Dear 17 year old me:
Don’t blame yourself for that night. You couldn’t have known that the people you trusted would take you and break you until you couldn’t feel. Don’t judge yourself for deciding to keep it a secret. Although isolating, find comfort in the fact that even though your family didn’t know, your relationship with them is stronger than you could imagine. Breathe deep and realize you are alive. I know you will turn to drinking many times. Please know that it’ll give you temporary leave of your nightmares, but it’ll also make you feel uncontrollably broken. The sobs into the dark night will hurt. They still do.
Dear 22 year old me:
I’m sorry that your missing friend has been found dead. Grieve for him, but please do not lose yourself in that grief. Stop feeling like a fraud inside just because he wanted to do great things with his life and you are here feeling like you could happily fade from existence. You are worthy of breathing, and you will come to realize this. Please put away the alcohol. Please step away from that blade. The relief you get from it will only be temporary. You’ll see that you hurt only for a moment and then it turns to numbness again. Please realize that you will feel again, and when you do, it’ll be the best feeling imaginable.
Dear 23 year old me:
Stop hurting yourself. I know you look at yourself in the mirror and hate what you see more than you thought could be possible. Take care of yourself because the self-loathing will destroy you. Please stop making yourself sick and avoiding food. That won’t solve your problems. It just makes it all worse. Please talk to someone. Talk to your friends online in another country. You may be scared but they will surprise you by giving you love and support. Look online and see there are many like you. Find support in To Write Love on Her Arms. You will feel that you are worthy of love. I promise you.
Dear 24 year old me:
Keep working at it. You are slowly making progress, and it’s showing. Can’t you feel the happiness start to settle back into your skin? The smile you wear now isn’t always a fake one. Do not fear relapse; you will come to realize that you are actually quite strong. You will relapse. You will cry. You will wish the ground would swallow you up. Just know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Be kind to the guy you are dating; he will stick with you through it all, and even though he doesn’t understand, he is patient. You will end up marrying him.
Dear 26 year old me:
Over the last two years, you will have learned that you can be happy again, that you can live rather than just merely exist. You will still struggle and waver, but on the nine-year anniversary of that fateful night, hand on heart, you clearly state that you will not self-harm again. Be proud of yourself.
Dear today me:
So here we are: coming up 13 years from when life took an unexpected turn. Yes, it’s been one heck of a ride. Well done on staying free from self-harm for four years. Despite knowing that you will always potentially feel the urge, you know to breathe deep and that the feeling will pass. You now know that drinking won’t solve life’s problems. You still need to work on your eating habits, although you no longer make yourself sick. You still struggle with sleeping too. Keep working at it; you’ll get there. Understand that you will still have days where the blame and guilt consumes you, and you will feel swallowed up by your emotions. You’ll feel mad that you cannot rationalize it all. You need to learn that not everything has a reason; just ride out the hard times. Be proud of the fact that your heart is bursting with the need to help others. You have done a lot for various charities and people over the last few years. Know that your friends appreciate your unconditional love and support. Look at yourself in the mirror and try to love yourself a little more each day.
To anyone reading:
There is always hope. Be patient with yourself. Learn to love yourself. Know that, despite how alone you feel, there are always people here with outstretched arms and hearts to help you heal.