Emma Luedtke‘s Story

My name is Emma Luedtke, I am 18 years old, and I struggle with depression and anxiety. My journey with mental illness started when I was young. When I was around 8 years old I was constantly sick to my stomach from anxiety. I couldn’t even sleep in my own bed because the anxiety seemed to control my life. As I got older I also developed depression. I remember at only twelve years old, wanting to end my life. I spent almost an entire summer locked in my room, unable to get out of bed. One day, it became too much to handle by myself, so I told my best friend how badly I was struggling. My friend, being the loving and amazing girl she is, instantly told my mom. When my mom sat down to talk to me I felt ashamed. I thought that because I had depression and anxiety, it meant I was broken and she could never love me the same way… which was not the case at all! My parents were amazing support systems and took me right away to get the help I needed. I missed almost half of my 8th-grade year and my 13th birthday in outpatient programs at hospitals. The other half of the year I wasn’t myself and I wasn’t happy. I was the shell of the girl people knew me as. I was using self-destructive behaviors and not being honest with my medical team about doing them. It got so bad some days that I could barely stay standing in the shower because I constantly felt exhausted. There were days when I sat in therapy appointments and sobbed because I thought I was never going to get better. There were weeks I refused to take my medicine because I didn’t see a point. I would isolate myself from all my loved ones because I didn’t want to hurt or disappoint them.

It has been six years since then and my journey is still not finished. This journey has not been easy, and believe me when I say there have been multiple times when I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I truly thought there would never be a day that my smiles would be genuine, and I’d be truly happy again. I never thought that I’d be able to go out with my friends all night, finish high school, or come to terms with my struggles. For the longest time I thought my identity was depression and anxiety. I believed that Emma was anxiety and that Emma was depression. But no. I am loving, caring, happy, thoughtful, and kind. I am someone who wants to help change the world and end the stigma on mental illness. I am the friend that you can call if you want to vent about a problem. I am the girl that will hype you up, or give you romantic comedy recommendations. I am a good sister, daughter, friend and person despite what I have gone through. I am a light. My mental illness is only a piece of my puzzle.

I am here to show you that you are NOT alone despite what your illness may tell you. I’m here to show you that it does get better, even when you think it never will. I am living proof that yes, it sucks having depression, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It taught me patience with myself and showed me how brave and strong I really am.

Although my journey isn’t over yet, I have found the coping skills and right professional team to help myself stay as happy as I am right now. I have graduated high school and am going to college to study social work. I have an amazing group of friends, and my family and I have never been closer. And I am free and above my struggles. 

If you take away one thing from this, let it be that you are so loved. You are not “crazy” or “insane”. You shouldn’t kill yourself or harm your body. You are here for a reason. You have a purpose in this world. So, let yourself ask for the help you know you need. Take time for yourself, ask for the help you need, let people in, and take care of yourself. You are worth it. 

Emma Luedtke