Downstairs it is loud and hot. People are talking and working and moving, and I crave silence. I climb the stairs and walk down the hallway into my room, and immediately a wave of calm rushes over me. It is slightly cooler in temperature, and sunlight streams through the window in yellow rays, filtered by the honey-locust tree. The blue-gray walls cool any stresses that were once there. On these walls live a large white lotus flower sticker and a painting of a Japanese tsunami, which makes the room feel like a Japanese tea house- quiet and Zen. Quotes sing their belief in me to me and pictures of loved ones smile at me. I take a few steps and fall into my bed. My weight is cradled by the mattress, and the soft blankets hug me back. I feel safe and comfortable and supported. I look across the room and am greeted by my books standing in rows like soldiers on the shelf. I get up and run my fingers down their spines, mountains of words forming under my fingertips. These stories are my friends, they are always there for me and they provide an escape when life becomes unbearable. Anne of Green Gables makes me happy and optimistic, A Wrinkle in Time fills me with a sense of wonder, and Harry Potter reminds me of my second home at Hogwarts. I have to tear myself away from them as I walk around my bed to my desk. It is large and worn, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. A computer waits to answer my questions, stacks of notebooks wait to be written in, and a jar of pens wait to be used. It is here that I lose myself- creating stories and landscapes, and studying subjects from history to science. When I sit down I am ready to learn and create. I can be whoever I want to be. This attitude, created by the calm in my room, allows me to be my best self.
Dandelions are childhood; before they were weeds and you only saw them for their yellow beauty. Dandelions are the long summer days spent with one behind your ear, or a crown of them adorning you queen of the block. Dandelions are believing your wishes will come true. Dandelions are growing up, changing, and becoming beautiful in a different way.
Daisies are falling in love for the first time. Daisies are picnics with a loved one, and adventures with many. Daisies are road trips and candy stores. Daisies are yellow optimism. Daisies are blossoming even by the side of the highway.
Sunflowers are your quirks, and your sense of humor. Sunflowers are being unapologetically yourself and loving every second of it. Sunflowers are paint-covered overalls and dirt under your fingernails. Sunflowers are growing tall as you can, not to be above others, but to be higher than you were yesterday.
Lilies are the times you are quiet but content. Lilies are the sound of loved ones’ chatter surrounding you like a warm blanket. Lilies are your delicate sensitivity. Lilies are being there for your friends. Lilies are the quiet but mightiest strength in the face of difficult times.
Roses are saying you love yourself and meaning it. Roses are discovering you are worthy of love, but also that you don’t need it. Roses are the drunken hour of midnight, when friends become lovers and truths come out. Roses not being ashamed when people bask in your glory. Roses are protecting yourself and your beauty.
You spun your sugar-sweet words around me,
Until I suffocated in the web of your stories.
I flourished, and I was your hero.
Then I struggled, and I was your villain.
I received hundreds of love poems,
You loved the sound of your own words
More than you loved me.
For I was the sun, and I loved you, the moon.
I gave you all my light,
and you took it for your beauty.
Your art was your suffering,
And, oh, how you loved to write about me.
I was your character to study-
My beauty faded
The minute I started to speak.
You always did throw out your drafts-
So I wrote you our last poem,
Now I know you’re done with me.
“I wish happily ever afters existed.”
I wish I had known better then. I wish I had known that she knew what she was saying, and that she was about to make ours together disappear.
It doesn’t matter what happened. Honestly, it’s not interesting. One person initiates two people spending less and less time together, until they don’t talk. At all. And just like that, everything you knew was gone. People say its natural for friends to grow apart, but I say its organic quality doesn’t make it hurt any less.
I would walk the streets and see nothing worth seeing if it were without her. Summer nights turned me from starry-eyed to suffocated. My favorite song didn’t sound as beautiful when there was no one to dance with. Eventually I became numb to any joy, because how could anything be beautiful when she was not there?
