Letters 2017

INSPIRATIONAL LETTERS FROM OUR BURSARY APPLICANTS

As part of our Janice Lee Blue Wave bursary, applicants are asked to write a letter to a teenager struggling with a mental health or substance use problem, as they were at the beginning of their journey. They are asked to share what they have learned about their experience, including what has helped them the most to have hope for the future.

We were so impressed with the letters we have been receiving that we wanted to share them with you here. We are publishing them anonymously but each letter is from a different BC youth. As you can see the letters are heartfelt and inspiring, showing us that young people can and do get better, even when they have hit ‘rock bottom’.

Writing a letter can be a great way to get thoughts and feelings into perspective, whether you are in the grip of a mental health or substance use problem, recovering from one, or looking back on the experience. If you want to write your own letter to share with other young people, please send it into us and we would be happy to publish it on our website.

Please note that the content below discusses the following topics: abuse, anxiety disorders, dissociation, depression, eating disorders, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, self-injury and suicide.
Dear You,

Once I became a teenager I realized that I was always upset, and I got mad very easily. I was so upset with myself because I couldn’t figure out how to make all of this stop. Once I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and minor depression my doctor prescribed me with some antidepressants and gave me a counsellor to talk to. I have learned that it is okay to be on medication if that is what will help you. It doesn’t matter what other people think. Do what makes you happy. I have learned that having anxiety is very common, and that it is nothing to be ashamed of. Many different things have helped me have hope for my future. My mom has stuck by my side and encouraged me to do my best no matter what. She has taught me how to breathe and remove myself from bad situations. I have learned and understood how to remove toxic people from my life so that I can be happy. The most important thing to remember is to never give up on yourself because everyone has rough times in their lives. Everything will get better. Learning how to breathe properly is something that gives me hope for my future. It sounds silly saying you need to learn how to breathe properly but it is true. There is breathing super fast and giving yourself more anxiety, and there is breathing slowly and calmly. I hope this letter has helped you understand a bit of my life, and some tips on how to deal with anxiety.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Everyone in life struggles with sadness at times. Some more than others. But not everyone can deal with coming to the realization they need help. I had struggled for years with first anxiety, and then depression. I knew many friends and my parents would be more than happy to help me through, however, I was too embarrassed and ashamed to ask. I found myself in a dark place very often and found myself contemplating suicide. At this time, I had had enough. I hated how I felt all the time, and I didn’t want to feel this way anymore. I broke down and told my mom everything. Since then, I have been seeing a doctor and been on anti-depressants. It has taken a long time for me to get to the point where I can talk to others about my experiences and can openly ask for help when needed. Depression shows up in many different ways, and some people experience stronger symptoms than others, but don’t let anyone tell you it is just a phase and you are overreacting. You know your body and if you believe that getting help would be beneficial, then do it! Many people think that if you have depression, you are weak and don’t deserve to be treated any differently. You may not want to be treated differently, but there are people and places that can help.  One thing I found that really helped me was hiking. Hiking gave me a break from the hustle and bustle of life, and I had some time to relax—plus exercise is good for mental health and you sleep better too! So find what you love and make time to do what you love to clear your mind! And don’t forget to reach out to family or friends; they can be such a source of support. My hope for you is that you can find the strength to keep living and to fight for your happiness!

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Life can throw a lot of things at you, and people will expect you to just get on with it, because that’s how the human race works. We ignore our feelings and just move on. Not everybody can do that. I know I couldn’t. You can think that you are weak and fragile, and you don’t know why. You can think that you are on a lower level than everybody else and that you are not worth listening to. You can think that you are worthless and become ashamed of yourself. When you reach out for comfort, people will tell you “everybody feels that way sometimes!’ or “you just need to get over it and move on with your life.” None of that is helpful. It will never be helpful. If you have experienced mental illness and eating disorders, know that not everybody deals with that. To look at your struggle from an outsider’s perspective, and to see how difficult it truly looks, you can see how strong you are in facing these obstacles. You will grow to have so many skills that many people your age do not have. People will say that it is a shame you have matured so fast, but why? You have had so much happen in such a short amount of time. That is so special, you are so special. You will eventually smash your way past everything keeping you from doing what you want to do, because other things will seem so miniscule compared to everything else you have witnessed. You can do anything, experience anything. You carry the strength of a thousand other people that have not had the life you have had. All of those ideas have helped me get to where I am today, and I know they can help you too. Pay attention to the things you love. When bad things happen, bury yourself in those things. Nobody knows you like you know you. Nobody knows how to take care of you like you know how to take care of you.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Nobody understands the challenges of depression and anxiety mixed together. At one moment I’m too tired to get to school but then this triggers my anxiety that if I don’t go I will get bad marks. The depression affects my sleep, eating and my relationships with others. People say they understand but then I get asked to perform or do things when I am exhausted.

