Dear 15-Year-Old Psych Ward Me,
I’m the person you’ve been imagining. I’m the one you write about in your journal, the one you think about during those sleepless nights in your hospital bed.
I’m you in the future, the one who makes it out of this alive. I’m the one who gets off the ground, pulls herself together, and steps forward into the world. I’m the one who graduates high school, stops cutting herself, and stops wanting to die (well, most of the time, anyway). I’m the one who falls in love with boys who love her back, who goes on trips and adventures, who writes and reads and plays music and creates, who studies and works and drives and dreams.
I’m the one who spends years piecing together all the painful moments of our past, weaving them into a memoir of all that we went through. I’m the one who relives what you’re going through now in the hopes of sharing our story with the world, to bring new understanding to depression and anxiety disorder and the way mental health is treated.
Unfortunately, I’m also the one who has to put our opus aside when too many agents tell me I don’t have a big enough “platform” to have it published. (Don’t worry, you’ll learn what that word means soon enough, and you’ll come to hate it.) But when that happens, I don’t stop writing. I keep going and keep trying because that’s what I do. It’s what you’ll do too.
I won’t just tell you it gets better, because in some ways, it doesn’t. Our story remains untold. I still struggle with depressed and anxious thoughts. I continue to worry about the future, whether I matter, whether any of this matters. But I haven’t hurt myself in 10 years. I haven’t tried to end my life or even gotten close. I’ve learned how to cope with the worst of my dark thoughts and how to ask for help in a way that people will actually listen to.
I want you to know that this time in your life will end. You’ll leave the hospital, you’ll struggle at your new alternative high school at first, but eventually, you’ll find your way. You’ll graduate high school, then college, then grad school. You won’t find a job right away. At 27, that’s something you’re still figuring out. But you do have words. You always have words. You’ve written three novels and a memoir. You’ve written essays and articles, a few of which get published in semi-impressive places. You’ve started to share your story in whatever ways you can, and you try to stay hopeful that the memoir will someday find a home. The important thing is that you wrote it. The important thing is that you survived.
Feel the pain of these moments, but know that they will pass. The dream of sharing your story will come true, even if, as of now, it’s only with a few people.
Most importantly, you’ll soon know and feel like you aren’t alone. You’ll connect with people who relate to you, or at least try their very best to. You’ll see the stigma around mental illness slowly start to crumble, and you’ll find others who have been through what you’ve been though. And they’ll appreciate your courage in sharing your experiences.
You’ll remain determined even when the odds are against you. You’ll find strength where you thought there was none. And deep down, you’ll believe in yourself, even when your mind lies and tells you that you have no reason to.
You’ve already made it through so much, and you’ll make it through so much more. I promise.
All my love,