In February of this year, I wrote publicly about my recent depression.

I’d been depressed before, but this time my approach to the depression had been different. I’d spent weeks in the darkness, but instead of fighting against it, I’d allowed it. I’d decided to learn from it. And while I learned in the dark, I watched for light. I waited for the stirrings of joy.

I watched and I waited.

After a month, I began to feel the darkness give way to the light, and I believed the discipline of watching and waiting was something worth sharing, something that might resonate, something that might help. After publishing it, I received overwhelming feedback that it had been helpful.

But not for the reason I’d assumed.

It wasn’t my method that was most comforting; it was my profession. Readers told me there was something about a therapist confessing this particular illness that made them feel less alienated, less apart, less different.

It was most helpful because it made people feel less alone in the dark.

Naperville Therapists

Photo Credit: Bigstock (Ollyy)

It turns out, if you’re depressed—or in the throes of anxiety, or on the roller coaster called bipolar disorder, or simply human and therefore at least a little broken—there exists an additional burden in the midst of your day-to-day struggles. It’s called loneliness. It tells you that you’re alone in your particular darkness. It tells you the world is divided into two kinds of people: everyone who is normal—and you.

In the darkness, one word echoes: different.

My son recently told me the most frequently used word in his middle school is “same.” When a kid expresses a feeling or a preference or an interest or a belief, a peer will shout out, “Same!” In middle school, this is a way of saying, “I don’t want to be alone and I’m not alone because I experience the same thing!”

It’s a celebration.

Apparently, in the last week of school this year, the trend had become so prevalent that one of my son’s friends stood up in front of his homeroom and lamented, “I’m so sick of everyone saying ‘same!’” To which the entire class, in unison, responded, “Same!”

I wonder if our middle-schoolers have something to teach us here about our deep longing to be unlonely, our desire to feel not quite so different. And I wonder if our middle-schoolers are unintentionally offering us a solution:

Same.

Except, as we grow up, we begin to realize liking the same brands or sports teams or movies—or sharing the same doctrines or political views or even worldviews—is not what makes us feel unlonely.

What makes us unlonely is knowing we share the same wounds.

Last month, the Avett Brothers released their new single, and it goes like this, “I hate to say it but the way it seems is that no one is fine. Take the time to peel a few layers and you will find, true sadness.”

No one is fine.

Maybe what we most need is to be cultivating places of belonging in which we can say, “I’m not fine,” and our people respond, “Same!”

I’m broken like this.

Same!

I’m hurting like this.

Same!

I’m wounded like this.

Same!

Maybe then we’d rob our depression—and most of our other ailments, for that matter—of the power to deepen our darkness by making us feel even more alone. Maybe then, “same” would become more than just a middle school cliché. Maybe then, “same” could become a little light in the darkness. Maybe even, a great light.

Because in the end, connection and closeness and unity are the great light.

The darkness cannot withstand them.

As a therapist, I could hide my darkness and remain safely perched upon this pedestal that we like to place our healers upon. But then I’d be depriving the people I help of the most helpful thing of all: the truth that they are not alone. The truth that no one is fine. The truth that there are no pedestals.

The truth that we’re all in this together.

So, can we say it together?

Same!

And now that we’ve agreed upon the darkness, we can begin to talk about a different kind of light—the very particular, unique ray of light that is you. Now, we can talk about how you’re going to shine in a way no one else can.

Now, we can wait and watch for that.

—————

Artisan is thrilled to announce the addition of a new therapist! Mandy Hughes joined us in May, and we are so grateful for the skill, experience, and goodness of heart she has already added to our office. To find out more about Mandy, you can CLICK HERE to read her bio.

If you’re interested in receiving future Artisan blog posts by email, you can CLICK HERE to subscribe. We’ll post approximately two times per month, and we’ll never try to sell something to you. Therapy is the one space in the world you get to receive without feeling compelled to give in return. We want the Artisan blog to feel the same way.

Dr. Kelly Flanagan

Dr. Kelly Flanagan

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist, practicing at Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives at DrKellyFlanagan.com. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again.

Disclaimer: Posts on the Artisan Clinical blog represent a combination of our therapists’ personal opinions and professional experiences, but they do not reflect professional advice. Interaction with a therapist via the blog post or the comments section does not constitute a professional therapeutic relationship. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor who can dedicate the hours necessary to become more familiar with your specific situation. While all blog comments are read and appreciated by our therapists, the blog cannot be monitored continuously, so if you have a need that requires immediate attention, you should go to your nearest emergency room for assistance. We do not assume liability for any portion or content of material on the blog and accept no liability for damage or injury resulting from your decision to interact with the website.

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Dr. Kelly Flanagan
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