letter #025 | dear younger me: this isn't it for you.

this isn't it for you.

Letter #025

March 31, 2024

dear younger me,

Good morning.

I'm currently emerging from the most intense depressive episode I've ever experienced.

I know that's probably not the intro you expected on this delightful Easter Sunday.

But it's the truth.

No long intro today—let's just get into it.

in today's letter, we'll explore:

  • world bipolar day (march 30th)
  • my attempt to describe depression to someone who's never had it
  • shame & mental illness
    → when was the last time shame helped me?
  • what's carrying me through this season
  • 3 one-sentence prayers that have really helped me
  • Man talks, but God whispers
  • rooted. 🌱
  • an example of "He may not come when you want him to, but He's always on time."
  • the ✨ glimmer gallery
  • credits

world bipolar day - march 30th

Yesterday, I shared on Instagram that I would be sending out a newsletter today sharing my experience as someone with bipolar disorder.

In short, yesterday, March 30th, marked the 10th year of World Bipolar Day, a day dedicated to bringing global awareness to bipolar disorders and eliminating the social stigmas around them.

World Bipolar Day is celebrated on the birthday of Vincent van Gogh, the Post-Impressionist painter of Starry Night, who was also given a posthumous diagnosis of bipolar disorder following his death at the age of 37.

Most of us have seen the painting below before, but it wasn't until today that I really looked at it.

Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh's most famous work, was created during his stay at a psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence of Southern France. Van Gogh drew the night sky's all-consuming beauty as he saw it from his window at the psych ward, and I now interpret these blues to also be a reflection of his difficult inner world and the depression he was experiencing.

The swirls of bright yellow lights, I see—in the language of these letters—as the glimmers. The glimmers that keep one's spirit and life afloat above the all-consuming depths of depression.

if i could describe depression to someone who's never had it,

I would liken it to a parasite or a virus. Maybe both.

It's a foreign body that can show up without warning or reason, take hold of my mind, thoughts, and emotions, and replace them with ones of a much more negative variety.

It hijacks my emotional world and my ability to assign things their proper meaning.

When I'm depressed, every minor mistake I make or inconvenience I cause becomes loud, irrefutable evidence that confirms the negative beliefs I hold about myself.

Positive experiences and interactions take conscious effort not to immediately dismiss in favor of focusing instead on some perceived inadequacy in myself.

Depression robs me of my energy, making the most basic of tasks—taking a shower, brushing my teeth, washing dishes—take 3 to 5x the amount of energy it normally would.

In its hijacking of my mental, emotional, and energy systems, depression works to convince me that what's best for me is the same as what is actually going to help the depression grow, such as:

  • staying isolated from family and friends
  • not accepting or reaching out for help
  • eating poorly and not being hydrated
  • not getting enough sunlight each day
  • not moving my body through daily walks or exercise

And the scariest part of it, for me, is when this parasitic virus called depression tries to seduce me by whispering in my ear questions like, "What's the point? Hasn't this already been hard enough for you? Why even keep trying? Why bother? Why continue to stay, if there's no guarantee of when or *if* it'll ever get better?"

That's the scariest part for me.

Because in those low, low moments, that voice blurs with my own and I wonder if it's right. Because the truth is, it is hard. Depression is one of the hardest things I've ever experienced. And it feels like it takes everything, a true Herculean effort, to move out of that space and back into one of love and hope and a future to look forward to.

on shame & mental illness.

I'ma just be honest here, but they don't call this shit a "severe illness" for funsies, okay?

It's funny how when you take out the "mental" part, it seems people can finally understand mental illness' debilitating nature. But mental illness continues to exist and affect those who experience it regardless of whether those who don't, try to downplay it because it primarily affects the mind.

Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD, C-PTSD, etc., are all REAL conditions with real, viscerally felt experiences that can be very, very, very hard to deal with.

There is so much stigma around mental illness and "being crazy" and the more people suffer in silence, the more ignorance around these conditions spreads and the stronger that stigma becomes.

