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To the people who not only refused to give up on me, but refused to let me give up on myself:

I am submitting this post exactly two years to the day after having my first panic episode. Over the past two years I have travelled the weirdest, most surreal and incredibly difficult journey and I have had some of the most amazing people by my side supporting me. This letter is to them. To those who not only refused to give up on me, but refused to let me give up on myself.

You made me laugh when I couldn’t stop crying. You listed the things you love about me when I was certain I was the worst person in the world. You listened to me, you supported me, but more than anything: you made me keep going.

Were it not for you, I really am not sure where I would be today. I can honestly and wholeheartedly say you saved my life.

Everyone knows being a teenager is difficult at the best of times, however trying to navigate a world of hormones, parties, hobbies and exams whilst in the clutch of multiple mental illnesses feels impossible. You reassured me it is not. From you, I learned I am unconditionally loved and cared about. You made me feel secure and never let me lose hope.

To my teachers:

I can never thank you enough for everything you have done for me. You are the reason I was able to get out of bed and come into school when I couldn’t stop crying. In fact, you made me want to come to school when I couldn’t stop crying, because I knew you’d be able to help me see through the fog and lessen the weight on my shoulders a bit. You were the first ones to pick up on my illnesses and make me feel I was allowed to ask for help. You came with me to my first, scary appointment. You comforted me on my darkest days and — partially through the use of some brilliant analogies — found ways to make me hold onto a tiny bit of hope when I was completely ready to give up. You fought for me to get the help I needed harder than I could have ever imagined someone outside my family could possibly fight for me. You frequently fought for me harder than I was able or willing, to fight for myself. Basically, you went completely above and beyond anything in your job description and I will forever be grateful to you for all of your support.

From you, not only did I learn about the subject you teach, but I learned the importance of being compassionate towards myself as well as toward others. You taught me sometimes it’s OK if my grades aren’t the best in the class because really you’d rather me be happy than achieving all A’s. You shared your own stories with me and through this you gave me hope. A hope it will get better, hope you can struggle with mental illness for a significant amount of time — and potentially even have to drop out of education — but get back on track to live a happy and fulfilling life. You have inspired me to use my story to help others and to be true to myself. While I am not better yet, I am determined one day I will be, so I can make you proud and show you the effort you put into helping me was not in vain.

To my parents:

Mummy, Daddy: words do not describe how lucky I am to have you. You have wiped my tears from the day I was born. You have supported me through everything, both good and bad. You encourage me to pursue my dreams, you remind me how much you love and care about me multiple times a day and I know for a fact you would do anything to make me happy. You have driven me to appointment after appointment, you offered to pay the exorbitant prices for private therapy so I wouldn’t have to wait for a place within the NHS. You even allowed me a dog because of how the walks, cuddles and games made things a little bit easier. Few people are lucky enough to have parents as incredible as you and please know while I probably take you for granted far too often, I truly do love and appreciate you and everything you do for me.

To my family and friends:

Even though very few of you knew the details of what I was going through, or even that I was going through anything in the first place, you still showed me time and time again how much you care for me. You hugged me when I was sad, even if you didn’t know why. You repeatedly invited me to things that got me out of the house, no matter how many excuses I came up with as to why I couldn’t come. You celebrated the little things with me even when you didn’t know why I was so excited about them. The smiles on your faces when I joined in or cracked a joke or laughed in such a way I hadn’t been able to for far too long. They kept me going. While you don’t know and may never know how much you helped me through some of the hardest days of my life so far, I want you to know I am truly grateful for your love, support, kind words and messages telling me you could see I wasn’t myself and offering support, invitations, hugs and the million other things you do for me that have more meaning than you could ever possibly know. I love you all millions.

And lastly, to you, reading this:

All I can say is thank you. Thank you for taking time to care about my journey and the people who have helped me along the way. I sincerely hope should you need support, you are able to find people equally as amazing as those who supported me. Thank you for raising awareness about mental health. Every view one of these posts gets, we get one step closer to removing stigma completely.

Be an advocate. Ask for help if you need it and offer support to those having a hard time. You are incredible, you deserve happiness and you are more cared about than you could ever know. People want to help, you just have to take the first step. You. Can. Do. It.

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Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: January 30, 2017
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