January 2018, Age 21
I want to start off by saying I am sorry. I am sorry that I have treated you so unfairly these last several years. I am sorry that when you were in desperate need of help – body shaking, head screaming and heart bleeding – I ignored you and saw your struggles and pain as trivial and being weak and needy. I’m sorry that I have embraced self-hate and forgot how to like you, never mind love you. I’m sorry for forcing you to not cry in front of others and bottle it up because I taught you it was a sign of weakness. I’m sorry for forcing you to say yes to the things you wanted to do least. I’m sorry for allowing myself to give all spare time, effort, and energy to helping others and for then not giving you the same. I’m sorry for putting you last in line.
Right now I know you can’t see the horizon, and instead you feel like you’re in a deep, thick forest. You’re view is blocked as all you can see is dark, heavy clouds and overgrown grass and trees that tower over you making you feel like a tiny woodland creature that can’t escape. You’re running, unable to see where to, but in the direction of where you think this beautiful horizon might, be expecting it to rid you of all your pain and hurt upon reaching it.
Sometimes you run slowly, staggering even, as you trip over the rocks and branches that clutter your uneven path. Sometimes you run smoothly picking up a little more confidence and speed with every stride. Then, just as you catch a glimpse of the horizon, it’s gone again, blocked by the clouds, grass and trees that engulf you. In that second of spotting the horizon you grow hopeful but just as quick, your heart grows heavier as you run looking to lay eyes on it again.
You think it’s never ending, you’re starting to lag, becoming more exhausted with every step. You don’t think you’ll make it, you want to stop but you know in the back of your head if you perch up next to a tree among the tall, mossy grass, you may never find the strength to get back up. Instead, you keep going and then one day you finally see it ahead of you. As you reach the clearing you feel your feet make a transition from treacherous, muddy ground to beautiful, soft, golden sand. Once you finally break into the open space, a vibrant horizon is staring you in the face showcasing all these beautiful colours; tiger-lily orange, mimosa yellow, honeysuckle pink, even highlights of serenity blue… the list goes on. It’s casting a lovely warm hue on everything surrounding, including your much loved family who are there waiting with open arms. The pain doesn’t go away, not really, it instead kind of morphs, but it does get bearable. Soon enough you’ll be standing under that sunset too, waiting to embrace others with a big hug of strength and positivity as they come running out of the forest into the clearing.
The most important thing is that you keep going, keep breathing, keep living. Don’t give up the fight. It won’t be easy, but it’s not supposed to be. Keep in mind something your counsellor told you… sometimes the things that are the hardest are the most worthwhile. You think you’re alone, and there will be plenty more of these moments to come, but you are not. The people in your life will be there for you in ways you would never have expected, all you have to do is speak up… which I know isn’t something you feel confidant about, but you are strong enough.
Understand that the way you feel is completely valid, and it’s important to know you won’t always feel this way. Nothing is permanent, not even how we feel. One day your life will be different. You are a big believer in having faith, and rightly so. Faith is real. It is as real as your future is, and it will guide you throughout life.
Life is going to get extremely difficult for you again and you will make another trek through that forest. This time it’s going to seem darker, misty, and more abundant and swampier than you imagined. Roots of the trees jut out from the marsh land trying to latch around your ankles to keep you back. It’s not easy to run with a stitch, let alone a broken heart and a rucksack full of grief this time.
I understand you feel as though the world has broken you and has left you shattered and destroyed. I understand you feel completely withdrawn from life. I understand you loathe yourself and the choices you’ve made. I understand you resent the fact you feel forced to live as a shell of who you should be. I understand why you pray to God wanting to know the answer for why you are still living despite feeling like you’re decaying in the inside.
I want you to know I started writing this letter for the 14 year old who caused hurt to herself because she felt numb and withdrawn from life. That same young girl who spent an hour a week for a year speaking to a counsellor to get guidance on finding the horizon. As I get deeper into the letter, I find I’m writing it for the 17 year old who in the last year lost one of the most important people in her life and is finding it all a struggle. Everyday you carry the hurt and loss around but that’s okay. Just because others around you seem a lot stronger than you, it doesn’t mean you’re weak. I want you to know that you still haven’t accepted this person passing, nor do you think you will, but you do find healthier ways to deal with the pain.
I also write this letter for the young woman that just turned 21, who now knows that her fight with what she once though was in the past will always be present. I want to let you know it’s okay that five years after finishing counselling it all got too overwhelming. You were left hanging on with every inch of willpower, but mental exhaustion got the better and caused you to crumble under the pressure which lead you to cave into the fight. You’re going to feel like the last five years of ‘recovery’ have been pointless and you’re back at square one, but you’re not. Once again you will think back to what you were told in counselling and remind yourself of the techniques that got you through the hard times then. Little do you know you’re stronger than you were then, and this will only make you even more stronger. You are still alive, you are still fighting, and you are still loved. I promise you will set sight on that horizon again.
I also want to tell you that you have grown in ways you never imagined because of what you have endured. You are more open to wearing your heart on your sleeve, but still find that you keep yourself to yourself. Scars have healed and faded, and though there’s some newer additions per say, you will look at them as reminders of what you’ve been through. You are a warrior, and these are just your battle wounds.
The stigma around mental health unfortunately lends itself to a worrying lack of widespread awareness – but it doesn’t have to be this way. We can all do our part, no matter how big or small. For instance, you have recently rebranded your blog to cover the topics you really want to cover that you once hide away from in fear of judgment and further hurt. It may not be easy to stand up and speak out for what’s important to you, but you will be amazed at how empowering and important it can be.
Keep reminding not only yourself, but those around you to reach out to loved ones to see how they are doing. Ask how someone is and what you can do for them. If you find someone just needs to vent, be the pair of ears they need. Smile at people you’ve never spoken to before. You don’t know who is struggling. If you’re already waiting under the horizon, stretch your arms out wide to embrace those who are on their way. And if you are still staggering through the forest, take a deep, easy breath and keep going. Always keep going.
You will soon come to understand that “recovery” is never over. In fact, it’s a term you rarely use now. Instead you’ve come to realise it’s a fight you will have to keep fighting for the rest of your life, but don’t let that scare you. It’s a constant journey in which you will discover new things about yourself and the world around you. Don’t be afraid or worried for the future, as all that matters is the present and the choices you make now, and after all… it is a journey which means things will change, but never the less it’s worth every step.
Lastly, don’t beat yourself up for your mistakes. Remember you are human and we all make them. Undoing mistakes from the past will not prevent you from making mistakes in the future. And even if you could go back in time and undo all the wrong you’ve done throughout the years, would you? Remember that mistakes are crucial for self-growth and development, and in fact, some of the best lessons in life come from the worst mistakes. Every choice you’ve made, every mistake you’ve made, every person you’ve met, every problem you’ve came across, has taught you something very valuable and even open doors that once seemed welded shut.
Though at difficult times it may seem like the world has it out for you, you will realise you love the life you live and wouldn’t go back to change a single thing. It’s made you who you are today, and let me say… I’m sorry you never realised the importance of self-worth sooner and how fortunate you are for the family you have and the life you live.
Your life is special and I can’t wait for you to experience the blessings coming your way. Always remember, keep faith at the heart of everything as only you know yourself what it means to you and the power it has. Grab life by both hands and take control! You’ve got this girl!
Much love today and alway,