Good evening lovelies! I am beyond sorry at the lack of content lately! And for a day late post after slacking off. I had to take a break last week – I was exhausted and overwhelmed. But admitting that I needed a break, taking care of myself and self-caring was the right thing and such a highlight of just how far i’ve come. I used to think that taking a break, nourishing my body and admitting I needed help was shameful and filled with guilt. But i’ve recently learned that is anything but the truth; stopping and taking a break prevents the inevitable crash and burn, it prevents the further feelings of exhaustion and sadness, it makes getting back up again so much easier.
This week’s post is a letter to the “old me”; the version of herself that three years ago, was living in a hole of self-doubt, self-loathing, depression and anxiety. The “me” whose days were filled with any grasp of self-harm, desperately hoping that someone would realise just how broken I was. I’ve recently gone through a massive journey in therapy and have let go of a lot of things to do with my crisis, both metaphorically and physically. Realistically, my crisis lasted 4 months, but I suffered from depression and anxiety for years before that and in reality, i have been trying to recover ever since. I’m still recovering three years later.
As much as i am elated that i no longer suffer to the extremes that i used too and i’m letting go of a lot of my mental illness, it has understandably been extremely emotional. Depression, anxiety and the ways in which it makes me behave are something I have got to know so well. Even though its presence was never welcomed, it was also the only thing that never left and the only thing I had. I was cast under the spell of mental illness for long, but letting it go has in no way been as easy as I thought it would be. I was so desperate for so long to be free, that it’s been extremely confusing that I’ve spent many a nights crying over letting it go. But that… IS NOT SHAMEFUL. It’s grieving my mental illness. It’s trying to be comfortable in a new way of living. n. It’s fighting my every urge. It’s navigating unknown waters. It’s like saying goodbye to an old friend. And it’s also something I never see people talk about.
Dear Old Me…
What would I tell 7 year old you? What would i say to you as you sat there with your wide eyes and your mousey-brown bushy hair? Would I warn you of the sting that the future brings? Would I warn you that in the next year your trust is going to be broken by one of the people closest to you? That you’re going to struggle to trust anyone ever again? Would I tell you that in the next two years, you’re going to suffer from an illness that will never go away? That you’ll have to manage for the rest of your life? That makes your life twice as hard? Or would I shelter you and let you continue to be blissfully unaware? Would you even recognise me? What would you say to me? Even though the possibility of this happening is literally 0%, what I wouldn’t give to view the world through your eyes again.
What would I tell 15 old you? What would I say as you sat in front of me bright-eyed with a heart full of hope? Would I warn you that it’s about to get worse? Would I warn you that you are about to learn about suicide? Or would I let you carry on thinking that nobody would ever do that to themselves? Would I warn you that in 10 years time, that will be you? Would I warn you of the confusion that’s about to come about life, about sexuality, about friendship and trust? Would I tell you that the people you’re surrounded with right now will only be your friends for another few years; that your worst fear right now, comes true? Or would I shelter you and let you continue to be blissfully unaware? Would you even recognise me? What would you you say to me? Even though the possibility of this happening is literally 0%, what i wouldn’t give to view the world with the hope you have in your eyes right now.
What would I tell 23 year old you? What would I say as you as i’m sat beside you in a car on the motorway, head full of hope as you embark on your new London adventure? Would I warn you that mental illness is about to creep up behind you and grab you by the neck? Or would I let you continue thinking that your past will never effect you? Would I tell you that in a few years you won’t want to live? That your hope will be gone? That the lights go out and you’re left in the dark? Or would I let you continue to be naive? would I shelter you and let you continue to be blissfully unaware? Would you even recognise me? What would you you say to me? Even though the possibility of this happening is literally 0%, what i wouldn’t give to view the world with the endless possibility you have in your eyes right now.
