Dear younger self
I wish I could be there to help you through all those difficult years. I know how difficult it is for you to overcome so much at such a young age, to live through all those insults, put- downs, frequent unpleasantness and violence. It was so hard to be like everyone else, to be care-free, happy and to feel safe at home and in school. I now know that you were in a constant state of high alert!
I know you want to keep to yourself in your bedroom where it’s safe, with your books and thoughts and your music, and to forget how cruel people can be. But I also know there’s a bubbly and outgoing girl in there, and you ache to be liked. It’s so hard to find the real you in amongst all that stress and anxiety. It’s such a shame you weren’t allowed to blossom naturally and to love yourself for who you are.
A Teenager living with Mental Health issues
You’ve struggled. You’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster for years, with no chance of getting off, and you’re dragged time and time again into hostile environments you don’t want to be in. You’ve been mis-treated. You’ve lived your life within a sea of depression and panic, fearing what you would have to overcome this time. You’ve feared being included, not being included, being noticed, not being noticed and had your spirit broken by people who were supposed to care.
As a teenager you cried alone in your room, sat staring into space for hours and rolled into a ball on your bedroom floor. However, you picked yourself up and kept going, proving what a strong person you’ve always been. This is a pattern that has continued for a very large part of your life!
Then things started changing
You started on a journey of getting to know yourself on your terms, without the negativity that drags a person down. You started seeing the world differently and that you actually had every right to be in it. You rebuilt yourself from the ground up – and refused to care what people thought of you. You let go of the bullies in your head!
Don’t get me wrong! It wasn’t all doom and gloom. You have had so much fun. You discovered alcohol and partying and loved the confidence and popularity that it brought you. You learned that people actually liked you and that you were fun to be around. You saw yourself as a proper person —but like a witch’s spell the effect of the alcohol wore off. Your old friends (anxiety, depression and panic) returned with a vengeance – and slapped you down to size. You suffered with debilitating panic attacks and depression for 30 years (on and off). However, you functioned due to your inner strength. You are more than any illness. It does not own you.
What I learned about myself
You’ve learned to give yourself permission to feel the bad as well as the good. The overwhelming exhaustion which kept you in your bed for days. The lead-like limbs that wouldn’t move. The uncontrollable despair and loneliness. The “what’s the point of me?” days. The anxious days. And the nights of extreme worry. The panic attacks which emerged without warning, when in work, in company and whilst alone. You’ve learned that you don’t have to beat yourself up over all this – it doesn’t define you – your personality defines you.
How people have treated you doesn’t define you either. How you responded to this treatment doesn’t define you. Strength defines you. Resilience defines you. Your fighting spirit defines you.
The Mist Cleared
You are not too sensitive or a “soft touch.” You are fighting, standing up for yourself, and growing. You are not damaged. You got yourself through this, a warrior, a strong woman growing stronger every day.
You don’t have to be a “people-pleaser.” You have been conditioned to feel that everything is your fault. It’s not – culpability falls on more than your shoulders. You don’t have to blame yourself in order to be part of a social circle. It’s not worth it. It’s too destructive to your self- belief and esteem. Don’t let other people have that much influence over your life.
I wasn't Alone
It’s OK to have a bad day. It’s OK to ask for help. You’re not alone – you have good people amongst the bad. Look at what you’ve overcome: what you’ve fought against, what you’ve accomplished. It wasn’t just survival – inner strength dragged you onwards even when you felt broken and alone.
You have nothing to prove to yourself. You kept going, you kept striving and you battled to be independent. You were so innovative, so brave and self-aware.
You have always had this in you.