Having a supportive family, self-care plan, and setting realistic expectations for myself has made a huge difference in my coping. What has helped me the most is the medication, caring family, family who don’t put expectations on me when I’m exhausted, and being active in my culture. Having family or friends around me and who make me laugh is great medicine.

Sincerely,

Me
 
Dear You,

It is going to be okay. I never believed those words but they are true. I never thought that it was going to get any better but gradually you will feel better and more like yourself. Although, don’t beat yourself up if you need to take a day for you. Relax and give your brain a rest. In my experience; reaching out for help and being diagnosed was the hardest part. It felt like something was wrong with me, I felt guilty and embarrassed for having these emotions. Now knowing what i do, I never should have felt that way. I was surrounded by people who love me and support systems that wanted to help me recover. I had to confront; self-doubt, insecurities, paranoia, depression, lack of motivation, and a general sense of hopelessness. I have learned so much about myself from tackling these challenges. I am stronger than I think. I am loved and important (even if sometimes it seems untrue). I’ve also learned things that go deeper than the surface. Self-care is extremely important. No matter what, health comes first, and mental health is just as valid. It is okay to get help and it’s not a shameful act. Never judge someone else based on what you see and hear. There could be a lot going on in their life that doesn’t show day to day. Be kind to everyone, it might help someone more than you think. The future used to look very bleak for me, I couldn’t see anything except the life I had at that time. It was frightening and intimidating, but with the use of therapy and medication I have started to see more opportunities for myself. I didn’t think I would get past grade ten, and now I’m being admitted to UBC science. Anything is possible and it’s irrational to base your entire life on whatever is happening right now.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

The biggest struggle I faced with depression is indifference. It wasn’t that I didn’t have likes and dislikes–I wrote a lot of short stories and articles and I loved playing in band. Even though I liked these things, I never ultimately felt enjoyment out of them. I didn’t know that when something good happened, that it was supposed to come with a warm glow, with butterflies, that being awarded a Daily Deviation was supposed to make me feel anything other than null. Somehow, I had managed to spend up to my grade eleven year like an ocean buoy–in a state of waves that made no real difference if I stayed afloat or not. I was emotionally afloat, but I was not swimming. I didn’t know I could swim. It’s hard to know you’re even down when you’re down. There comes a point where you’ve been low for so long you become ignorant to emotion. In one way, it was terrifying to know that after starting counselling to think that there are so many things to feel–how you could be so happy that smiling gives your stomach cramps and makes your cheeks burn like the sun; how when you cry it hurts a little more, but it no longer defeats your will to live. My second biggest struggle was realising something was wrong. Depression killed me in a way I didn’t know it could. It snuffed out the fire in my belly and it did it so slowly that I didn’t know I was dying and couldn’t conceive its impact when I realised it was. After months of counselling, looking back on how I felt on a regular basis, it’s shocking to see a different person. There is no shame in getting a counsellor and there is no shame in being screened even if you don’t feel “depressed enough” as I did. If you feel you might need help, get help – it’s worth it.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I was there too once; I wish I had someone that understood as well. People probably act like they know how you feel but you think they don’t, but you know what? I know how you feel. I wish though I was stronger when I felt what you are feeling now, but it’s not late for you, you can still be strong and in fact, be STRONGER. Whatever and whomever that’s bothering you right now won’t matter some time from now, it really won’t; trust me, I know.  You should live your life how you want to and live like you’re the only person in the world. It’s easier said than done, I know. Nobody said life would be easy, that’s why we don’t pray for an easy life, we pray for the strength to endure a difficult one. The only person that had truly helped and impacted me with this depression was myself. I realized that everyone has a choice. You can choose to be happy, you can choose to be sad, and you can choose to let what others say and do get to you. It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly I chose to let it go and get over it. I chose to move on. It was the best decision I ever made, and you should try it. It let me get this weight off my chest, letting me breathe again and ultimately letting me live.  Life only gets better when you let it. So hey, why not?

