The Words I Would Say to My Younger, Depressed Self
It’s that old cliche. If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be? Maybe you’d tell yourself to buy stock in Apple. Maybe you’d ask that special person out. Maybe you’d go to that event you missed out on.
Missed opportunities are what many people would change in their lives. As a survivor of several suicide attempts and generally bad decisions in my youth, I would say something else.
One of the ways I try and live my life is by becoming the person I needed when I was younger. A person with knowledge and experience, strength and respect. A person who could guide the person I was away from some decisions that still impact me today. What does that look like?
For me, the first words I would impart to my younger self would be words I use all the time now with my friends and others: “You are not alone.”
Just four words. You are not alone.
The person I was in middle school and high school didn’t believe this though. The person I was wandered through life getting subpar grades and stuck in a mental health limbo. No one in the entire world felt like I did or so I thought. Simply knowing there were others like me, people I could look up to and believe in, could have changed my whole outlook on life.
Next, I would follow up with the words, “It is not your fault.”
I can’t even begin to describe how much I blamed myself for my illness. Everyone else around me had it together or so I thought. This led to self-hatred and blame.
Why am I not stronger like these people? Why am I the only one who can’t handle the thoughts in my head? These questions would go through my mind before I even knew that I was dealing with an illness. All that self-hatred pooled together and led to addiction issues and continual, bone-crushing depression.
Then, I would apologize.
I’m sorry all of this is happening at once. I’m sorry the life you wanted is not the life you were given. I’m sorry it took me this long to understand who I was and who the real enemy is. You didn’t deserve what happened, but that doesn’t mean that you can give up.
Before I left, I would make sure to hammer home the idea that it gets better. Not every day is going to be a crushing defeat, and you don’t need to take permanent steps like suicide to fight back against the pain.
We all have these moments. Who would be better at giving the self-destructive, isolated and hurting teenager I was advice than the 20-something survivor who has seen the bigger picture?
I wish I could take that step back in time, but none of us can. The past is set. I have to live with the choices I made, but I also learned from those choices. I learned how to be the person I am today. I learned all the anger and hatred about my situation was poisonous and would continue to be poisonous as long as I held onto those feelings.
We all have missed opportunities and so many “almosts” that it can be hard to move forward. Yet, that’s the only way I know how to. Learn from your past, but don’t live there.
To those of you reading this, you are not alone. It’s not your fault that something went wrong on a microscopic level in your brain. I’m sorry that it all happened the way it did. It gets better. Hang in there.