The Summer Solstice
Today is a significant day for me because June 21st is the longest day of sunlight each year. As someone who has fought for years against a darkness I’ve only recently come to better understand, this day represents so much to me. Light has flooded into my life in unimaginable capacities this year, thanks to all of you, and I am so grateful for that. It has been almost a year since I made a scary decision to finally start living authentically and visibly. A year... wow. I remember how afraid I was early last summer as I faced a world I felt I couldn’t tackle. My rock bottom felt as if it could surely become no deeper and yet still, I hardly ever shared those feelings. I was a ticking time bomb stuck inside a secure shell and in my mind, my struggles were to be no one’s burden but my own. But in many strange twists of fate, here I am, and this year has taught me otherwise. It has shown me that not only is one’s personal battle never a “burden,” but that sometimes all it takes to survive, and even aid in the survival of other lives, is openness. And honestly, this is one powerful reality that I vow to always prioritize over being silent for the sake of those who believe I should be.
Sharing my story has given me innumerable gifts. It has allowed me to watch people that I once hardly knew, who struggled to find a voice, as they’ve blossomed into confident, powerful advocates themselves. It has connected me with new, lifelong relationships that I respect and value deeply. It has shown me just how loving, supportive, and even proud the people that I love (and once feared telling) can be. It has allowed me to put my head down on my pillow at night knowing that my brain is not something I should spend sleepless hours feeling guilty or apologizing for, and that it’s certainly not something to hide.
Earlier this year, my openness even granted me the privilege of sitting in a room with hundreds of people at my alma mater, as they found solidarity in issues of mental health. Together, they broke that seemingly perpetual silence that once swallowed me whole. And do you know how many times I’ve been silenced or shut down for speaking out, at least openly and to my face? Maybe once. And it just made me louder. Hannah Quinn, Cooper Couch, and Emma
Erwin, you were louder too, and I as well as many others, am so grateful for the work you have put into the Resilience Project. The impact it has already had and will continue to have on our school in the coming years and decades is profound. It is truly phenomenal that prospective students will now look at a school once void of accessible, student-led mental health resources, and know that they will be welcomed into a community that is safe, loving, and supportive.
Today I need to extend a huge thank you. This goes out to all of you who have made strides in the same direction that I have this year, by sharing your stories publicly or privately with me. You have each made a massive and invaluable dent in both the momentum of my journey, and also that of our broader communities. This also goes out to those of you who can’t relate, but who have chosen to still talk to me about my fight or my writing in environments that
maybe aren’t so comfortable or inviting of these types of dialogues. I notice you and blab about how much those moments mean to me for days after they occur.
This has been a huge year in the progression and evolution of mental health awareness. The stigma surrounding mental illness is being challenged in ways I couldn’t have anticipated even a year ago. Even the media, a force that has mastered the twisted art of body shaming, making uneducated statements about mental illness, and circulating stigma, appears to, at times, be trying. On my bad days, I think of you all and I find strength and purpose in places I didn’t realize I had. The hope you have all given me is what life, at least my life, is all about. And today I am celebrating each of you for this life; for the one you have helped me to fight for together, in merely existing, getting out of bed when it feels close to impossible, and having the bravery to tell me that I am not alone in a world that shames your openness. You are all my fight, my heart, and my inspiration. Enjoy the light today.