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Do you struggle to remember how, why, and when this all began for you? I know I do. People ask me if there was a specific thing, a specific moment, which triggered the chain of ill events that soon became the entirety of my life. Honestly, I think it was just an accumulation of my more than soap-opera-worthy-life. I was consumed in my depression, anxiety, dissociation, self-harm, and—above all—my mood instability. I began to fall out of place in the world around me, and quickly I became my illness. I thought: “What is wrong with me?”, “Who am I?”, and “What is the point?”—and soon—”This is never going to end”. I attempted suicide three times during the span of three years and was admitted to hospitals and psychiatric units on numerous occasions throughout high school. I attended hardly any of my classes and soon I became socially nonexistent. I still have trouble fitting in, and it’s hard for me to talk about it. But this does not have to be your experience! You can get through this, and the earlier you address your issues the faster and better you will recover. I tried to get better on my own, I didn’t trust anyone, and I pushed away every person who tried to help or get close to me. But now, I know who my real friends are, and I’ve become much more successful in school and in general life with the help of medications and therapy. Just please find someone, anyone to help. Your pain is real, but hope is too. Find a way to use your “illness” to your advantage. From anxiety comes the virtue of care. From depression comes the virtue of compassion. Remember, many of the most successful and kind people once struggled with mental illness. I promise you can do it too.

Always keep fighting.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I heard that you are struggling. No one understands how you feel, you find yourself being constantly on the verge of tears, you have no motivation for anything, and you can’t find the words to even describe how alone you feel. Is that it? I felt the exact same way, so you are not alone.

I know how you feel. You’re scared to reach out. I was too, but I guarantee it is the best decision that you can possibly make. It’s a jump and it will take work, but you don’t have any idea how strong you really are. I definitely didn’t think I had the strength to reach out, but I did.  People are there to help and you are not being “self-centred” or “annoying” for talking about how you really feel. You may be afraid of your family not understanding. They will and if they don’t they will try harder than you think to grasp what you are going through. What you’re going through is not your fault and nothing to be ashamed of.

Getting the help you need may take time but once you find a therapist or counsellor you ‘click’ with, it becomes easier to explain what’s going on in your head. The first one you talk to might not be the one but try your best not to get discouraged. Once you take a screening test or get a diagnosis you will surprisingly feel at ease because you will be reassured that what is going on for you is real and not just your imagination. Having a confirmed diagnosis will also help immensely in next steps towards getting better.

Talking to a stranger about what is going on for you may feel uncomfortable and you may be worried that they will judge you. They won’t. They are there to help and if you try not to ‘sugar-coat’ how you feel, you will find that you will get the help you need.

Keep your chin up and realize that life is just getting started! Things will turn around!

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Mental illness is never your fault. That is the first thing I had to learn after my diagnosis. I have learned about life and people and stigmas around mental illness from my own experience with mental illness. It is not easy in the beginning, it never is, and I’m sure you know that. But there is something very special about people who struggle with mental illness; they are kind, understanding, and empathetic people that know what it’s like to endure personal strife. In my eyes, mental illness never takes away from the person you are, it only adds to my appreciation for what you have had to endure. You are strong. Each person and each situation is unique, and neither I nor anyone else can say we have struggled more or less than you. Mental illness affects everyone differently. Mental illness and its treatments are not one-size-fits-all. I wish that there was a golden piece of advice I could give to you to fix it all. But if there were one thing I could pass on it would be, you have to be in charge of the illness. You can never let it be in charge of you. Use resources that are available to you, parents, teachers, counsellors, youth workers, doctors. They are there to help you. Find comfort in things you love to do, find healthy outlets for your illness. And please, always trust and find comfort in those you love.  Mental illness in any form, on any spectrum, in any situation is not easy to cope with, but those of us who have learned to cope are strong, and when we are strong we have to help others. We have to help each other through these hard times, we have to learn empathy. Mental illness is sometimes described as an invisible sickness, but it doesn’t have to be treated as if it is. I believe that you are stronger than your illness, and you will succeed in overcoming it.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I was in your shoes once and I understand what you are going through. This is a difficult battle you are facing but I know that you are strong enough to overcome it. Eating disorders are terrible and affect the brightest and bravest people‒but there is hope! There are going to be good days and bad days. Some days you will question if all of this is even worth it. I am here to tell you that it is. Recovery is worth it and you are so worth it. No matter what the voice inside your head tells you, you deserve recovery. It is 110% possible. Every day, every meal, every snack, one bite at time is another step forward in the right direction. It is important to be gentle with yourself and trust those who are helping you. They really just want the best for you. It will be hard and feel uncomfortable but you have to trust the process. Some days you may feel like giving up but you have to keep fighting. There will be slips and bumps along the way and it might feel like you are falling back to old habits. You just have to pick yourself up and keep going. Other people want the best for you but ultimately this is your journey and your recovery. You have to want it for yourself, more than anyone else. And let me tell you being able to laugh again, go out with friends, enjoy family gatherings is something I would never trade again for an eating disorder. There is so much more to life and it is out there waiting for you! That voice inside is lying to you. You deserve so much more than anything your eating disorder could ever give to you. I have learnt through my own journey that people love you for who you are on the inside and that is what really matters.

