To My 8-Year-Old Self: Don't Lose Hope
Dear 8-year-old me,
I know you just asked God if there was a way to end your struggle. I know you were afraid to ask. I know you thought asking him in a church basement might increase the chances of him listening to you.
I know you feel as though the world has broken you. Shattered you. Destroyed your soul. I know you feel like you are already dead. I know you loathe yourself with everything inside of you. I know you resent the fact you are being forced to live as a shell of who you should be. I know you want the answer for why you have to continue living while your insides feel like they are decaying.
I want you to know one day, 16 years from now, you will be writing this letter.
You are still alive. You are still fighting. You are still loved.
I want you to know one day the bullying will stop. The constant name calling, hair pulling, pushing and belittling will end.
You will be stronger because of what you endured as a child. I know it doesn’t feel this way right now, but you should trust me because when you’re 8-years-old, you think people in their 20s have their lives together.
I want to tell you to not feel shame for wearing your heart on your sleeve. You will meet so many wonderful people because of this trait. These people will open their hearts to you. They will allow themselves to be vulnerable in your presence because they recognize something within you. They can tell you have been broken and you were lost. They know you are afraid. But they also know you genuinely care about them. They know you will listen to them without mentally preparing your response while simultaneously zoning out. You’ll just listen. You will distract them. You will make them laugh.
And then you will go home to your own apartment and you will cry. You will cry for your younger self and your older self because you desperately needed someone to listen to you.
This attribute is one you should treasure. Not all people are this way and that’s OK, they just aren’t people you should surround yourself with. You are embodying the person you needed when you were younger and I am incredibly proud of you for this.
I want you to know the diagnosis that will come 14 days before your 15th birthday will change your life forever. You will never get a break after this diagnosis. I want you to know some days are hard. You will spend some days crying and yelling at yourself. Some days you want to give up and call it quits. But you never do. You will persist because you are a fighter and you are stronger than you will ever realize.
I want you to know something bad happens to you 13 days after your 19th birthday. I want you to know it was not your fault. I want you to know they were wrong when they told you that. I want you to know you didn’t do anything wrong. I want you to know it will seem as though your world is crumbling and although it doesn’t seem possible, you will feel worse than you do right now.
I want you to know the year to follow will be the most difficult you have endured up to this point, but you endure it. You survive every one of your worst days.
I want you to know it’s OK to not always be OK. You need to remember this as you self-medicate with alcohol when you’re 19 because you think it will make you more social, more lovable, more anything than you already are. I want you to know you are already enough. Eventually you will accept you need to work on your mental health and it should be your number one priority.
I want you to know one day you won’t be as afraid as you are right now to talk about the struggles happening within your mind. You will still be afraid, but you will make a promise to yourself to stop attempting to manufacture an image of yourself as being something that you are not. You will do this because your goal has always been to help others. People from all walks of your life will thank you for this. You will learn you are not alone.
I want you to know your feelings are always valid especially when it feels like they aren’t. I want you to know you will always have bad days mixed in with the good. Depression is a dark cloud that turns your world grey, but depression is not you.
Lastly, I want you to know asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure.