I’m writing this because I’ve been looking back a lot lately and thinking about you. It’s not something I want to do: Reflecting on the time of my life that you’re currently living breaks my heart every time, and I tend to avoid situations that make me feel like I’ve been cut in half.
In fact, every day I use the ‘On This Day’ feature of Facebook and delete whatever you posted on this day 6 years ago. I tell myself – and others – that it’s because I find it embarrassing, which isn’t a complete lie. But when I actually stop and think, and allow these moments of brutal clarity in, I know it’s not the complete truth either.
Everyone has embarrassing memories and posts that they shared when they were younger and more naive. It doesn’t bother me that others could potentially see what I shared once upon a time. There is more to it than that.
You see, I want to delete you.
That is ridiculous and impossible, I know. But it’s also hard for me to admit.
Lately, I’ve been coming across posts of yours like these:
And now I can’t ignore you anymore. I read these posts that I shared and all these feelings come rushing back. They take me back to the very moment I shared them. The moment you shared them. You post a lot of things like this right now, with overly cheerful posts in between to mask how you really feel.
I know that you’re afraid. You’re afraid because if you were honest about how you really feel, everyone would think you’re an attention seeker. You’d probably lose friends if they knew how weak you were. If I remember correctly, at this point, some people have already noticed your change in mood, mainly your ‘mates’ who tell you that you’re depressing to be around and that you need to cheer up. You think that by bottling it all up, you’ll end up doing just that.
I want you to know that you can’t just bottle this up. You think you can because you don’t understand why you feel this way. But by playing the part of the happy-go-lucky girl, what you’re really doing is ignoring the early signs of Depression. The same Depression that I’m still battling with right now, over 6 years on.
Hearing the word ‘Depression’ would sound so scary and official in your young ears if you heard them now. Because right now, it’s easier for you to tell yourself this is just your hormones playing up. Right now, it’s easier to laugh it off and joke about how moody you are. Right now, it’s easier for you to keep yourself busy so you don’t have a second to think.
I want you to know that you can’t fool yourself forever.
Next year, at the young age of 15, you’re going to be officially diagnosed with depression. Your doctor will tell you that as you are so young, he can’t medicate you, but you’ll be okay if you ‘solve all the problems in your life’. This will still upset and enrage you in years to come. He’ll put you on a waiting list for counselling that you’ll stay on for 8 months before attending 6 sessions that ultimately won’t help you. The counselor you see will be the first of five. In the future, I may see another but I don’t think that’ll be the case.
If you haven’t already started self-harming, you will soon. You’ve definitely thought about it at this point.
It’ll start with you accidentally cutting yourself while cleaning the dishes and finding that it calms you. The physical pain being will be a welcome distraction from the mental pain you’re feeling. The first time you hurt yourself and it’s not an accident, it will take you 45 minutes to put any pressure on the knife that’s pressed against your arm. After you start, it’ll take you just under 3 years to stop. The last time you purposelessly harm your body is the 14th August 2013, the day before you get your AS Results.
I know that you’re wondering whether you left scars or not. The answer is yes, but the good news is I’m looking at my arms right now and they’re gone. If I look very closely, I can still see a few faded ones but I am no longer ashamed of them. When you get to where I am, you shouldn’t be either.
Recently, (and by recently I mean a few months back) I found a photo of you. Usually I cringe at pictures I find of myself at that age (sorry!), but this one didn’t make me cringe. In fact, after the initial shock of seeing the photo passed, I cried.
Here it is:
Doesn’t look like you, does it? Definitely doesn’t look like me, but it was me once and it is you now. One of your friends took that without you knowing one day at school. You didn’t see it until he tagged you in it on Facebook later that night. The next day, people mentioned to you that they’d seen it – and laughed.
It’s going to take you 6 years to get angry about that little detail, but here I am right now, furious.
Look at you.
That face, that expression, it doesn’t even look sad: it looks empty.
People should have been concerned about you, asked if you were okay, but they didn’t. You were alone with whatever thoughts were cycling around in your head, even with all those people surrounding you.
It kills me – but it’s not why I brought it up.
You see that piece of hair at the front of your head, that you’ve ever-so-discreetly clipped into place over that bald patch? There’s a reason why you had to do that.
You thought your hair was falling out by itself. At this point, you’d already had other small bald patches that you had to cover up, but this one was huge and obvious and you didn’t understand how it got there. I want to tell you, because you need to be prepared for what is ahead, for the lifelong battle that is Trichotillomania.
Trichotillomania is an impulse-control disorder that makes sufferers feel compelled to pull out their own hair – which is what I do. It’s what you do too, but you don’t know it yet. I was diagnosed late 2015 so you have many more years of confusion and worry ahead of you before you know what’s wrong too.
I wish I could tell you it’s an easy condition to live with, but it’s not. It’s a consuming, overwhelming and distracting condition that will eventually force you to make the hardest decision you will ever make.
But it’s also a part of you: so don’t take as long as I did to accept that when the time comes. It’s going to open so many doors and introduce you to so many wonderful people and, most importantly, it’s going to compel you to become your own role-model.
I wanted to write this letter to tell you that it gets better and that all of this will pass, but I can’t say that yet because I’m not there yet. What I can say is that everything you’re going through is for a reason. Don’t focus on the darkness that is ahead, focus on the fact that you will survive it – because how else could I be here right now, writing you this letter?
The weight of the world that you’re resting on your shoulders won’t break you – instead it’s going to shape you into me. And while I am in no way perfect, or beautiful, or happy, like you wish so hard you were right now, I am other things:
I am empathetic, kind, thoughtful.
I am bold, strong, brave.
You are these things too, but you bury them deep inside because you’re afraid to be yourself.
I want you to know it’s okay to acknowledge that you’re special. And I want you to know that one day others will acknowledge that too. People will love you so much that you won’t feel like you deserve it. And while that love isn’t the romantic kind, it’s just as good, if not better.
You see, I have the most wonderful best friends. I couldn’t even have dreamed them up and yet here they are, in my reality. Something for you to look forward to when you finally get to where I am.
The very last thing I want to say to you before I go, is that I’m sorry.
I’m sorry about the struggles ahead that you’re about to go through alone and I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do to prevent them. I’m sorry for not loving you when I was you and planting the idea in your head that you’re not worthy of ever having that.
I wish there were a way for you to really read this letter or that I could go back in time and tell you what I know now, but I can’t.
All I can do is wish you well and hope that you deal with the bad hand life is dealing you with more flair than I ever could.
Lots of love,
An older (though not much wiser) Beth xxx