Keep on fighting because I believe in you. And soon you will be able to have a taste of life, a taste of freedom.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Life has so many challenges that vary from person to person. Right now, whether it’s your social life, your future, your purpose in life, or your living situation that might seem like a dim light or a dead end to you. Just remember that you are never alone in your struggle and there is always help waiting for you. When I became depressed, it was like I was a completely different person. I constantly felt like it was impossible to leave the situation I was placed in without the only option being suicide. Every day would feel like the same boring day on repeat. I became so ‘inside my head’ I lost the concept of having a social life, friendships, and empathy. My life spiralled downward and I was constantly in a dissociative state that left me extremely suicidal. When I felt my most low I was able to turn my life around and take control on what I wanted to do in life even when I had that feeling that was impossible. I started to attend school again, make friends, be myself, and I continue to grow more confidence every day. I still struggle with some of my mental illness but what I’ve learned from those experiences is that mental illness can be ugly but it doesn’t define who you are. The most important thing I learned is that I was able to fight through it all and that I survived. It gave me the sense to try new things that scare me and to keep looking forward to new challenges. I feel proud of myself that I can now look back on old problems/struggles and laugh them off because I can think clearly that those were just silly things I didn’t really need to have anxiety over.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I have heard that you are struggling with depression right now and that things are not going so well for you. I know how you’re feeling, I was once there, and I too have struggled with depression. I want to tell you about what I learned during my most turbulent times. In the beginning it will seem like you are alone, almost as if being locked in a dark, cold room with no place to escape. The pain will feel endless and impossible to get rid of. But you must know none of this is true. There will always be people here to help you; you will never have to fight any of this on your own, as long as you’re willing to receive the help. And when things get hard and scary, which they will, remember to never give up. Pound that thought into your head. Because everything you are experiencing right now, all the pain and fear is temporary. But killing yourself, giving up on those who care for you, giving up on those who love you and giving up on your own life can never be reversed. It’s a final decision with no rewind button. I know you can win this battle. Because I’ve felt what you are feeling, I’ve lived what you are living and I won.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

If you’re reading this it’s most likely because you are struggling with mental health.  Well I’m here to try to give you some guidance on how to push through because I’ve been where you are. I’m just going to give a quick summary of my life and where I am today to begin. I started to get bullied at a very young age which made me begin homeschooling. Soon after I lost my biggest supporters, the people that raised me, my nana and papa.  Once starting high school, I was introduced to a drug that made all my problems obsolete, pot.  Little did I know this made my anxiety and depression way worse. Now as I am typing this, I am 16 years old and graduating a full year early from high school. In the fall I plan to attend university. Now that you know a little about my life story, you can see that things get better. I can’t stress that enough to young teens struggling with their mental health. I’ll admit when I was battling addictions I didn’t believe it either but you just have to push through, and I guarantee you there is a light at the end of the tunnel. What has helped me most to have hope in the future?  Goals. As cheesy as it sounds, achieving goals is one of the most rewarding things out there. My goal a year ago was to graduate high school a full year early, I’m now accomplishing that goal and I can’t even begin to explain how good I feel about that. Something else that has helped me to have hope is knowing my nana and papa are looking down on me from up there.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

