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Dear Younger Self: This Illness Will Persist, but So Will You

Dear Madeline of August 2015,

I have so many words for what you are about to feel that I can only give it a general, unspecific pronoun to start: “this.” This will be the hardest thing you will ever endure. There will be times where you’ll think you can’t do it, moments when you’ll want to give up and bouts of agony during which you’ll think you just can’t take anymore. In defiance of those instances, you will get through it. You are going to get yourself through this. There is no magic bullet, pill, cure or spell that will take this away. You are the answer.

woman with her face covered by a blanket holding a blue slushie and wearing a hospital gown with iv's in her arm

Despite your hopes, this will go on. You’ve been sick for four months now and I’m sorry to say that, from where (or when) I’m writing you, there hasn’t been an end to that yet. Doctors will accuse you of faking this, of losing the weight you have lost on purpose. They will label you as a “drug seeker” because the pain will hold you in its grasp with an iron fist and taking medication is the only way to get you through it. Then, they will tell you that you are going to get better. That you will wake up one morning and everything will just be gone. Do not believe them, but do not go through this without hope. The only thing worse than getting your hopes up is not hoping for anything at all.

High school is not middle school. Everyone has said it will be different, and I know you have ignored them, but it’s true. You’re going to find your real friends, and, at times, you may not find any. Coming to the first day of school covered in ECG leads from the seizure you had two nights ago isn’t going to make it any easier. It is a struggle. It is drama-filled. Everyone will think of him or herself first. You’ll find a lot of people with compassion, but when it comes to empathy, your search will come up empty-handed.


Stop expecting perfection from yourself. Your grades won’t be as important as you think. You will be juggling too many things. Your mental stamina will not stick with you through thick and thin, but your intellect will. Regardless of those moments of doubt, you are smart, you are hardworking and you are going to get into a good college. Your college does not have to be the most popular or the most competitive. There are so many things more than just a name.

Most importantly, enjoy everything while you have it. Everything is finite. Soak in the sunshine, eat good food – and I mean good food, because you won’t have it forever. Throw love around like it’s confetti. Spend as much time as you can with your family because this is hard on them, too. Wear clothes because you want to. Dance to the music you love, and don’t be afraid someone is watching. Laugh at least four times a day because that’s the healthy thing to do. Set unattainable goals, because if you shoot for the moon you’ll have to get past a lot of stars first. This will take away pieces of you, but you will pick new ones up along the way. And as always, don’t forget to write back every once in a while, OK?

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