What would I tell 26 year old you? What would I say as i’m sat holding your hand as you lay in a hospital bed, hooked up to machines, everyone telling you you deserve to live, but you don’t believe it and don’t want too? Would you even recognise me? What would you you say to me? Even though the possibility of this happening is literally 0%, what i wouldn’t give to make you view the world in the way I do now.
Dear Old Me…
I am so sorry. I am so sorry for all that you’ve been through and all that you are going to go through. Nobody knows the depth of your suffering except me. It’s going to be okay. I know it doesn’t feel that way right now. You’re carrying what feels like the worlds biggest secrets and burdens. You’re living with relentless shame, guilt, sadness and anxiety. It’s horrible. It’s making your life hell. You can’t see a way out. I know you feel like you could fall right now, and no one would hear. But I see you; I see the way you’re punishing yourself for the things other’s have inflicted on you. I see you asleep on the sofa, curled up in duvets, because the only way to deal with your feelings right now is to not deal with them at all. I see you pushing yourself too far in the gym. I see the 30 pounds you’ve lost, but i also see you’re losing so much more than that. I see you not eating for weeks at a time. I see the scars that you open every night just to feel something, anything. I see you picking at your hands, i see you rocking back and forth, i see the things that you’re seeing and nobody else can. I see the things nobody else see’s. I see you silently crying for help through your body language and your cleverly arranged wording. I so desperately want you to shout it from the rooftops. Because i’m the version of you that does. And i know it’s not as shameful or scary as you think it is.
Dear old me, you survive. And i know that’s probably not what you want to hear right now. But I’m here to tell you that there is a version of you in the future that is glad you did. Even though nobody else can, I can see your pain. It’s not your fault that you feel this way. I promise there are moments so wonderful coming your way that will make every spirit-crunching second of pain feel like it was worth it.
I am so proud of you. I’m proud of your strength and your courage. I am so proud of how far you’ve come. And how far you continue to go. The future is still scary and uncertain, but that’s okay. It’s uncertain in a different way; you’re no longer scared of the future or determining a future where one day it just all goes black. But you’re looking at the future’s uncertainty as a world of possibilities again. Yes, really. You’ve never much liked change and that itself unfortunately doesn’t change in the future, but the way you deal with it is different. The you writing to you right now doesn’t quite know what’s going to happen, but wouldn’t it be boring if we did? But here’s the things you would miss if you left this world right now…
You did it, girl! You qualified. You got a job on Paediatric Intensive Care! (Your job offer is actually coming in 12 hours! Yes, really!). You stay in PICU for at least 3 years. (I unfortunately can’t see beyond that right now, so who knows how long you’ll actually stay?) You make great friends. You make amazing progress. And you’re still learning so much every single day. Here’s a little message for you; don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re about to have great days. And you’re about to have the toughest days you’ve ever had. Some days, you’ll feel like you can’t keep up. But, you can only do as much as you can, as quickly as you can do.
and… a global pandemic, lol
Yes, really. There’s a virus that spreads throughout the entire world and takes millions of lives in a few years. You’ll have to wear a mask pretty much everywhere you go. You’ll spend the most time you’ve ever spent indoors because you’ll be told to stay home to save lives. Everyone at home is okay for now though. They’ll be something called “lockdown”; and there’s more than one. You won’t be able to see your friends and family as much. The pubs and shops will be shut. So will the theatres, cinemas; basically everything you used to do at the weekend. It’ll be tough, but you get through it with a newfound love of cross-stitch, netflix, books and something called zoom (oh, and a lot of pink gin). You also learn to love a lot of new things; like spending time in your room, being comfortable with your thoughts and you process a lot more as a result instead of repressing. There’s a million good things that come out of lockdown, I promise you.
Your favourite memory
It might seem impossible right now, but you’re closer than ever to your mum. And Leo is your best friend. You actually have a new found love of home because of that global pandemic we spoke about, and use every safe opportunity you can to be back there. You get stuck in London for 4 months because of the very first lockdown, and it’s extremely difficult. There’s lot of tears through phones. But the first time you get to go back after lockdown ends becomes your favourite ever memory. Mum buys a hot tub, she’s off work because of the pandemic and you spend your days walking Leo and afternoons in the hot tub with mum under a scorching July sun. They’re probably your favourite memories of your entire life. Cherish them. If i could relive it again, i would.
