Sept. 8 2021 08:00 AM

Talking about our struggles doesn’t make us needy.

Did you know that September is Suicide Prevention Month? I didn’t. It’s pretty fortuitous timing considering this is the month I chose to have a complete emotional breakdown live on Instagram. Yeah, I was that person. I’m sure some people saw it as oversharing, and maybe it was. I saw it as an opportunity. For the last month, I have been sharing what depression feels like through the eyes of someone who is feeling it. My goal was, first, to normalize talking about hard things, and mental health is one of the hardest things to talk about. Secondly, I wanted others to know that they’re not alone. And thirdly, my main goal was to help those who haven’t struggled better understand those who have. But then my world exploded.

Last Thursday I completely fell apart. If you want the full details, you’ll have to find me on Instagram to read all about it (@seejessfarm). It wasn’t pretty. I’m not entirely sure what made me make that first post, but once I did, the floodgates were opened. I was angry that my first instinct was to hold it all inside and struggle alone. That’s what the world has taught us: that it’s our duty to struggle alone. I wanted to rage against the machine, so to speak. So, I spent the next few days sharing what I felt when I felt it. It was embarrassing, terrifying, and exhausting. But it was also validating and humbling and healing.

The conversations I had were painful, heartfelt, and thought-provoking. Hundreds — and that’s not an exaggeration — of people shared their own stories and struggles with me. They used the word brave, but it didn’t feel brave. It felt necessary. Do you know why? Because for every person who messaged me, I believe there was another who didn’t but needed to hear exactly what I was saying. Guys, the people talking about how they’re feeling aren’t the people we need to worry about the most. I was and am still not okay, but I was never on the edge of any literal or metaphorical cliffs. Had I not chosen to talk about it I may have gotten there; it’s not an impossible leap. I’ve made it before. It’s the people who aren’t talking that scare me the most. The people who suffer in silence because they don’t know what to say or who to say it to. I’ve been on both sides of that canyon, and the silent side is far worse.

I wasn’t going to write this article. I’ve been feeling almost ashamed for dragging this out and making people pay attention to me. But that’s exactly why I did write it. Somewhere in the middle of all the posts and messages, a mom of two girls messaged me. Their family has been dealing with a lot and she told me that her daughters finally opened up about how much they’re struggling because they saw me talking about my struggle. And if I can talk about it, maybe it’s okay for them to talk about it, too.

Our kids are watching and listening in ways we never did. We watched the generations before us suffer so silently we hardly knew they were suffering. The world is changing every day, and teaching them that suffering alone is how we cope isn’t enough. We can’t let it be enough.

Jessica Peters

The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.