By Allie Marie Smith
This is a photo of me at eighteen on my senior trip to Hawaii. It was taken just a week before I was hospitalized for severe depression because I wanted to end my life. Our week in Hawaii was decorated with tanning, partying and hooking up with guys. We rode scooters in short shorts and tank tops through Waikiki, sailed alongside dolphins on a catamaran, attended a luau and consumed a generous amount of alcohol. It sounds dreamy to a lot of girls, but the reality is it was empty. I was coming apart at the seams and my smile masked my internal pain.
We are afraid to appear less than perfect and our brokenness can drive us to isolate, sometimes to dangerous degrees.
While I was a a teenager nearly fifteen years before Instagram came on the scene, I would obsess over the bulletin board of photos in my room. I would strategically place photos of me with friends alongside inspirational quotes; all photos of gleaming smiles that would attempt to convince me that bliss and perfection was within my reach. I remember especially obsessing over my bulletin board right before friends came over, at the same time giving myself a pep talk on how to behave. “Fake it till you make it,” I heard them say. Today’s Instagram accounts are yesterday’s bulletin boards.
My story isn’t an isolated issue. A complex matter, mental illness is real and prevalent. Each year in the U.S., approximately two million adolescents attempt suicide. Up to 20 percent of girls aged 10-19 are experiencing episodes of major depression and in 2005 alone, about one-tenth of all teenage girls tried to end their lives. Women — especially young women— are struggling with struggling.
There is immense pressure to appear to have it all together.
I post this because I wonder if your appearances lie. Is your Instagram all smiles, but your heart all in pieces? If you’re hurting, struggling and know that there is hope even for you. You are not alone. You are irreplaceable and this world is more beautiful with you in it. Don’t isolate. Don’t run. Cry out to God and ask him to heal your heart, mend your wounds put your trust and faith in Jesus who makes beauty out of broken things. Seek help, confide in someone you love and please let us know how we can pray for you.