Your first relationship
In a few months, someone messages you in the middle of the night to tell you they’ve had feelings for you ever since you met. I won’t tell you who. You don’t stay together unfortunately and they hurt you quite a bit in the end, sorry to say. But you’re together for 6 months. You learn a lot. You grow a lot. You also learn that you can love and trust other people. You have kisses and amazing dates and hold hands in dim lit corners and in the back row of the cinema. It’s all around lovely. It’s a situation that teaches you to look to the future in a slightly different way; you now view every experience, good or bad (especially this one), as an opportunity to learn, love and grow.
You find love for SO many new things. You fall in love with theatre and the west-end. You spend almost everyday and free moment at a theatre with old and new friends before the pandemic. You get close with some casts of the shows. You make new friends from the theatre world and they now check in on you and text you almost everyday, you go to the pub with them (when you’re allowed!) and become close with them. You also learn how to cross-stitch, and we both know how long you’ve wanted too. You fall in love with reading again now that you don’t have to do (as much) academic stuff. You learn (or try to) to play the keyboard. You fall even more in love with and visit numerous coffee shops to sample their flat whites because you’re obsessed. You find a healthy love for exercise, and you don’t restrict at all. Most importantly, you fall in love with yourself again. You fall in love with life.
Dear old self, the truth is, I miss you. And I know you’ll be thinking how bizarre that is. Because right now, you’re fighting so much to be out of that place you’re in. Right now, i’m moving on, which is what we both truly want. But i’m also grieving the mental illness that you bare. And I know that you won’t understand that. You got the help. You got the therapy. You make the progress, albeit with a few steps backwards again. Saying goodbye to mental illness is not as easy as we both thought it would be. You see, even though you don’t see it, the many manifestations of your anxiety and depression have become like an old friend, even if they aren’t exactly welcome. They’re what we’ve come to know. And even though all of the behaviours it portrays scare you, they also make you feel safe. Because they’re sheltering you from the reality of your own thoughts. The truth is, I think i’m scared of my life without mental illness. I’m so happy to be seeing the back of it, but it doesn’t make it any easier. It’s because before this, we never imagined a life without it. For so long, we believed that mental illness was always going to be a part of us, that we would always be the happy girl with a cloud of sadness surrounding them. It’s occupied such a huge portion of our life. Having it come into our life was such a big change, and having it leave is equally, if not more, terrifying. Our depression, anxiety, whatever you want to call it, has been there for us when nobody or nothing else was. Even though it was never welcomed with open arms, it was the one consistency. It’s been a devilled friend that’s deceitfully got us to trust it. But i can assure you, letting it go and facing whatever comes next is so much better than not. We have to let it go. It’s not our friend. It’s not comforting. It’s horrible, hellish. It’s deceitful and deceiving. If we don’t let it go, it will come for us again.
Dear old me; thankyou. When everything came crashing down, you had a choice. Thankyou for choosing to fight. Thankyou for choosing to swim instead of sink. Thankyou for waking up every single day and making the choice to carry on. Thankyou for caring for your body. Thankyou for nourishing it without punishing it. Thankyou for getting up every day and showering. Thankyou for saying when you’re not well and asking for help. Thankyou for stopping in your tracks and having a rest before you combust. Thankyou for being kind to others as well as yourself. Thankyou for carrying on, even when you didn’t want too. This is not a goodbye to you, because without you, I wouldn’t be as strong and courageous as I am now. I will carry you with me for a lifetime because you’ve taught me the most important lessons yet. So we can say goodbye to mental illness, but i’m not saying goodbye to you.
Without you, I would not be who I am today; I would not be surviving and thriving.