First, know that you are not alone. There are countless other people going through something very similar to what you are. You are not weird, and you are definitely not crazy. Think of it this way‒some people have heart troubles, some people have allergies, and some people have brain troubles; it’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, because no one is perfect! Which brings me to my second word of advice…don’t keep it a secret! If you are in pain or struggling with an emotional or mental disability, don’t do it alone. There are countless parents, school counsellors, teachers, and doctors out there who can help. It may seem scary, but I promise, it is so much easier to deal with a mental disorder if you have assistance. You will even meet people in the same circumstance! There is always someone who will be ready to understand and help you. Third, be open to medication prescribed by a doctor. It doesn’t change who you are, it just makes you more capable of dealing with stress. I promise, it makes a world of difference. Don’t be afraid of change; you will always be you, but you can also be a happier you, too! Everyone needs a little help sometimes! Fourth, don’t give up. OCD is different for everyone, and it can take a while to find something that will help you overcome it. Stick with things, take the advice of professionals, and try different methods. If you want to overcome it, you will! Just remember that doing it alone can be difficult, but with help, anything is possible. If you’re trying to make progress, then you probably are. If you simply want to improve, then you’ve already taken the first step. Lastly, remember that it gets better. Take it from someone who’s had it bad; everything improves if you give it enough time. Stay positive, and hang in there!

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

In the beginning I had a rough time accepting that I was diagnosed with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). I let the label consume me and control me. One of the things that helped me was having support from family. My family helped me with understanding what FASD was and helping me cope with it. I had people say to me many times that just because you have a mental illness doesn’t mean that you can’t still succeed, you’re still the same person before you had a diagnosis. I didn’t understand that at first because I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I had trouble understanding what was being taught in school and I also had low concentration capacity. I learned different ways to learn and took breaks during class so I didn’t get overwhelmed and frustrated. There are many ways of figuring out a situation. You just have to find what’s right for you. It took me time to figure out mine but that doesn’t mean it won’t come. What kept me going was that one day I would be able to go to post-secondary like everyone else, to work and do what I want to do instead of what someone else want me to do. I always had someone tell me what I had to do because they thought I wasn’t able to do it. I didn’t want that happening anymore so I told myself, “I’m going to be normal and show everyone that I can be just like them and succeed”. I still am challenged in certain areas of learning but I don’t let that stop me from doing what I want.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

It does get better; the sadness does end even though you are positive it won’t.  Look around you, but really look, see the people and their thoughts, how your words can affect them, how they would miss those words if you were not here. You have so much more to offer the world than you think; there are endless opportunities for someone as strong as you to accomplish great things. Even if that great thing is getting out of bed and getting dressed‒you’ve accomplished self-love. Before you can let anyone help you, you must first help yourself. One must be willing to accept their drawbacks and accept help to move forwards. You are enough.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I know what you’re going through right now. Right now, it feels like there couldn’t be a single person in the world going through the same thing.  Trust me, I’ve been there.  During my battle with anxiety and anorexia, I completely isolated myself from everything and everyone that I loved. People wondered where I had gone, and why I seemingly abandoned everyone without explanation. One thing I learned from this time was there is not a lot of understanding for mental illnesses. I am working super hard right now to make sure people like you know that you’re not alone, and help is available. Utilize all of the resources that are available to you. I owe a large portion of my recovery to my incredible therapist, but finding the right help is also a necessary component of recovery. I had to try a few different resources before I found what worked for me and that’s okay. I also learned that mental illnesses look different on everyone. People did not know what I was going through, so I learned the importance of being kind to everyone, because we have no idea what kind of problems someone is facing. But there is hope, and copious amounts of it. Mindfulness is truly the key to success, and I learned to just check in with myself several times a day. How was I feeling?  Know your limits, but also know when to push your boundaries, and surround yourself with people who will support and love you, but also push you when you can’t push yourself. It gets better, it always does. Having gone through what I thought at the time was the end of my life, and survived it to tell the tale, I can tell you that this is going to shape who you are, and you control your future. No one else is going to live your life for you; you are in the driver’s seat. Keep your head up.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

During the worst of my anorexia, my eating disorder (ED) was a separate, controlling entity. When I weighed less than I had when I was 11, I could feel my authentic self weep with fear, even while my ED gloated in triumph. Living like this, without a connection to my true values, was like treading water. I could stay afloat, but the ED was constantly threatening to pull me under the moment my energy wavered.

To all those who are feeling this way, I have one message for you: accept the life savers that are being tossed your way. Trust me, I know this is hard. If you are anything like me, your ED will refuse aid for as long as possible because it knows that help will lessen its power. Yes, you will be vulnerable. In fact, vulnerability will become so commonplace that you will learn to find strength in it. This is one of the greatest lessons that I have learned from my ED: our deepest personal insights can only be gained during times of vulnerability. I am grateful every day for the discoveries that I made amidst a face full of tears.

Next, allow yourself to hope. While your life may seem directionless now, if you embrace vulnerability and the discoveries that accompany it, you will develop a greater understanding of yourself. With this awareness acting as a compass, you will experience the solidity you are so desperate for. Today, I can differentiate between unrealistic ideals and my true ambitions.  My authentic values have emerged from the blurry edges of my former self-hate, and with a firm footing, I can function in social settings without paranoia.

