Category Archives: Mental health

Keep the spring

This post is another in my Love Letters to Strangers series, which I didn’t realize was a series until I knew I had to write this one. You can read the first here, although they stand alone.


Dear you,

I’m you, only I’ve been around the sun one more time than you have. I know you feel cheated that you’re getting a letter from yourself from only one year in the future, but frankly, take it up with the Bureau of Time Travel, bud. Oh, you can’t? It hasn’t been invented yet? Looks like you’re gonna have to deal. How unfortunate for you.

Well, not actually unfortunate. It’s true—I’m basically you with more facial hair and a dwindling supply of fucks. But I’m writing this for a reason, and the jokey nature of the above paragraph was because I know you wouldn’t take me seriously otherwise. You don’t take anyone seriously who takes themselves too seriously.

I know things like that, you know. I know you so well—the shape of your heartbeat and the sound of your tears, your first word and your last lie, who you’re angry with and why. And something I’m keenly aware of is that thing you’re burying and hiding and obfuscating beneath a Rube Goldberg machine of segues and smoke and jokes and mirrors.

Here is the deepest secret nobody knows: you don’t think you’ll ever be loved like you love.

Are you angry? That I’d acknowledge that, put it into words when you don’t even let yourself think about it too much? That I’d say it without sufficient warning? That I’d put it in public where someone else might see it and roll their eyes and look at you differently? That’s what you’re afraid of, after all—judgment. Beneath all else, this.

People are always going to judge you, buddy. But rarely like you think. Your mind goes from zero to catastrophe before your synapses can even transfer electricity. They think I’m the weirdest fucking person. They’re mad at me for talking or staying quiet or finding a nice in-between. They’re probably right to be upset, too—and god, what am I doing with my hands? Why does my voice sound all grating like that? Why did I leave the house when my hair’s a mess?

There’s a Mary Lambert song that goes, “I could make you happy / I could make you love me / I could disappear completely.” Listen to that for a second, okay? Hear that.

Even now, I don’t want to talk about this, not really—you can probably tell by my wandering subject matter. But sometimes we need to talk about what we don’t want to.

You conflate love with romance, whisk them together until the definitions are inseparable. You diminish the friendships you have—yes, those people are great, but they don’t count as love because of this (stupid, meaningless) reason. You think you’ve reached the quota of amazing people in your life, and none of them have loved you to the extent you’ve loved them, so what’s the point?

You’re scared because you’re eighteen and you’ve never had a boyfriend. You’re scared this is the way it’s always going to be. You’re scared.

I have news.

Later this year, you’ll get an idea for your next book. It’ll be about a boy who loves himself like he loves oxygen and a boy who thinks he doesn’t deserve love because his mental illness told him so. They’ll fall in love (of course—I mean this is a You Book let’s be real here). It’ll be from the point of view of the first boy, the one who loves every breath he can get, the one whose reality is so much more full of sunshine than yours you won’t think him realistic. And these boys are going to teach you something: you deserve love, and you deserve more than that, too.

Life is not something you sit back and wait for; life is something you happen to. The planet is your canvas, and you paint it with what lives in your mind. The stars are there for you to swallow whole.

You could limit yourself to love, sure. That’s not meant as a knock against people who want love above all else, either—for some people, that’s the most important thing. I’m not trying to pull an “I’m not most girls,” Cis Dude edition. I’m just going to explain to you why you want more.

You want more because you want happiness. You want health. You want friends you can prop yourself up against when you need them and when they need you. You want a career breaking and remaking worlds for young people. You want memories. You want family. You want learning. You want the way the cherry blossom tree in your front yard always blooms just in time for your birthday. You want to build as much as you can as well as you can with the little tiny slice of time you’re gifted. When your gift runs out, you want to have done enough. There is no enough—not for you—but you chase it every day.

Pablo Neruda wrote, “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.”

In this, my friend, you are not the flowers.

Love,

Me

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The life you save may be your own

[this blog post discusses suicide at length]

Because I am the world’s most teenager-y teenager, this is written with someone in mind and I’m not going to tell you who. I think other people might need to hear it too, though, with winter setting in and the holidays coming up and the year ending and all, so I’m posting it publicly.


 

Dear you,

Honesty is important, so I’ll be upfront: I took a good long time coming up with some great line to write here. I wanted it to be original, universal, specific, short, meaningful, something that would leave an impact. Of course that’s an entirely impossible sentence to construct, but I felt like you needed it. This is what I came up with, after much hand-wringing and reading aloud and backspacing and angst:

A bright world can be so hard to see, but you have to let your eyes adjust to the light.

I know how hard life has been for you. I know you feel like you are down to one percent. I’ve been where you are, when you’re trying and trying and trying to swim to shore but your arms get tired of pumping through saltwater and your brain is running out of reasons to keep going, stroke after stroke after stroke, and your eyes just want to shut for forever because they’re so tired of crying. So tired. You’re so tired.

But nothing in this universe is going to last forever—maybe not even the universe. And you can be scared by that; I think we all are. You can also be relieved. This—the shit you’re going through, the pain you feel, the way recovery seems like a concept created to mock you because you’ll never reach that place—won’t last forever. You just have to live to see what comes after.

Sure, maybe “you just have to live” is an understatement of how difficult living is for you right now. But you have to remember: you have never been anything but alive. You have no idea what a present-day without you is like.

A bright world can be so hard to see. I know. I didn’t used to see anything in color, just black and white. I came so close to dying—a day away. Twenty-four hours. For context, I was born over 6,750 days ago. More than 162,000 hours.

But the hours felt like months when I was in the murk and dark and blank of depression. So here’s what I did: I filled those hours.

I kept busy: homework, conversations, sleep, reading, writing, studying writing craft, studying biology. I was careful to be around people almost always. If I felt like I couldn’t get out of bed, I counted to ten as slowly as I needed. At each ten, I had to get up in some fashion—positioning myself to sit up, actually sitting up, a foot on the floor. If I didn’t move at each count of ten, I wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom for another two minutes.

Maybe not the healthiest, but the prospect of not being able to pee after waking up is terrifying.

I was always doing something—even if I had nothing that needed to be done, I would listen to music (no sad songs allowed). I would cook something small but multi-step.

I’d also make excuses for why I couldn’t die. I had a paper to co-write with my lab partner, and if I weren’t around she’d have to do it by herself, which wouldn’t have been fair. After the paper was done: my dog was sick and I had to make sure she got better, because she liked the way I brushed her fur better than anyone in my family. After my dog got better: it was almost Christmas and I couldn’t make our family’s favorite holiday painful for them, because they’d carry that around forever and wouldn’t want Christmas to be a sad occasion.

I made excuses every day until I didn’t need them anymore. And I don’t need them anymore. I never thought that would be something I’d be able to say. That I’d have reasons, not excuses.

You’re doing okay, I think, I hope. It’s difficult to tell because you exuded happiness before this and you still do now. I don’t know you all that well, so I can’t really figure out when your heart’s not in it and when it really is. But sometimes we slip on our climb upward, and when you do I want you to remember I barely know you and I wrote this for you. I want you to remember how many people you’ve helped. I want you to remember how smart, how brave, how beautiful we know you are.

Happiness is real. It exists. It comes and it goes but you’re going to find it. I promise.

So much love,

Me

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