Imagine meeting an old group of friends or classmates. One person constantly belittled and even bullied others while growing up. Now, she listens well and even apologized for past actions. Another person, on the other hand, was shy and insecure. He still struggles to speak and usually complains about himself when he does speak.
Situations like this happen to me all of the time although not always in the same day. I meet people from the past who have changed tremendously while others are nearly identical. The questions arise, “Do people change? Can someone move on from the past? Are some people able to forget who they were?”
I am not even sure how to start this exactly. The wait between these posts (both for you reading and me writing) has been far too long.
Life has been a bit hectic and full of changes lately. Since my last post in June (forever ago, I know), I have been offered a new job which I will be leaving the country for in a few months. After years of dreaming and doubting myself, I am going to be teaching English in China. Better yet, the Disney company will still be my employer.
The joy of taking this new step in life comes hand-in-hand with the fear of change. Am I really moving to a country across the world that I have never been to before? How will I learn Mandarin that quickly? How will I survive without my family and friends? How will I ever be confident enough to teach?
From theater to Disney, my life has constantly been filled with places where I need to smile. I enjoy smiling. When I see others smiling, my heart feels lighter especially if I helped bring about their joy. I don’t mind keeping a smile on my face for hours on end when I see it positively influencing others.
However, I sometimes feel more like crying than smiling. Then, I realize that people think of me as someone who always smiles. Who would I be without my smile? This haunts me.
Living in recovery (or at least attempting to) is strange. At times, the current sweeps you under and pins you under the water until you feel your lungs about to burst. Other times, the water seems like a calm pool, perhaps even enjoyably cool and refreshing.
Then there are days, weeks, months, years when you are just treading the water. You aren’t about to drown, but your feet certainly do not touch the ground to stabilize you. Each recovery-based choice takes considerable effort and seems like a waste most of the time. However, making those healthy choices is not impossible.
When I was first diagnosed with depression my mother-in-law termed my illness as a “bad case of the nerves”. I always shook my head at that one, and questioned, what does depression have to do with bad nerves; an incredibly old belief or judgment perhaps?
The term “nervous breakdown” is used by the public to characterize a wide range of mental illnesses. Nervous breakdown is not a medical term and doesn’t indicate a specific mental illness. Generally, the term describes a person who is severely and persistently emotionally distraught and unable to function at his or her normal level.
One of the most challenging aspects of living with mental illness is the isolation — of feeling unwilling or unworthy of engaging with life, and with people. Photographer and editor Danielle Hark started Broken Light Collective to counteract that loneliness and create a space where people could connect and heal over a shared art: photography. Here, we share the stories of eight Broken Light contributors, and talk to Danielle about mental illness, therapeutic photography, and the importance of sharing our art and stories.
All images and stories below are courtesy of
Broken Light Collective
“Lights Out,” [the image at the top of this piece], was inspired by the work of Broken Light Collective… It reminds me that as much as I try to be a light for other people, it’s not always possible when there are things I need to take care of within myself first.
Why is it so scary to leave the house? I might be running to the grocery store, going to Universal Studios with friends, or heading to work. Each time, terror fills me and makes me want to stay rooted in my home.
There are times in my life when these fears diminish a bit. Yet, they always pop back up few months or years later.
Is this social anxiety? Aspergers? PTSD? Depression? A mixture of everything?
I wish that I could explain to others how scary this is. I want friends and to socialize but need people to come to me sometimes. Instead of always going out, I long for someone to enter into my bubble and just be with me.
Maybe someday there will be someone like that in my life. There were some people back in Minnesota perhaps, but now they are gone. Once again, I am forced to emerge.
The wonderful package that my friend Morgan sent me was the highlight of my week.
Waiting to get a job at Disney again and then waiting for it to start these past two months has been hard. However, even in the hard times, remembering the beautiful elements of life is important.
Just this week, I endured many struggles with my anxiety, eating disorder thoughts, and depression. However, even more blessings followed me. I need to remember to look at those good things and notice them just as much (or, hopefully, even more) than the negative parts of life.