To thrive in life we must be able to see who we really are. Even so, we can only uncover our true selves if we persevere through hardships. For this reason, I urge you to accept the life savers thrown your way.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I know right now it feels like the end, or like nothing. Every day feels like you’re caught in a current. Some days you feel weaker than others, like you might slip under and you just want it all to disappear. I guess you should know you aren’t alone. I’ve been where you are. I know it’s easier to not talk about it, to pretend it isn’t really happening, but it is and the longer you hide it the worse it gets. I know because that’s what I did. It felt easier to say “I’m fine” or “I’m just tired”, than to actually express it, I didn’t want it to be real, so for a long time I didn’t talk about it or ask for help, because I didn’t want it to be really happening. Trust me this gets you nowhere. It just builds up until it one day it explodes, and that day isn’t pretty. I’ve learned that it’s ok to ask for help, and it may be one of the hardest things you do, but the moment you do it gets easier. Opening up becomes more natural, and instead of having it weigh you down, it becomes lighter. It isn’t always going to be okay and that’s ok. This may always be a part of you but it doesn’t define you. You are much more than your mental health. I know it’s easy in those worst moments to want to hurt yourself, and to use whatever substance you can to feel something again, but you have to fight it, and I know you can, because you’re a fighter. I know you are because you fight it every day, and each day you keep going, you’re winning a battle. I know that right now it feels impossible to overcome, but it’s the hardest experiences we learn and grow from, and you will. Remember that the future is unknown to all, and though that’s terrifying, it’s also exciting and the surprise of it gives me hope.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

The most important lesson I have learned in my time is that life will never be all sunshine and rainbows. As one of my favourite poets, Sarah Kay, once said “Life will hit you hard in the face, wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.” Growing up, figuring out what you want to do with your life and how you’re going to do it is a huge struggle on its own. On top of that, you have life throwing hard times at you over and over again and it becomes exhausting. My advice to you is to take those hard times and find inspiration in them. With all that you’ve gone through, you have a right to be upset, but never let the experiences you’ve had in your life control your future. Seek help and you’ll feel better than you believe you’re capable of. I never would have thought that struggling with mental illness, abuse, and witnessing my own mother live with schizophrenia and use drugs would be exactly what let me to finding a career I’m passionate about. I believe you can do the same. You have to accept the helping hands that are being offered to you. Whether you believe it or not, there are so many people in your life that love you unconditionally and could not imagine a world where they don’t get to see your beautiful face every day. I know everything feels so hopeless right now but just hold on, because life is a rollercoaster ride and you may feel like you’re falling but the climb is close ahead. I love you. Don’t you ever give up on yourself.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I know you feel embarrassed to be in the hospital, I know you think you can recover on your own, and I know you don’t mind being the same thin girl who is fatigued all the time, forever.  But at the meantime, you are tired of caring about every single detail, especially about the copious amount of hair that falls out as you brush your hair, or how much you should eat today. I am writing you this letter to reassure you that this does not have to be permanent. Everyone used to tell me that “it gets better” and I believed them. However, two months, four months, and soon half a year had passed and nothing really changed. Every night I wished that the next morning I would wake up healthy with no disordered thoughts in my mind, but I hardly noticed any improvement. I hope you would understand what I wish I knew at the beginning of my journey—nobody recovers overnight. Rather, recovery is like a baby learning how to walk up the stairs: slow, but every step counts. For me, whether it is a meal at a restaurant or a sleepover with my friends, every step is a mark on the stone that reminds me how much I’ve gone through. It reminds me why I began my journey and with the same reason why I have to keep moving forward. In the beginning, I was disappointed with myself, but I realized that hospitalization has taught me more valuable lessons that I would have ever encountered in any other situations. Remember: Nobody is perfect, but everyone is special. Mental illness is not our flaw; it is an opportunity for us to understand ourselves and to become a much stronger person. It is important to embrace recovery and accept anything that happens during recovery. You need to try. Fail and try again. You need patience. You need perseverance. One day you will be proud of yourself.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I know you’re afraid. I know that you feel undeserving of life. The last time you’ve felt happy feels like ages ago. In fact, you wonder if you’ve ever felt happy in your life. Nothing gives you pleasure anymore. You back away from your friends, you stop talking to your family, and you start missing school. You isolate yourself because you feel unworthy of anyone’s time. You isolate yourself because you feel like a burden. Sometimes, death feels like the only way to remove all your pain and I know it is difficult to feel the way you do.

