Lindsay Berg

"Just smile..."

Lindsay Berg
Caution: *spoiler alert* deep. shit.
— Yours Truly

We all go through pain.  Your pain doesn't have to be judged by others.  If it hurts you, it's pain.  If someone tries to chalk it up to how strong (or how weak) you are, call bull [and move along with your day].

One week before leaving for college, my parents held a "family meeting" (it was apparent that something was up...) and they told us they were getting a divorce.  This announcement was no surprise to me and even though it was very difficult news to hear, I didn't blame my parents then and still don't blame them today.  (No hard feelings here, it happens.  Explaining this to set the stage for what comes next...)

Remember, this was a week before leaving my familiar life in a rich suburb of Minneapolis for an entirely new, more diverse college experience.  I live a very "first-born" kind of life, attempting to pave the way for my two younger brothers (I was constantly reminded about being a 'role model') and worried that if I did anything wrong, I wouldn't have survived whatever the situation was. I 100% let fear lead my life for the first 18 (or more) years.  I never drank before sophomore year of college, was only knowingly around Marijuana one time in high school, always let my parents know where I was if curfew would be missed, never cut class... you get the gist here. I was attempting to be the most respectful, responsible child the world had seen.  It was a lot of responsibility and pressure that I put on myself (or that others put on me? I'm not sure...).

Going to college is a stressful time to begin with for any average young adult; a time where you can finally learn more about who you are and who you want to be.  You can reinvent yourself and unfortunately, I didn't have that luxury since I felt like I had to grow up fast.  I left my stable base, my core place, with a fear of where I was going and fear that I would come home to something unfamiliar... and I did.  I left my hometown with one feeling of home and when I came back that Christmas, it was an entirely different feeling of home.  I didn't get to be around for the gradual steps that were taking place in between August and December. That year, after going through something semi-traumatic, I was having a tough time.  I went to the counseling center and did talk therapy.  I had been diagnosed with depression and was given medication which seemed to help.

As I was going through all of this, I was in a relationship. I knew in the back of my mind it was unhealthy but it was the one thing familiar to me at that time; it was helping me get through the rough patches.  I had just gotten my medication upped by my counselor and came home from my counselors appointment pretty upset.  This person, my entire support system at that time, told me to "just smile," that I would just be "happy if [I] smiled," and it would allow me to "not have to use medication". I was in shock; I will NEVER forget the ignorance as they looked me in the eyes and said these things. I was offended; I felt helpless and alone. My biggest support was judging me and thought they knew better than my own doctor.  I called bull.

There is a difference between suffering and pain.  I can't say that I have truly 'suffered.'  Even after being diagnosed with depression, I have only had one truly scary spot where feelings of being out of control consumed me for an extended period of time.  That short time was unbearable and I felt as if I was stuck in this place I couldn't get out of.  Generally everyone I have ever met has had painful experiences in their lives... the death of a loved one, physical pain like a car accident, or being brokenhearted without answers to questions you ask every day.

Pain is hard. Suffering a whole different level.  If you are feeling stuck in this feeling and you can't get out... reach out for help from someone you love. Everyone has their own truth. We have to learn to empathize. What someone experiences is their truth, how are you supposed to argue someone else's truth?