To the Chronically Ill Teenager Stuck in the Hospital
Dear 17-year-old me,
Things seem pretty bleak right now, don’t they? You’ve been through a lot in the last year, and although I know you wish you weren’t here, here you are. You’re still alive, and a part of you is clinging on, even though you don’t want it to right now.
I know you can’t see through until your 18th birthday in a few months’ time. I know how hopeless it feels, to know you will be in hospital when your friends would be out having a good time. I know how hard it is to feel like you can’t even contemplate surviving that long. I know how isolated you feel knowing part of you is actually relieved you’ll be in hospital, instead of having to act like other teenagers. I know you feel like you’re being left behind in life because your illness is taking ‘Lizzie’ away from you, and turning you into someone unrecognizable. I know you want to be rid of it all, and I know you believe the only way that that can happen is to die.
I’m not going to lie to you. Your health problems will never go away. You will struggle many times in the future, and you will have times when you feel even worse than you do now. But the thing is, you will survive what you’re going through now, and you will survive those times too. You may not want to survive, but you will eventually find purpose in life. You will find some reasons to live, some reasons to be happy.
Your physical health will deteriorate further, and it will do so for the rest of your life. Things will get hard, but you will grow in tenacity. You will learn to demand what you need and to ask for help when that battle has become too difficult. You will learn to trust other people so you can seek help and accept it without feeling guilty. You will struggle, but you will get better at coping at the same time. The more life throws at you, the harder you will struggle. The harder they throw that ball down, the higher you will bounce back.
Of course, it won’t always be like that. There will be times you’ll want to give up and times you try to do so. It’s never going to be easy living with a combination of serious psychiatric and physical disabilities. But you’re stubborn, and your obstinance will help you. When you’re bereaved, you will find solace in activities which you haven’t even tried yet. When illness destroys all your hopes and plans for the future, you will find other ways of making your mark on the world. When you think you’re unlovable and that you don’t deserve happiness, you will find someone wonderful who makes life bearable. Some will be closer than you think.
Don’t change what you’re doing now. It may not feel like it, but you aren’t stagnating. I know you want to go to college, and I know you’re frustrated that you can barely stay in school. I know you want to work hard, and I know it’s infuriating that you can’t stay awake long enough to do any homework. I know you want to be a musician, and it hurts that you can’t physically play anymore. I know you want to run again, and, for a while, at least, you will do so. After that, you will find even better things to do, which you will enjoy even more.
I know you don’t know what you want to do in life. Don’t worry though, you still won’t know what you want to do by the time you get to my age! But you will have had so many wonderful experiences that you will have endless possibilities to feel happy and fulfilled. You will achieve things you cannot contemplate right now, and you will learn to feel again. You will learn to feel happiness. You will learn to feel love. You will learn to feel contentment. You won’t always feel happy, loving and loved or content — that would be unrealistic — but you can still have those moments which make the fight worthwhile.
Life will throw many more challenges your way. You will lose people you love, and your health will get worse. But you will become more resilient, and you will cope better. You will be happier.
Finally, be kind. Be kind to others and be kind to yourself. Love as much as you can. You never know when things will change. “This too shall pass.”
With love, from you, age 25
Follow this journey on My Bendy Life.