Dear 15 year old me,
Now that 9 years have passed and I feel older and wiser, I wish that you could see what I see.
It must be about the time you were diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder. Your life will be filled with psychiatric nurses and therapists. I remember so vividly the feeling of being anxious and tired all the time, as that was when I was at my worst and it was so scary. Being in a constant state of anxiety is exhausting and depressing, but when it’s finally time to go to bed you are too scared to close your eyes and fall asleep in case you have the night terrors and wake up screaming like you so frequently do.
I wish you could see what I see now. I wish you could see that one day everything will be okay. Maybe then, you won’t feel so anxious all the time.
It seems hard to go to school now. They will tell you you’re not good enough and that your life will forever be defined by your severe mental health illness. They’ll tell you that you won’t make it to college, let alone university. But I’m telling you, you’ll do it. You’ll show them. Those few teachers that believe in you are right, you are brave and you are strong. You’ll pass all your exams and move on to college. College will be tricky to start with, your anxiety will still be taking a crippling hold of you, but you will get through it and you will go to university. Don’t you dare listen to those people who tell you that you can’t.
You will learn in a few years time, once everyone’s lives become adult and hectic, that some school friendships will fizzle out. Some you will miss and some you will realise weren’t friends in the first place. Teenage girls can be cruel, but life goes on after school. Those rumours of teen pregnancy, when you were really missing school because the doctor had signed you off because of your panic attacks, will soon be forgotten. You know the truth, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you. In a few weeks time, no one will even remember.
Boys. Oh boy, boys are a big part of your teen years. You will soon start to realise who is good for you and who is poisonous. You’ll begin to realise how much you are worth and that you deserve someone who can see that. In fact, in just under two years you will meet ‘the one’. He will make you feel safe and loved. You will finally be able to sleep without fearing the nightmares, as he will be right there next to you. He will support you through everything; no matter how ‘weird’ you think you are when you’re anxious. He’ll be there, no matter what. One day, you’ll see him looking at you over his shoulder with a tear in his eye as you walk down the aisle and you’ll know what true, unconditional love feels like. And it’s amazing.
Your little sister is your bestest friend. Yes there’s almost 9 years between you, but she is watching everything you do. Trust me. As she reaches her teens, you’ll need to guide and support her, because you have the experience to teach her all you know about boys, exams and life in general. As she grows into a beautiful young lady, you will feel so proud of her. And don’t worry, one day she’ll finally let you do her makeup! In fact, when she reaches 15 she will be better at makeup than you are at 24, not even kidding.
Self-care is so important. Don’t stay up at all hours revising for your exams and don’t push yourself too hard. You need to look after your mind as well as your body. Self-care also includes not obsessing over your weight; eat a piece of cake girl! As long as you are as healthy as possible, don’t restrict yourself from enjoying life. Treat yourself every once in a while.
Your anxiety will not always have a power over your life. It might feel like it now and I know you are currently feeling like nothing will help you, but trust me you’ll eventually be able to control it. I’m not going to lie, some days will be harder than others. Sometimes you will feel like the whole world is caving in but then sometimes you’ll feel almost ‘normal’ and you’ll surprise yourself. You might have to get help again, but that’s okay. Getting help does not mean you are weak and it does not mean you are giving up. It means you are taking back control and looking after your well-being.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, keep going. One day, you will realise how far you’ve come and you’ll be glad you did it. You’ll be proud that you pushed through and didn’t let your mental illness define your life for the past 9 years. Even if you do have to get help again along the way, you won’t give up.
Oh, I wish you could see what I can see.
“Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on, but you keep going anyway.”