You don’t deserve to feel this way. You deserve to receive help. I know that it may make you feel like an attention seeker or like a burden to others, but please, you’re not. Living doesn’t have to equal suffering, and getting treatment is only fair to you.

I know because I went through a hard time dealing with OCD and depression too. No matter what others told me, I felt that the future wasn’t worth living for. Medications took forever to work. A good psychiatrist took forever to find. However, I’ve seen the difference it makes when you do find the perfect medication and psychiatrist for you. It will make you feel so much better.

I wish I could be beside you to listen, to tell you I care, to tell you that you’re very brave, to give you a reassuring hug, and to tell you everything will be okay. This journey takes time. It takes tears, heartache, sweat, and so much effort. Although it seems impossible right now, things can and will get better. You are worth the fight. I have hope for the future because I know that when I’m at rock bottom, change can only go in the upwards direction.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Life is hard. It is. That’s a fact, and you’re not wrong for thinking so. There are times where it seems hopeless, like it’s impossible, like there’s no point. And that’s fair, too; life can get to a point where that’s the only thing you can feel. I’ve felt that. I’ve felt that far more often and far worse than most. And yet I’m still here—why?

It’s a question I’ve asked myself more often than I’d like. I’ve always wondered how people just survive with life like this. It took me a long time to realize what the point of it all is, and I hope I can help you find your purpose in less time than I.

I’ve found that there are certain things in life we work towards, certain things we strive for, and those are the things that make life worth living. I’ve found a few of these things, and they have helped keep me going—I’ve written a novel (soon to be re-written), a dozen short stories, I’m programming a video game, and I’m working on my education to get where I want in life. These are all things that make me happy. Despite all the bad stuff that happens in my life, I have these things to look forward to.

Now, it often seems like the bad outweighs the good, almost that the world is conspiring against you. Sometimes that’s true. No matter what you have going for you, it seems like there’s something there to take it away. But you must keep fighting, because the good things in life never magically appear. If you succumb to the way you think life has to be, it will end up that way. But if you instead fight for the things that bring you happiness, stand up every time you fall down and hold on against all odds, you can rise above all the problems that seem so impossible, and get to where you want to be in life—if you fight, you can win. You will win.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Throughout my life’s journey the adversities and experiences I went through allowed me to mature and develop into who I am today. During my grade 11 year, my father died by suicide, which became the most traumatizing and metamorphic experience of my life. I was depressed for countless months and lost all motivation through everything I did. During these months of grievance, I reflected on decisions I had made throughout my life. And at such a young age, I concluded that through misfortune there are always powerful lessons to be learned. Thanks to him, I went through a dynamic change in my grade 12 year. Through his passing, it served as a catalyst to give me the motivation to succeed. My inclination to prosper guided me to develop a sense of insight and maturity, which altered my whole perception and approach towards life. Experiencing such adversity taught me about the world and that when I eventually overcome a new obstacle, I slowly become more sensible which allows me to cherish every moment. Due to the difficulties of the world, in order to obtain my desires I must persevere as well as be readily available to take risks to strive for success. Simply put, my goals have helped me have hope for the future. For example, my passion for pursuing medical science studies is because I have the ambition of assisting others. Due to the hardship I encountered, I do believe that I have developed a realistic perspective on life. As a result of my father’s death, I recognized the fact that I was mentally unprepared in the face of reality and decided to develop a mature perspective on life. I truly proved everyone wrong including myself when I presented my development as a young man.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Is it hard? I’m sure it is, when the simple actions of breathing and smiling become harder and harder to do each day. As someone who is struggling with depression, it was certainly very hard for me each day. I doubted myself a lot, and wondered why I came into the world. Why am I here? Wouldn’t the world be better off without me?

I cannot describe exactly with words all the hurtful emotions that I had as I suffered through my worst depressive states. However I hope you realize, like I do now, that having depression is not the end of the world. Depression can be beaten. For me, depression was an ongoing struggle: some days I thought I’d finally gotten rid of depression, but other days it would come back. On the days when I felt really down, I would go for walks to clear my mind. Sometimes it helped me to notice the small details I never bothered to notice before. Like a red leaf amongst the green, different but still beautiful. It made me happy to see that life does change and move on. On these walks, I do a lot of self-reflection, where I try to think about the positive characteristics within myself, along with the positive things in my life. It was probably these walks where I spent time thinking about myself that helped me the most. I realized different things about myself, about who I was and what I wanted to be. And on those days where you do not want to be alone, it is good to seek professional help (counsellors, psychiatrists) and friends and family who can help you. Sometimes they can give you helpful advice, and other times putting a smile on your face and knowing that you’re loved can be the best remedy.

