Dear Zoey,

I’ve been meaning to write about this for awhile, and in light of the recent passing of Robin Williams, it seemed appropriate. His death shook quite a few people, especially from my age group. He provided so many fantastic moments in my childhood and early adulthood. Philip Seymour Hoffman passed earlier this year, which was another loss that rocked me. From all of this, the most important thing I can say to you is take care of your mental health.

Depression has been a battle I have fought on and off for a long time. I have been in those dark places. And last October I finally put the puzzle pieces together and knew that I needed help. I’ve been seeing a fantastic therapist on a consistent basis since. Your mental health is valuable because YOU are valuable. You are not weak or ridiculous or over-dramatic for seeking help when you need it. Life, no matter how beautiful, can be a lonely place. It’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to be honest about it. Knowing when you’ve crossed the line between sadness and hopelessness, that is what is important.

Taking care of your mental health is crucial as is having compassion. I hope to always instill a deep compassion in your soul for humanity. For the fragile, desperate, broken people who are just searching. We are all searching and grasping and clinging. None of us want to lead lives of “quiet desperation.” We want to live and enjoy and breathe and laugh. We want to be known. And valued. And when we feel separate and disjointed and broken, we reach those dark places. And sometimes, some of us can’t find our way out of it.

But I will always remind you that you are never a lost cause, you will never be beyond help. I will remind you that you are a flash of brilliance, a bright cosmic star in an otherwise dark sky. I will remind you that your life is profoundly worth fighting for, and that people around you are worth it as well. I will share with you that your uninhibited laughter is what can always jolt me back to life. I will remind you that the world needs souls like yours. Souls that ignite something joyous and intimate in the people around them. Souls that set the world on fire, and inspire. Souls that deeply care and value the world and people around them.

I can guarantee that you will have moments where you doubt. Where the fear and pain and circumstances will feel like a crushing weight on your chest. Don’t carry all of that. Talk to me. Talk to someone. You will feel crazy and dramatic for it…and then you will realize how worth it it is.

As I said earlier, Robin Williams’ films were a huge part of my growing up. Hook was my go-to movie when I was sick or hurting. In fact, when I was in labor with Emma, knowing that I would be delivering a baby that would never cry or laugh or grasp my finger, I watched Hook. Because I needed happy thoughts. I needed bravery. I needed to believe that life was still very much worth it. Dead Poets Society is what inspired me to pursue English and Theatre. That movie showed me how valuable poetry and art and humanity are. I could go on, but I will leave you with this…

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

-John Keating, Dead Poets Society