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A Letter to Myself at 15, From the Woman Who's Still Alive

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Dear 15 year-old Denise,

I wish this letter could’ve gotten to you in time, but you’re alive!

Let me tell you what you need to know outright. Before you even get to high school, almost everyone you know is going to call you selfish and over-dramatic. They’re going to ask why you’re so angry all the time. They’ll ask you “What’s the point of cutting yourself?” They’ll ignore you, call you fat and forget you’re smart. These people don’t know any better.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

The truth is you’re bipolar. You know about bipolar disorder, one of the “worst” mental illnesses you’ve read about in books. Yeah, that’s all you, girl. You have bipolar along with borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I know that sounds like a lot to take in at once, and you’re going to be in denial for a very long time, except for those moments of desperation where the only thing that makes sense is you’ve lost your mind.

Soon you will be of legal age and able to make your own choices, but being 18 doesn’t mean doors will magically open. In fact, the opposite will happen to you. These things that have plagued you will suddenly take all the breath from your lungs when you feel like you’re too broken to change anything. These next few years are going to be some of best and worst of your life, so hold on tight. Britney Spears will release a song with that title in 2013, and in your late 20s, you’re going to listen to it and cry in the tub as part of your self-soothing. It’s a good song, perfect for baths when you need a cry.

In a few years, the fog will lift a little. You’ll go back to college and finally start seeing a therapist, something you’ve known you needed to do since you first started carrying a razor and clean-up kit everywhere just in case you needed to cut.

In nine years, you’re going to be put in a mental hospital, but don’t be scared. Let it happen. This will be your salvation. This is the turning point in your life. It’s going to feel great, like sudden freedom and fresh air. Your time to get better will come, and you will be grateful for it every single day moving forward.

In the meantime, though, forgive yourself, be more honest and understanding with your friends and know I can tell you with 100 percent certainty from just 15 short years in the future that things will absolutely, positively get better.

Your life will always be a struggle. Some days, you’ll think there’s nothing wrong, and that nothing ever has been wrong. Some days, you’ll wish you had killed yourself instead of turning yourself in to the campus doctor. That’s part of the disorder, but every day, every year, your life will improve. You’ll begin to look forward to aging because you know that it brings more peace of mind. Even now, six years into treatment, I have dark days, days lost to being sick. Life is hard, and you will feel it more intensely than many can comprehend. But with time and the coping skills you’ll learn, life truly gets better. Since you’re me, I don’t need to tell you the differences between surviving and thriving because you already stay awake at night grappling with them, but soon you won’t have to choose between one or the other.

There’s still so much for you to do, and you’re going to have some incredible life experiences that will leave you breathless in only the best ways. Get through your bad days minute by minute and strive for stability. Stability is excitement these days, and it’s what you’ve always wanted. You’ll get here and further — you just can’t give in to the darkness. I love you, and P.S.: since no one but creepy older men tell you this, you really are smoking hot and beautiful. I mean, grade-A bombshell, and our opinion is the only one that matters. Don’t give in to the haters. Love it now.



If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

Originally published: May 31, 2016
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