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To the People Who Wake Up Feeling Everything

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I didn’t feel it unless it hurt. I needed it to hurt because I needed to feel it. This is how I had grown accustomed to living. Unless it stung and screeched and left its marks up and down my body, I didn’t really feel it. But I didn’t want to keep needing the pain; I didn’t want to need the fear.

It’s exhausting. The constant need to be saved from a pain that you’ve ultimately caused yourself. Who has time for that? Not us. So I started to ask: Can I save myself? Can I be my own emergency contact? Can I remove all the filters and just lean in to the fear?

So I did. I summoned the sadness. Because the thing is, when you give in to it, it no longer has a hold on you. I romanticized my pain for a long time. Drowned it in wine bottles and anxiety medication and the bed sheets of boys who didn’t love me.

I loved the sticky sweet pain of my dry mouth the next morning. I got so used to asking people to save me, that I forgot about my own two hands. My fists. My tiny, ineffectual fists. I forgot about their strength and what they could do if I let them. They now hoist me up.

They are calloused and scarred, and I wouldn’t change them for anything.

I am so much percent water. My body holds boats upon it and my skin gives me sustenance. I quench my own thirst. I crave my own self. I am unlocked. A house with broken blinds that holds the unlimited potential of everything. I am the laugh track of my own life. My heart has new muscles.

My skin is coated with a new paint called “thickness” and you can hardly see it. It’s more like a top coat, a lacquer to seal in my newfound bravery.

I am all of these things and more. But sometimes I am so much less. And a lot of the time, I wish I had some guiding force. Then I’m reminded that I do — myself.

I wish I could go back to the darker days. Days that I rolled into. Me, all charcoaled lungs and punctured limbs. Me, with my ancient ashes, honeyed lips and wine-colored bruises that came from falling into other people instead of myself.

If I could, I’d make my former self feel so much less lonely. I’d lay in her bed with her, massage her scalp and feed her chocolate chip cookies.

But I can’t. What I can d, is write down the words for you in hopes that they heal you, if even slightly so. The words are yours as much as they are mine. I’d like for you to take them, swallow them down greedily so that they may settle quickly in your belly.

If some of the words don’t apply, feel free to spit them out. Be picky with the ones that you let in, for they are meant to keep you safe.

For you:

“Hey there. I’m so sorry this is happening. I feel for you, deeply and truly. I’m sorry you are in the thick of it right now, trudging through the sludge and falling to your knees. But I need you to know that you will soon crawl out of this. And you’ll be thankful you spent so much time in the darkness.

I know this morning, you woke up feeling everything, didn’t you? Lately, it all feels like pain. And you can’t think of a good reason not to make it go away. Listen, I can’t tell you not to hurt yourself. I can’t tell you not to do what I know every cell in your body is screaming at you to do. I know that there isn’t any part of you that isn’t on fire right now and that the only way to stop the burn is to jump out of your skin. But I can tell you that the fire isn’t infinite.

It will run out by itself, and you will not cool immediately, but there will be momentary relief. You will feel that relief so fully. It will hit you hard — the most gorgeous slap in the face you have ever felt; the most beautiful strike against your skin. You will snap out of it and drag yourself out of bed and into the sunlight. You will lie around watching movies and drinking smoothies and petting dogs and guzzling coffee, blinking and running your fingers through your hair, and you will laugh. You will hear the laughter, foreign against your ears, and you will wonder if this is going to last. It won’t, but that doesn’t make it meaningless.

I’m here to tell you that it does get better. But then it gets bad again. And then it gets better again.

I hope you believe in your innate fragility and how it couples with your astounding bravery. It swirls around inside you and creates the most perfect shade of grace.

And sometimes you don’t feel the least bit brave, but I promise you that you are.

It gets better. You’re not alone. I promise that I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. Sometimes life just hurts. It tramples over your sensitive skin with the weight of every elephant known to man. And then all those elephants start to jump up and down. At the same time.

But you, you are amazing. You are resilient. You have gifts and talents in every one of your limbs and they are waiting to be stretched. You are not your insecurities and you are certainly not your doubts.

You are endless streams of goodness and boisterous dreams that will heave you up up up to the place where you belong.

Let me say it one more time, for good measure: It gets better. You’re not alone. I promise that I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.

A version of this piece originally appeared on Rebelle Society.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via Anastasia_Aleksieieva

Originally published: June 28, 2017
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