Mental Illness

What Do You Do When Dreams Fall Apart?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this journey with depression, it’s that light doesn’t always expel the darkness. Sometimes, it only brightens the path enough to allow you to take the next step.

Dusty Marie

Seven years ago, I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom, pouring my heart out to a stranger over the phone. She was a life coach, newly certified and looking to be of service wherever she was needed. We had connected through a Facebook group dedicated to helping people pursue their dreams. I had posted about my battle with depression, and she had responded with an offer for a free session.

During that first conversation, she encouraged me to write a letter to myself. “Write it as though you are living your dream life five years down the road. Tell yourself what you have to look forward to.” So, I did. It was beautiful and powerful and perfect! I dated the letter “2019” and signed my name.

The date on that letter came and went. I balled it up and threw it away. My life didn’t look like that. It wasn’t even remotely close. Yet another false hope.

It wasn’t the first time I’d had a dream crushed, and it certainly hasn’t been the last. I honestly wish I could say that each time got easier, but, in reality, it’s been the opposite. It hurts more and more as I watch dreams slip away and the years of my life tick by.

I know what it’s like to hit rock bottom and nearly convince yourself that suicide is the only way to stop the hurt. I know what it’s like to lie awake at 3 o’clock in the morning with only the abusive voices in your head to keep you company. I know what it’s like to feel emotional pain so deeply that self-injury becomes the only balm. There are scars on my wrist for each and every broken dream.

But, for some reason, despite it all, I keep hoping, and I keep dreaming. I spent five years pursuing a career as a singer-songwriter, and during that time, I penned the lyrics to a song that has unintentionally become my personal life statement (and the one friends most often quote back to me whenever I find the darkness creeping in again):

What do you do when life gets hard

Plans are changed, dreams fall apart

You gotta get back up again

Keep on fighting to the end

And you will know it then

That’s what you do”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this journey with depression, it’s that light doesn’t always expel the darkness. Sometimes, it only brightens the path enough to allow you to take the next step. Dreams are going to fail. Hopes are going to vanish. Promises are going to be broken. All of those are a part of life and have been very much a part of mine. I can’t give you the magic formula for how I pulled myself back up each time and took that next illuminated step, because there have been times, I honestly don’t know HOW I managed to survive the pain. But I did. And even though I know the risks, I continue to hope for greater things. I continue to dream big, because the next time, THAT dream just might be the one that doesn’t break.