I originally published this on my SFW blog last Fall, but didn’t realize I hadn’t shared it here as well.
CW: contains mentions of depression and suicide
Depression is notorious for killing your motivation and creativity, so a few weeks ago I was trying to force myself to do something, anything, to help get that ball rolling. I figured I would start with a quick Google search for writing prompts, and the first thing that popped out at me was a suggestion to write a letter to your ‘younger self’. I knew this was the one I wanted to do.
It wasn’t hard for me to decide which “younger me” I wanted to address.
I was 16. I felt so incredibly alone and hopeless. My parents hated me, my grandmother, who was all I had, was dying, the family who I’d been staying with not only asked me to leave but shamed the fuck out of me on my way out the door. I couldn’t see a way out. I’d quit school to take care of my grandmother, so I didn’t really even have any friends.
I was so alone.
My aunt (who was the one who kicked me out) had previously taken me to a counselor who demanded I be put on antidepressants, with no conversation with me at all, so here I was at 16 with a bottle of antidepressants I didn’t even I understand why I had. I felt ashamed, lost, scared, confused fucked up and unloved.
The only escape I saw was that stupid bottle of pills.
Thankfully, the dosage of the medication must have been pretty low because I fell asleep and woke up throwing up and continued to do so for the entire next day. I’d never been so sick. I didn’t go to the doctor, I didn’t tell anyone. My grandmother was home but she had no idea.
I hated myself more than ever. I was so ashamed. I berated and scolded myself because my grandmother could have found me on the floor and how terribly selfish was that of me to do to her. I felt like a failure because I’d failed. I couldn’t even watch a medication commercial on TV without getting nauseated for years after that, the guilt was so deeply embedded in me.
I’m almost 36 now. I’m a mother, a woman with life experience, yet I don’t feel very removed from that sad lonely little girl I was. That lessened when I wrote this letter.
The words spilled out as fast as the tears streamed down my face. I told that little girl everything that I know now was what I needed to hear then. It was the most powerful thing I’ve ever written, to me obviously, it was the epitome of a personal project.
I cried for close to an hour writing this letter. I felt so emotional and raw. Like ripping off old band-aids that took chunks of skin with them. It felt like a necessary hurt.
Once I shook off the initial emotional turbulence that accompanied this feat, I felt really fucking proud of myself. I felt like I do when I help someone else, or am kind to a stranger. I think it was the first time I had ever, really, shown myself kindness.
I couldn’t wait to tell my therapist the next day. I took it in with me, excited to show her and she asked me to read it to her instead.
Reading that letter out loud was so much harder than I was prepared for. Speaking those words made my voice crack and I had to take breaks because I was sobbing uncontrollably. It was the most (non chemically enhanced) cathartic experience I have ever had.
I know my letter isn’t going to move anyone else, it isn’t meant to. I wrote it for a teenage me. I include it here, however, as an example because I think everyone should do this. There is a reason therapists suggest it. It can be a pretty powerful tool for self forgiveness, I found. It certainly wasn’t a magic fix, but I feel like it cracked through a little bit of my self-loathing and allowed me to let in a little kindness and patience and that is a pretty damn big deal to me.
I would never have said these things about myself, bragged about my positive qualities, carried on about how cool my life is, but extending that kindness to a broken little girl was effortless and that taught me a lot.
Write your letters, share them if you’re comfortable. I would love to hear your letters and your stories behind them!
Oh, Nikki. I know it seems really dark right now and you are struggling. I know you cannot imagine getting through this pain and loneliness, but you will. You will get through it and you will shine. It’s not all going to be easy and you’re going to struggle. You’ll make mistakes and you’ll learn and adapt.
Don’t worry about the kids who snub you and say nasty things to you because their parents have money and yours don’t. They really don’t know any better, and I promise you the girls you envy now with the seemingly perfect lives, they are the most basic of the basic.
Wanna hear something funny?
One of them gets knocked up by the gym teacher. Seriously. They still live in that same small town, their highlights include heading up the PTA, bringing snacks to the baseball games then home to their miserable marriages.
You’re a fucking artist. Someday pretty soon, you’re going to spend a year or so in a couple different states expressing yourself in anyway you can find. Some healthy and some not so healthy, but you’ll manage. You will dance and even get paid to sing!
You are going to grow older and make people feel more confident and better about their appearances for at least 15 years! Spoiler alert: it feels fantastic! Like reversing years of negativity and hate and replacing it with care and kindness and creativity.
You’re going to go to art school and educate yourself in digital photography and design. You’re going to grow as a person the more you learn about creating your own art. You’re going to create so many beautiful things! I am so excited for you.
You’re going to have two awesome, brilliant children that you won’t even be able to imagine your life without. You’ll also enjoy being a soccer mom, but a being a tattooed soccer mom is so much cooler than it sounds, trust me.
You’re going to end up with a brilliant, supportive, loving, loyal man. A man you deserve to have in your life for the first time.
He’s going to help you heal in ways you never knew possible and hold your hand and provide you with a safe space while you break free of the mess and discover who you really want to be. You’re going to embrace your body and feel confident as a woman. You’ll end up with some pretty hot tattoos and rad pink hair at some point. Well, a lot of points. Pink hair is lots of fun, but I digress.
You’re a fucking bad ass chick for hanging on and fighting even though it feels like you’re all alone. I know you recently tried to give up and I am so happy you failed. I know it is so hard without any support system. You won’t be alone forever, that I know for certain.
You are going to get through things you never thought you could. You’ll come out the other side wiser and stronger. It will get better, Nikki, I can promise you that.
I know nobody has ever told you how beautiful you are. They’ve never given you hope for the future. They’ve never told you how much better the world is with you in it.
It IS though. The world is lucky to have you. You matter. You’re going to grow up and be a remarkable woman. You are going to be a fierce loving mother who is making up for generations of awful. It ends with you and that’s something you will be so damn proud of one day.
I know no one is telling you this, and they should be, but I love you. I LOVE YOU! It’s not your fault you got dealt a shit hand, but girl, you eventually learn how to play that mother fucker and win.