"But you have the strength to live in a good way without me.. you have to stop criticizing yourself and think about you in a positive way...As I see you"
We could all benefit from living a life as an embodiment of this statement. We often give more love to our friends and family than ourselves. While it is not harmful to show loved ones how much you care about them, imagine if we treated ourselves the same way we treated them, from a place of love.
A potential side effect of not giving ourselves love is the development of a negative self-image. According to research, it is common for people to see themselves differently from how they see others. Our struggle to see ourselves positively is because our opinion of ourselves forms from feelings and emotions. In contrast, our views of others are dominated by what we observe.
When our feelings and emotions are negative, we develop a negative self-image which can be very difficult to live with, thus causing depression and anxiety. One way to build self-love is to communicate with ourselves from a place of love, as we would speak to our friends and family.
The above-bolded statement is some of the wisest words I have ever heard. Yet it was not spoken by a philosopher or teacher; it was shared with me via WhatsApp message by my friend, who offered these words when my struggle with depression was notably worse.
In March of 2022, my friend lost her battle with mental illness. It can be shocking to think that a statement built around positivity and optimism was brought to the world by someone struggling so much with their mental health.
Deaths such as Robin Williams and Kate Spade have taught society that not all people who lose their battle to mental illness are the same, and it can often be people that seem happiest on the outside that struggle the most on the inside.
In a short time, my friend became like a sister to me. What started as a friendship built through being classmates grew into one of the most incredible friendships I have ever had.
Our friendship grew stronger despite being over a six-hour time difference and four-thousand miles from one another. She was the person I would go to to share both highs and lows. I knew where to go whenever I needed to hear a familiar voice. We were that for each other, a familiar voice to help get through difficult times.
Society tends to place high expectations on young adults. These expectations come with goals and deadlines that if not met, leave young people feeling inadequate and like they are 'not enough.'
My friend and I both felt pressure from these expectations, and since we were high achievers, Master's graduates, the odds were in our favor to lead successful lives.
Despite my friend's impressive accomplishments of having a Master's degree from two universities in different countries and excelling in high-level courses taught in her second language, she struggled to see herself positively. Since her expectations were so high, she never was enough.
This feeling of not being enough only got worse for my friend, and on March 13th, 2022, we had one of our standard WhatsApp video calls. It was the last one we would ever have.
The person on the other end of the phone from me sounded defeated. They sounded like a soldier who had just gone through another tough battle. My friend went through many internal battles, all of which she was victorious, except this time.
It took me a long time to realize that nothing I could have said during that 45-minute call would have gone through to her. The thoughts and emotions in her head at this time were too strong.
After we hung up, I sent a quote about overcoming anxiety and an article titled "4 ways to know your worth." I never got a response. I did what I would do anytime I saw her struggling. What she was going through, the fighting she was facing, was different this time.
Less than two days later, in the early morning of March 15th, my friend lost her battle with mental illness.
In the months following, I struggled a lot. I have exerted an enormous amount of energy trying to make sense of something that might never make sense to me.
I took time trying to figure out what the path forward was. After all, what is someone supposed to do when they lose a friend at only 25 years old?
I had experienced the loss of elderly family members, and in those situations, I had closure by focusing on the positive memories.
In this situation, I could not stop thinking about what could have been. I could not stop thinking about the future memories that were taken away. We always talked about visiting one another. All plans, our future together, were gone.
As I write this article, it is approaching six months, half a year since my friend passed. I can finally say that I like the place where I am mentally. With help from individual and group therapy and family and friends, my grasp on this situation is at its best. I hate when people say you must 'move on after something traumatic.’ To me, there is no 'moving on,' there is just 'moving forward.'
My friend and I met while studying for our Master's degree in Communication, one of the most prominent forms being storytelling.
Starting at a young age, we are introduced to stories about heroes who overcome enormous odds. I chose to look at my friend’s story as just that, a story of a hero whose battlefield was her mind. On this battlefield, she took on potent adversaries and, with energy and endurance, had a lot of victories in battle.
When thinking about those who lose their battles to mental illness, we think about the day in which their struggle became too much, the day their journey ended. We don't pay enough attention to their countless victories along the way.
Despite the energy taken from her winning battles, my friend managed to forge herself into a positive light for so many people, myself included.
While speaking about a young man who lost his battle with mental illness, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale shared the following words: "We shall remember not his death, but his daily victories gained through his kindnesses and thoughtfulness, through his love for family and friends, for animals and books and music, for all things beautiful, lovely and honorable."
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the suicide prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text home to the crisis text line at 741741. These services are free and confidential.