One of the biggest problems I've seen and have personally experienced as someone with mental illness is the blame that is placed on the person who has it.

We live in a culture and society obsessed with the notion of seeing the mind and body as separate entities and defining people based primarily on their productivity and tangible accomplishments, while frowning upon or pitying any sign of "weakness," especially mental or emotional.

Those of us who have mental illnesses see and hear that rhetoric from media, family, and within our social circles, and then when we experience a bout of depression or the like, we blame ourselves:

  • "If only I were stronger"
  • "If only I weren't so weak, weren't so dumb, weren't so incompetent"

Then I could get through this and be more like [insert person you regularly compare yourself to].

We don't tell ourselves these things when we come down with a physical illness, so why do we do it when we come down with a mental one?

With mental illness, we shame ourselves for being sick, for not doing enough, being enough, or trying hard enough and it's all an exhausting cycle that probably harms us more than it helps, if it offers any help at all.

Ask yourself: "When was the last time shame helped me?"

We are human beings, not machines.

We are not meant to be productive all the time.

We are not meant to be "strong" all the time.

We are not meant to be in "growth" mode 100% of the time when even nature has periods of slowness and rest.

We do not enter this world with an owner's manual and instructions on exactly how to pinpoint and troubleshoot our lives when something goes wrong.

We're all figuring this out and trying to learn as we go.

And it's hard.

But shaming ourselves does not make it any easier.

Setting that aside, what would it look like to extend the same grace, compassion, and forgiveness we so freely give to others...to ourselves?

what's carrying me through this season.

I'll be the first to tell you I don't have all the answers.

In fact, I hardly have any of them.

But here are some things that have been helping me move through this season and continue to hang on when I absolutely feel like I can't anymore:

  • music — worship/gospel music in particular has helped me a lot. I just find it so soothing to listen to and have linked a few of my favorite tracks & playlists in the glimmer gallery below.
  • connecting with others — getting voice notes, calls, + check-in/"just thinking of you" texts from friends and loved ones means a lot and can interrupt an onslaught of depressive thoughts
  • my faith — while I understand and respect that people have different religious traditions or maybe none at all, I can honestly say that my faith in God and His promises for me have been a game changer.

3 one-sentence prayers.

I used to think prayer had to be elaborate and grandiose, but it doesn't.

Here are a few of mine that have been in rotation lately:

God, if I'm supposed to be here, show me why.
God, show me how loved I am.
God, show me how good it can get.

And He answers every time. Every time.

He doesn't come shouting the answer either — that's more of a human thing in my experience.

Man talks, but God whispers.

The thing about seeing and hearing God in my life is that when I speak to Him, I often expect to hear His response right away.

But it's not always instant. (It's not even usually instant, really.) But His answer always comes.

Sometimes God's answer is in the form of a thought or an idea in my head. For example, He gave me the title of today's letter during the closing song at church today.

Often, I see God in other people and I hear Him respond to my prayers through the conversations I have with others.

They'll say something and it'll be *exactly* what I needed to hear, even though they were unaware that I had even been seeking direction on that particular topic.

And other times, it will be how He lines things up. I'll give you an example below:

rooted. 🌱

This Tuesday evening was a particularly hard night for me, although I thought it would be one full of celebration and delight.

It was the final week of a 10-week discipleship program I was doing at my church called Rooted and that night, we were having the celebration meeting. There'd be food, stories of victory and overcoming, and even shares of how we had seen those in our 10-member group grow over the last 2.5 months together.

In short, I didn't go.

I think a part of me felt like I didn't deserved to celebrate with everyone because I was still struggling with some of the same things I had been battling a few months before when we had started.

So even though I showed up to the meeting, I decided to go home shortly after.

And that hurt even more. I felt bad for not participating, bad for not celebrating my fellow members, and bad for letting the depression and negative thoughts win that night.

I hung my head low as I walked through the church parking lot that evening. I sat in my car for a few minutes, feeling not only incredibly low, but also, incredibly tired of feeling so low.

I looked up the number of the suicide and crisis lifeline, 988, and called them.

