Photo courtesy of Stone Freeman

It’s very cliché and quite honestly said too much. But, you just don’t know what happens behind closed doors. Unless you open the door. Take this as me opening my door to you.

It was January 2018 and felt a feeling I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. Unfortunately, this feeling I began to know all too well over the next few months. I felt the complete opposite of happiness.

Some days swinging my legs over the right side of the bed and placing both feet on the ground was the hardest part. The next 12 to 13 hours would pass and I would fill my day with commitments and jobs, most, if not all, were fun. But lying back down in bed at the end of the day was the best part.

Bed meant sleep. Sleep meant for six to eight hours all the negativity and the pessimistic mental mindset that was pulling me down was gone. Gone until the next morning when my feet would hit the floor again.

I hated who I was. I would look at myself in the mirror frustrated with the person I saw looking back at me. I told myself I was overweight. I told myself that the skills I had were mediocre at best and that I shouldn’t try fixing something that would always be broken. Loving myself was a foreign concept.

This mindset came with me everywhere I went. I carried it with me through some of the best opportunities of my junior year. Anything good that happened was overshadowed by the loneliness and anxieties within me. My demons were winning.

I questioned everything. Where did I belong? Why was I trying so hard? Why me? I didn’t have anything to be depressed about, but I was. My family, my health, my education, etc. were all the best it could be.

Why was I feeling this way?

I didn’t know and that made it all so much tougher. I just did not like myself. I felt weak, outcasted and different.

Even in the most crowded of rooms, I felt alone. Everything that made me Stone Freeman caused frustration inside of me.

I saw people around me that looked to be living their best lives while I struggled to live and that ate at me. It was selfish. I had no clue what other people were going through but I assumed that how they were living life was how we all should do it.

I desperately searched for ways to laugh. Anything from watching reruns of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” to strictly playing upbeat songs in the car, I tried anything to make myself smile.

Stress began to creep up on me. I wasn’t devoting myself to my commitments and my production and performance were struggling. As all of this was going on in my head, I played it off to everyone from my parents to people that past me by that I was great. That nothing could be better. When in fact everything could have been better.

I did a pretty good job of keeping it under-the-radar. That is until I broke down to my mom in April.

The weather had just broken from winter to spring and my parents were in the backyard getting some outdoor furniture in place for the upcoming months.

I sat down on the concrete steps off my back porch next to my mom.

She asked how I was.

I couldn’t hold back anymore. Like a two-liter of Diet Coke after a pack of Mentos are dropped in.

I laid everything on the table. I told her I wasn’t confident and that I just couldn’t do it anymore. The stress, the anxiety, the face of telling people I was good when I was struggling was all too much. I sat to the right of my mom on those back steps. Both of us crying. She placed her right hand around to my far shoulder and her left hand pressed up against my chest.

I had to do something. I had to make a change.

That’s what I did. I started to see a doctor to help me get through it. I talked to my parents, my friends and to other people I trusted more about what I was dealing with. I started to exercise and eat right. I stepped off the gas pedal and started to care about myself more. I kept focused on becoming a little better version of myself every day.

Some days better than others but I took control of my life. I’ve been and sometimes revisit that place where happiness seems impossible and it sucks. I don’t want that for myself. As one voice in my head says, “You’re not good enough,” another one yells, “Would you shut the eff up?”

Over the past months, I reinvented almost every part to my day. I worry a little less and care a little more. I stop and take in my surroundings a couple times a day. I exercise and have lost 25 pounds. Now, instead of dreading waking up I view it as another opportunity to do what I love.

I learned that guilt is a useless emotion. I learned asking for help doesn’t mean you’re failing; rather it shows you’re strong enough to realize you can’t do it all. I began to handle stress better and appreciate my feet hitting the floor in the morning.

I did a lot but the people around me deserve the credit. My parents, my family, my friends, my doctor, my bosses and colleagues all helped. Some don’t even recognize it.

The people around me have always been out for my best interest. I have never had to prove anyone but myself wrong. I have always had to prove people right. That has made all the difference.

You just don’t know what happens behind closed doors. Sometimes, what people show you on Twitter or Facebook doesn’t convey what life is actually like for them. Be kind and talk to the people you love. Just providing two ears to listen can make all the difference.

On my worst days, I kept going. On my worst days, I struggled and hid my true emotions. It was a commitment to myself that kept me going. I relied on my mom and dad who always have believed in me. I relied on my friends to provide a smile. But more importantly, I began to rely on myself as a source of strength. I embrace the battles and who I am.

The man staring back at me in the mirror is a great one. He’s not perfect but he sure is happy.