in my room, night after night, devoid of hope, love, rational thought. I remember late nights of tears, self-loathing, and utter loss of faith in life.
I was a puzzle. I was missing pieces. My life never looked like the beautiful picture on the box. Years of frustrated attempts at piecing these things together had ultimately led to greater fractures, more pieces, more hopelessness. I was falling apart.
I was broken … I was broken, and the pieces of my life lay around me like a puzzle. My life never looked like the picture on the box.
About a year ago, depression broke me, and I almost gave up. I fell through the cracks. I had struggled with serious depression and anxiety for years, but never spoke about it. I built up others’ perceptions of me as a tough and motivated warrior, never showing signs of weakness. Inside, I had been falling apart for years. I was never able to deal with the ideas and perceptions my mind created, nor was I able to build worthwhile relationships with people. I don’t know which was worse: not understanding my own self, or the inability to let others in. Ultimately, in an attempt to fill in those missing pieces, I self-harmed and self-medicated.
“Crazy as it sounds, you won’t feel as low as you feel right now, at least that’s what I’ve been told by everyone.”
My uncle, who in many ways is the older brother I’ve never had, revealed to me one evening, upon seeing my scars, that he faced similar demons of depression. Toward the end of that evening, he told me something that guides my hope every day: “It gets better.”
Coming from him—a man who is so in love with his wife, so happy with his family, and successful as a professional, as well—I felt a certain sense of confidence. I would never be able to tell you everything about his journey, nor would I be able to truly tell you about all the facets of mine, but I can tell you this: “It gets better.” I know this, because I’ve seen others live it—and because I’ve now lived it.
“Cause I’ve started falling apart, I’m not savoring life. I’ve forgotten how good it could be to feel alive.”
Some nights, when my depression or anxiety cycle through, I put in headphones, throw on a warm sweatshirt, and go for a long walk. The twinkling streetlights, soothing music, and chill air give me time to reflect on where I have been and where I want to go. What often becomes lost in between is the reality of the present. It’s like I’m running, only to stand still.
Last fall, after opening up to my uncle and finding a friend and mentor who believed in me and in the power of community, I went for a similar walk. This time, I noticed I was not looking forward or behind me, but to the sky. It was in that moment that I realized my life was not defined by depression, anxiety, self-harm, or self-medication; it was defined by simply still being alive, being a part of the bigger picture, even in spite of those things.
“Take the pieces and build them skywards.”
We have all faced hardship. Life is hard—really, really hard. We live in a broken world. But I promise, it gets better.
About two years ago, my uncle wanted me to check out a band called Biffy Clyro. I didn’t. After the aforementioned conversation with him last fall, he told me to check them out again. The first song I heard was “Machines.” Coincidentally, it reflected that life-changing talk we’d had. While one speaker expresses his inability to overcome the missing pieces in his life, focusing intently on the brokenness he exists in, the other speaker focuses on all the pieces that remain. For him, it wasn’t about sitting in a room, looking at a box, and trying to match a picture. It was about taking the pieces and constructing them into something far more than a puzzle; it was about manifesting all the goodness and beauty you possess into something more extraordinary than what is expected.
“Take the pieces and build them skywards.”
Like the night I looked to the stars, I decided to take the puzzle pieces, which never matched “the box” in front of me, and build them skyward, into a magnificent tower. A tower that will represent the best and most beautiful things I can dream of. I will look to the sky and believe it can only get better and better, if I continue to take what I was given and see how high I can reach.
Let not your darkness or your brokenness define you; instead let your love, your hope, and your beauty define you. These pieces are infinite.
“Take the pieces and build them up to the sky.”
—Connor, Summer 2013 intern