Soon my life became but a reel of my past, the good times replaying, and then the bad times. Poring over dusty memories, I ask myself, ‘Did she love me then? When did it go bad? What did I do wrong?’ I had no closure- no one to tell me that she’s gone, she’s not coming back. That was the worst part- I did not grieve. A little voice in my head kept me from letting go because maybe she could still come back. Maybe she missed me as much as I missed her.
But deep down, I knew she was fine. She never had a number one. She did the smart thing and only gave pieces of her heart to each person she loved, so when a blow was dealt it wouldn’t hurt as much. But me, I gave her my whole heart. I was naive- I knew she kept me at arms distance, but I still was convinced that if I loved her fully, she would reciprocate. I was told it is better to love fully and hurt fully than to not love at all, but now I’m not so sure. Is this pain worth the love that is now just a memory? Or would I play dumb and do it all again if given the chance?
Maybe, maybe she never loved me. That would hurt, but would it even matter? I loved her, and then she didn’t want me to love her anymore. The End.
Dear child with a mental illness,
I am so sorry. And I want you to understand, I know some of what you are feeling. I may not know what it’s like to have your disorder, but I know the stress it carries with it. I am going to try my best to give you tips that have helped me through my battle, which is still going on as I am 16 and is probably still going on as you read this.
You probably have heard the phrase, “you’re not alone” a lot. Like so much that it’s lost its meaning. But it is important to realize that other people have felt this way and have survived. I’m not trying to minimize your struggle here, I’m just trying to remind you that it is 100% okay to reach out for help, because others can sympathize, and more often than you’d think, empathize with you. So please, don’t ever try to convince yourself that this is a road you need to walk alone. While it is true that this suffering is your own, the comfort of having a hand to hold along the journey is indescribable.
One of the turning points in my treatment was the day one of my (many) therapists finally asked me, “Do you want to get better?” I knew I wanted to BE better, so badly, but in that moment I had to address that recovery/treatment/coping is a long, hard journey. Before then, I had always been hoping for a shortcut to getting better, or just to wake up and be better. But I finally had to commit that: I will get better. I will do the sometimes excruciating work to get there. It will be far from easy. I will relapse, I will panic, but most of all I will keep walking. I deserve to be better. You have to want treatment, and it will be the hardest thing you’ll do, but you have to keep working.
I hold onto my dreams to keep me going. I want to fall in love. I want to have kids (yep, you keep me going.) I want a career I love. I want to make a difference. These seem like lofty goals to where I am now- barely leaving the house, anxious all the time. But if you hold onto your dreams (imagine the life you’d want if you weren’t ill), they will keep you going, because I promise you, they are attainable and if you keep working, they will be yours.
Now I must break the news to you, and contradict everything I have been writing: there is no “better.” You will not wake up and never have a bad day again. It’s more like you will wake up and realize that you’ve had more good days than bad days. And that the pain of the bad days is so worth the sweet, sweet good days. That time will come (don’t worry, I’m waiting on it too) and it will be so amazing. I promise. You will look back and realize how strong you were for getting through these dark times.
I’m afraid I’ve been harsh on you, or that maybe I’ve offended you in this letter. That was not my intention. I just want someone to be honest with you, because I wish someone had been honest with me a lot sooner. Maybe that’s what this whole letter has been: writing it for myself instead of for you. I’m sorry.
Feel free to disregard any parts of this letter, if you wish, but if you take nothing else out of this take this: I know how much this sucks. I know you’ve been dealt a crappy hand of cards, I know you must start the race a mile behind everyone else, and I know that this is so unfair. But I also know you have all the strength you need inside of you to beat the game, to win the race, and to overcome. It may not feel like it, but I promise you do. And the memories of starting in last place will make winning first place so sweet. So please, please, please stick around to get there. Life will get better. You will fall in love, you will have adoring fans, you will travel the world, whatever you want WILL come to you. You just have to survive to get past last place. I promise you that the pain you’re feeling will not kill you. You have the strength to survive another day, and the day after that, so do it. I am here for you. I cannot rid you of the pain, but I can promise you I will be right next to you for the whole road forward.
You are so brave and so strong for surviving. I love you no matter what.
Love, your Mama