The call lasted about ten minutes. The volunteer who answered was kind and gave me a few resources to explore after our call.

We hung up and I stared out my windshield and said,

"God, if I'm supposed to be here, show me why."

And I sat there for a few minutes, without hearing a peep.

Man, that pissed me off, so I turned on my car, put it in reverse, and drove home.

God may not come when you want Him to, but He's always on time.

While on the phone with the crisis support line, I texted a friend that I wasn't feeling well, and they said they'd come by to visit me that evening.

During the drive home, I kept looking for signs. Signs that I was meant to stay. Signs that God had a reason for what I was experiencing now that would mean something later.

I was looking all along my drive but not seeing anything out of the ordinary.

Then, as I pulled into my garage, three things happened. (Also, a mini note here that I associate the number 3 with my best friend Mitsu, who passed away from bipolar 1 disorder almost 3 years ago.)

I pulled into my garage, parked, and turned off the car.

I sat there for a minute, and then pulled out my phone and opened Facebook.

The 3rd post I saw was one of a Black woman and a butterfly painted in all my favorite colors. (Since Mitsu's death, I've always associated butterflies with his spirit and presence as well.)

That was the first sign.

Then, I swiped down to check my notifications.

That's when I saw a text from one of my students. She had sent it earlier that evening, but for some reason, I didn't see it.

Daniel Caesar
Spotify Logo

Here are the opening lyrics to Superpowers:

Have you ever heard something and it was exactly what you needed to hear exactly when you needed to hear it?

Yeah, that's what this song was for me.

The third thing that happened in that brief series of fortunate events was that my friend came walking around the corner and stood in my garage.

They stood there as I listened to that song for the first time and wept and when I was ready, they walked me into the house and just sat on the couch with me.

And that was enough.

That was enough to silence the thoughts that night.

But more importantly, it was enough for me to hear God's answer to my prayer that night.

First, about staying to continue honoring the legacy of love that my friend Mitsu absolutely exuded during his time here.

Then, a reminder that the work I do with and for my students matters. Aside from writing, the only thing that has ever felt so natural to me is the work I do with my kids (students) and my little sisters. All kids deserve love, respect, and to have someone who believes in them, but my kids need that from me, so I need to be here to provide it for them.

And third, the reminder that there are many people who love me, care for me, and cherish me just for being who I am. It helped me remember that there are people who will show up for me when I need it most and love me in the ways that resonate the most deeply with me.

And that's all.

God is good and He is with me, and with us, even here.

For that, I'm grateful.

✨ the glimmer gallery. ✨

The glimmer gallery is a weekly collection of moments that made the good times better and the harder times bearable.

some tracks & playlists that have really helped!!

All In His Plan (feat. Le'An...
PJ Morton, Mary Mary, Le'And...
Spotify Logo
Praize • munequita.
We Fall Down • Dwayne Johnso...
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🌸 Favorite Gospel Classics...
You Can Do Anything • Foreve...
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(I shared this in the previous letter, but it still applies 🤍)

I used to wonder how people could go through hard things and still have faith in God and His goodness. I distinctly remember how badly I wanted to believe in the same.

Throughout this year and these last few months especially, I have seen God show up time and time again in my life, blessing me with precisely the right person, message, or breakthrough I needed at exactly the right time.

Thank You God for getting me through. Thank you for my good life. And thank you for never letting me forget...

that this isn't it for me. 🦋

i'd love to hear from you:

  • Did anything resonate with you in today's letter?
  • What's one way you knew that this season or a previous one wasn't all there was for you?

Just write or text me a reply to let me know. It makes my day to hear from you! I read every message and am back to replying to all of them, too!

Dear Reader,

Thank you so much for being here with me on this beautiful Resurrection Sunday. It means so much to me and I don't take your presence for granted. Thank you for giving me space to create, explore, and discover myself within these letters. I hope you found some meaning in today's letter and that you enjoy the rest of your day.

Wishing you a lovely little week ahead and I'll see you soon. 💛

With love and a hug,

Amahni E. Yarber

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