Written by Lauryn Francisco

Depression is a heavy word. Even with the growing awareness of mental illnesses, many people still shy away from the subject. Without personal experience, it’s hard to fully understand what depression is and how to help someone who struggles with it. Often even people who do struggle with it don’t understand what they are experiencing or how to handle it.

I know this because for at least a quarter of my life, I have wrestled with depressive symptoms, including loss of motivation, dark thoughts, and a nearly unbearable heaviness that seemed to constantly weigh me down.

I was young when it started. I didn’t know how to deal with the things I was feeling or the thoughts I was having. I didn’t know where to turn, so I didn’t turn anywhere.

One thing about depression is that it preys on your mind. It convinces you that no one in your life truly cares for you or wants to help you, which in turn causes you to withdraw, put up walls, and refuse to let anyone in. When you have depression, you don’t want to be vulnerable with people because your mind tells you that you can’t trust anyone, that no one cares, that opening up to others would be a waste of time.

But I’ve discovered that vulnerability is necessary in order to get past something like depression. We need to expose our wounds before they can be healed. This doesn’t just apply to people with mental illnesses—everyone has something they struggle with. It also doesn’t just mean pouring your heart out to others. It means trying to be genuinely vulnerable and honest with yourself, people who are close to you, and especially with God.

True vulnerability is rare. As a society, we have the tendency to build up walls, to shut people out, because we’re afraid of what will happen if we let people see who we truly are, what truly matters to us. It’s scary to let people see through our cracks. Pride is at the root of many weaknesses within our society, and I believe it’s also what keeps us from being vulnerable with each other. We don’t like to admit we’re broken, but we are.

When talking about depression and other mental illnesses, being vulnerable is especially important. When people shy away from topics like suicide and self-harm, it makes it even more difficult for people who struggle with those things to open up about them. But learning to be vulnerable can help erase that stigma. Shame keeps people from getting the help they need. It kept me from talking to anyone about my struggle for years. When that shame is gone, when we learn to embrace vulnerability, we become free.

Vulnerability has never been easy for me. I don’t think it’s easy for anyone, really. But I do think it is essential for healing. Jesus offers to carry our burdens for us, no matter how heavy they are, but we have to admit to needing His help before we can fully accept it. We have to put aside our pride and learn to confess our brokenness. Though we are cracked, God can make us whole.