To The Girl Who Is Supposed to Be Graduating This Year

I hear it all the time from strangers… What year are you? What’s your major? So when are you going back to school? Why aren’t you in school? But then I put myself out there and take classes and then I hear… Aren’t you a little old to be taking this class? What year are you – wait, why are you in a freshman class? Aren’t you supposed to be graduating this year? And then my internal dialogue gets so mixed up that I start to think… You need to get your shit together. You will never be successful. You’re a failure.

I have been seeing photos on social media of friends and friends of friends and just everyone graduating from college the past few days. I didn’t realize how much it was affecting me until I cried so hard tonight thinking about my past and the friends I have lost along the way, questioning why I am still here. I got so nauseous, I ran to the bathroom and threw up. I don’t think I have gotten sick from crying that hard since I was a kid.

I have thoughts and regrets and worries swirling in my head right now. When I’m in dark places like this, I listen to music and write. It’s always been my go-to. So here I am. Here goes… 

To the Girl Who Is Supposed to Be Graduating This Year:

You had a family who would pay for you to go to therapy and treatment for your eating disorder and other illnesses. You had parents who would buy you whatever you wanted and needed. You had all the love and support in the world. You had it all.

Well, at least that’s what people outside of your home thought.

They didn’t see your parents fighting. They didn’t see you finding bottles of alcohol hidden around the house that supported your father’s addiction. They didn’t see how you were given a 20 dollar bill every now and then in return for your compliance with staying in line and keeping really awful secrets to yourself. They didn’t see when your parents disciplining you turned into violence. They didn’t see the pain. They didn’t see that you were just trying to survive. They only saw the effect — your anger and sadness; they didn’t see the cause.

They wrote off your hurt as “being dramatic” or because you were “being crazy.” They refused to look past the diagnosis or behaviors. And because you were too scared to speak up, you held it in — until it got to be too much and you were once again at the hospital for experiencing suicidal thoughts, or you were lashing out at the very people who wanted to help, but who didn’t know the extent of the pain because you were too scared to let them in.

And because they saw you acting out with no reasonable cause, they were scared.

In short: you dealt with a lot of unfair and heartbreaking situations. It is not an excuse, but it is a valid reason. It makes sense that you have a ways to go in furthering your education. It makes sense why you’re petrified of opening up at times. Because even though you are OK right now, your mind goes back to being that defenseless child. Furthering your education is a goal you want to accomplish. But the past four years, you had to take time to heal and recover. 

This past year especially, though difficult, has been OK. You have grown in so many ways. You have been making positive change in DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy). You can talk about these tough times without completely losing your mind and wanting to die. You are healing. You are recovering. And though it may feel like you are just surviving at times, you are also actually living and thriving. 

Your growth and progress have taken time, but you didn’t waste time. You didn’t fail. You progressed. You are progressing. And you will keep progressing. This is your life.

You don’t have to live in regret and drown your sorrows in self-destructive behaviors. You don’t have to believe other people’s opinions of you. You can focus on the friends who stick by your side through all your highs and lows. And you may not be able to control bad situations and unfair circumstances, but you can focus on bettering yourself. 

When you can’t find safety around you, you can be your own safety. Hang in there and know that healing does not have a time limit. You are progressing internally through continuing to do the hard work and fighting. You are progressing externally through helping and inspiring others by sharing your story online. You may not feel very smart of brave or strong some days, but I promise you that you are all of those things and so much more. Your mistakes or problems don’t define you. How you choose to react to things and how you carry yourself now is part of what defines you. And while it may not feel “worth it” at times to have taken time off from school for yourself, you are still growing and learning. You are still breathing. You are going places in this life. Keep turning your pain into power and always remember that you have a good heart, a wise and ever-learning mind and a fearless soul.

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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Thinkstock photo via fona2

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