Francesca Zelnick
Philadelphia Writer

It takes a hell of a lot of courage to go for what you want in this world, to work toward your own happiness. It requires more bravery and strength and conviction than you probably think that you have. But here’s the dirty little secret: You have it.

And those parts of you that are in pain, that feel weak and lost and uncertain and that you wish you could silence, those are the parts of you pushing toward something better. Those are strong, certain, self-loving parts of you that know there exists a more joyful way. The wrong path wouldn’t feel wrong if you didn’t believe that somewhere a right path existed. And although it doesn’t always feel like it, this is what we call hope. You know so much more than you think you do.

Every year I have at least one or two very dark days when I cannot get out of bed. These are not lazy mornings when I’d rather sleep in than do work, although of course those happen too. This is different. This is depression in full force. This is when I lose the daily battle and allow the darkness a small victory. This is when I cannot move, or face anyone, or feel anything but sadness and anxiety and restlessness and pain. This is self-loathing and wallowing. This is bleak and awful, but it is not hopeless. Hopelessness isn’t despair. Hopelessness is numb.

On the dark days, I am not numb. I am forced to feel everything I don’t want to feel. I am forced away from people and work and screens, and everything I love, and everything that distracts me from that little voice that urges “You are not where you want to be” until that voice isn’t little anymore. And then it is shouting.

And then eventually, after an entire day of hiding beneath the heavy weight of covers, I emerge from this cocoon of self-loathing. I remember how to move. And I can get out of bed – which at times has the largest gravitational pull of anything on the planet – and I can shower and make coffee and familiarize myself with the daily routine of being human again. And I can do this because I have chosen, and continue to choose, over and over again, to live in this world. Because this world and my life matter to me. And this is hope. And this is courage. And this is knowing. And this is strength.

And while things are not magically fixed, things do get better. Because I’ve felt what I needed to feel. I’ve allowed it to come in and back out again. This is not passive. This is action. This is not surrender or defeat. This is the difficult work of listening to what your body and mind are telling you they need. Self-care is a radical act. And you have to start wherever you can.

And I wanted to share this because, well, life is very difficult. And I make a lot of jokes just to make it through. But this stuff – the hard stuff – is just as important. This stuff – the unrelenting suffering of loss and grief and depression and uncertainty – has value, too. It connects us. It moves us (sometimes literally). It makes us feel less alone.

And if you are like me – depressive or not – I wanted you to know that you are not alone. I wanted you to know that I feel it, too. I understand. And I am here. I see you. I see that you are trying. I see that you are brave and strong and a walking, breathing testament to hope. I know how much courage it has taken you to get out of bed today. And I applaud you for choosing to live your life, over and over again, in whatever way you have chosen and continue to choose. I wanted you to know that you can become whoever it is you hope to become and I will be rooting for you every step of the way. I wanted you to know that it’s never too late, but start now. I wanted you to know that I see your light, and I think that you are spectacular.

What’s that thing that Glinda tells Dorothy? “You’ve always had the power, my dear. You’ve had it all along.” Keep fighting the good fight, sweet friends. Stay brave.