If you have not yet read the heartbreaking story of Madison Holleran, I highly encourage you take a moment and do so here:
A few days ago, a friend of mine on Facebook shared a link to her story. It's been haunting me since that day. A life gone too soon. An illusion of happiness built on a foundation of sorrow and overwhelming depression. A sorrow so deep, as to be unbearable for a beautiful spirit tired of pretending to be something she felt she wasn't. Tired of living a lie. A carefully crafted image of a life that looked beautiful to those on the outside looking in. Maybe even inspiring envy at the perceived perfection of it.
My ability to relate to Madison's masked chronic pain was like a bucket of cold water on my head. A wake-up call. I could relate in many ways that made me squirm a little. Especially to her love of quotes. On a good day, a favorite quote lifts me up and reminds me to take chances and live my life to the fullest. Get out there, do things! Live life, yada, yada. On a bad day, that same quote may make me feel inadequate and lazy. Mocking me with its curt wisdom that makes it all seem so damn easy and effortless. Just throw around some fairy dust and have happy thoughts, and it will all fall into place. Just believe in yourself and wait for the wonderful to arrive. Um . . okay. Still waiting on my fairy dust to kick in.
Speaking of feeling inadequate, this brings me to social media. Another area that I could relate to Madison's story was the feeling that social media should project a certain image, not necessarily reality. No one wants to read about your bad day, see the dirty dishes still in your sink, or read about the fight you had with your spouse. At least that's what we tell ourselves, justifying the editing and polishing of our online images. Unfortunately, it's all too easy to fall into the trap of believing all of the glossy, happy images are how life should always be. If you too are not living a beautiful life, you must be doing something wrong. Sure, deep-down, we all know that no one's life is perfect. However, even the most logical person starts to feel jealous when perfection is all you ever see from everyone else. Even when we know better, the comparison of their sparkling lives to our own starts. "Why can't I go on a perfect vacation this summer, why aren't my kids winning all the awards, why can't my house be that clean?" On and on, until we start resenting all the shiny things we are seeing on everyone's social media. Our own lives start to feel boring and lackluster. We may start feeling mildly depressed without really knowing why. Forgetting that very few people whip out the camera to document their worst moments to share with everyone.
The article also reminds me, ironically enough, of a favorite quote of mine: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Some credit Plato, some credit Socrates for the quote. I just know the words have an impact on me. More so today, than yesterday, having read this young woman's story. A beautiful life on the outside, while a crushing battle was being fought on the inside. A powerful reminder for all of us. May her soul and her family know peace. May we all learn something from her struggle. Reach out to someone today. It may make a huge difference in someone's life, giving them renewed strength to continue fighting their battle. Whatever it may be.
If you are the one currently fighting a battle, please know you are not alone. The biggest smile often hides the most tears.
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255