Editor’s Note: I am deferring my column space this week to my sister, who is much braver than I could ever hope to be.

Almost every person can relate to experiencing some sort of loss or hardship that has changed them as a person.

I have always been the type of person who struggles silently, not only because I don’t like attention, but because I felt that it was weak to express vulnerability.

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I can internally be on the verge of a nervous breakdown but on the outside appear completely fine. Even when I think I’m being obvious about how I feel, people often don’t notice.

It made me start to wonder: How many people feel the same way? How many people do I encounter daily who are facing demons similar to mine?

I started to talk more openly about my feelings of depression and anxiety to friends and family and was surprised to find out how many people felt the same, even people who you might never expect.

I learned at a young age that you don’t have much control over the things that happen to you in life. My parents divorced when I was in elementary school and my dad passed away when I was 11. After his passing, I had a very difficult time dealing with it.

My school at the time didn’t really know how to deal with someone like me. I was kicked out numerous times for expressing feelings of depression and told I couldn’t return without written consent from my doctor. These experiences made me cold and bitter, and I didn’t feel comfortable telling people how I honestly felt because I didn’t want it to be used against me. Instead of validating my feelings, which I think were reasonable given the circumstances, I was made to feel like a social pariah.

I could’ve gone down a bad path, but I was fortunate to have a mom and two protective older brothers who never gave up on me, even when I had already given up on myself. I’m incredibly lucky because not everyone has this kind of support.

I recently found out about the passing of a childhood friend. We were fellow members of Banana Splits, a group our school created for the handful of kids who had divorced parents back when it was extremely rare. It was nice to have someone my age to commiserate with for feeling like a degenerate for not having a “traditional” family.

I think anyone who met this person would agree she was one of the funniest, kindest, most resilient people they’ve ever met. I didn’t get the chance to reach out to her prior to her passing, and I’ll always wish that I had. Even though the time we spent together wasn’t particularly long, I’m still hurting by this loss. This goes to show that even small interactions can make a big difference in someone’s life.

I’m 26 now, and as I get older, I’ve started to realize that it takes more courage to be vulnerable than to keep your feelings to yourself.It is not weak to ask for help.

I’ve learned that everyone you meet is dealing with their own issues, and that none of us really know what we’re doing. We’re all just trying to do the best we can to get by.

This is why it’s so important to be kind whenever you have the chance, because you never know how it could make or break someone’s day. It’s easy to judge or dismiss someone, but maybe we can learn to try to understand each other and be there for one another instead.