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