• Ariana Friedlander

You Can’t Deal with a Problem You Don’t Name

I never self-identified as someone who gets depressed. Bipolar disorder runs in my family and I never got like that. In fact, I was the happy one. My mom called me insta-smile; I grew up in the 80’s when Polaroid cameras were the height of technology and my mom likened my smile to a Polaroid. I always felt grateful that I wasn’t plagued by the challenges of depression.

As a result I was incapable of even saying the words, “I’m depressed.” That is until last year. After struggling with an ongoing sense of despair that left me feeling utterly hopeless and dejected I finally wrote the words, “I’m depressed” in my journal.

Even writing the words was hard for me because it went against a core part of my self-image, I don’t get depressed. But the dark thoughts that had been plaguing me for a few years were causing that tapestry of myself to fray. It started the first time I openly acknowledged that, after a friend passed away, I thought he was lucky to not have to deal with the challenges of life anymore.

You can’t deal with a problem you don’t name. And so I suffered for a few years in silence. No one knew the full extent of my suffering because I hid it well, too well. But there were a few spaces in my life where I allowed my inner struggles to emerge, with my husband, with a year long spiritual development program I participated in and of course within my journal.

Each of those safe spaces literally provided me a spaciousness to open up to the whole of me. I could shed the image of who I should be and allow my truth to emerge. A painful truth filled with a keen sense of brokenness, I felt like my heart was shattering into a million pieces. And it was, the facade I so desperately clung to had been drying up, cracking and falling apart.

I was depressed. Even after I acknowledged it to myself, and then to a few close friends, I still held onto pieces of the facade. I grew up believing that strength is being self-reliant, I was determined to fix myself. More cracks appeared and I started to crumble. Little things caused me to take to my bed and hide from the world. Every mistake I made, every failure I experienced, every rejection I received in my business made me buckle at the knees.


I got help. And I’ve been learning how to heal the pain and trauma that led me to reside in the darkest corners of my being. Slowly, I’ve felt the warmth of light, of joy, of hope shine within me again. Despair has given way to excitement and I feel more like myself then I have in a while.

Turns out I am not my facade. My true self is resolute and strong, sensitive and tender. Staying connected to my true self is a continuous process, a daily practice of allowing myself to be still enough to feel the full breadth and depth of this life I inhabit.

In retrospect, I’ve identified other moments of depression I have experienced in my life but never fully addressed because I couldn’t name it at the time. Sometimes, it can be really hard to name a problem. But you can’t deal with a problem you don’t fully acknowledge. By naming it, I made this invisible, detrimental force in my life visible, as a result I’ve been able to do something about it. And instead of my heart shattering into a million pieces, it’s broken open – like a rose bursting forth from the confines of a bud, unfurling petal by delicate petal, whole and complete!

Journaling Prompts

  1. What problem or challenge are you experiencing that you need to name to address?

  2. What has been stopping you from naming it?

  3. Where does that resistance come from?

  4. What actions does naming it enable you to take?

  5. Who else can you share this problem/challenge with?

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