I believe in you!

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

 I’d like to say I know what you’re going through, because that’s what I think will help the most. The reality is that I have no idea, because everyone experiences these things differently and everyone has a different disorder, no matter how similar some of them may be. I do know that you may be very confused, because I know I was when this started happening to me. You’re young, and this sort of thing shouldn’t be happening to you. The unfortunate truth is that it can happen to anyone. The absolute best thing that you can do right now is talk to someone. I know that may be difficult, because maybe you don’t want to talk to anyone about it, or maybe you don’t even know what to talk about. That’s how I felt about opening up to people in the beginning, and I still feel that sometimes. But one of the biggest things I have learned in the past years is that if you don’t talk to someone, all your feelings and thoughts are going to bottle up inside you. The longer you stay quiet, the worse it’s going to hit you when you finally break down. Not only will it make things worse, but it will even become dangerous for you. You have to open up to people about it to get better.

The thing that has helped me the most has always been my friends, and now my family. The thing that always gets me is when I’m really down and I’m thinking that I can’t go on anymore, and that I should just end it. In those moments, I think about if one of my friends or family members did that to themselves. Even without it actually happening, it hurts me in a way that makes all the other hurt go away. They may not know exactly what you’re going through, but they’re going to love you no matter what, and they’re going to be there for you even at your lowest times.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I can see you, the real you, you are in there hiding because you don’t feel like you can show your true self. You smile, laugh, and joke with everyone. You play sports and volunteer. Why is it so hard to open your mouth and speak?  Does anyone know what goes on in your life? You can’t sleep, your mind races and your heart beats like it’s going to burst through your chest. If anyone asks you, you tell them you are great. You come home and you go to your room and lock the door. It’s like there are two sides to you, the one you show the world and the one you hide behind a locked door. You have friends so why do you feel so alone? There’s pressure at home because your parents are getting a divorce and your brother has addiction issues. He punches holes in walls, he drinks, he fights, he was kicked out of school…and he takes all the family’s attention.  No one even noticed when you were high as a kite because that isn’t you. You don’t do that stuff; you follow the rules…right? You know taking that first toke felt pretty calming. You shake your head, you look in the mirror, and you don’t even recognize the face that looks back at you. “Who am I …can anybody see me?” you ask yourself again. They can, and they want to, you just need to be really brave. You need to reach out and grab their hand before you fall.  You have seen what addiction does and you need to step up and take control of your life before you fall any deeper. I took the leap, I trusted, my counsellor guided me to a safer, more productive path. I am human, I am flawed, I will continue to do more, and be more. I want to share what I have learned and let you know I am here for you and I always will be.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I know that life isn’t just the bright sunshiny days. It’s also the cold days where the clouds roll in and the fog blocks out the pretty scenery around you. I want you to know that those days don’t last. You know that from the beautiful things you’ve experienced among those dark stages. Life will get better, you just need to stick it out, enjoy what you can and make the happiness you deserve when it isn’t offered to you by the world around you. I know that sometimes it can be hard to fight your battles when it seems like you’re universally alone. Sometimes parents just can’t comprehend what their kids are going through, and I know that it feels like they just aren’t trying, but they are, and one day, they will open their hearts to your pain and hold you in their understanding. It’s just not their time right now. Seek help in the community, tell a friend, talk to a counsellor. There is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with needing help. You are strong in more ways than you know and are worthy of seeking the opportunities that are out there, that will make you love the life you are living even more than today. Just know that you are never alone in your struggle, and the world is your oyster. Take care of yourself, you are the only you there is. I love you.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

 If you had told me years ago that I would end up having schizophrenia, I would not have believed it. I ignored my first symptoms when I was 12 years old. It was not the right thing to do. If you have scary thoughts or hear voices, get medical help. This disease is more common than people think. It’s not always genetic. If you hear voices ignore them by listening to music or watching TV. The years I’ve been sick I learned that you can see and hear things that are not there. So be careful that what you’re seeing is real. My tips to get healthy are to take medication each day and see your doctor regularly. You’re not alone in this journey. You have support through mental health resources, your school and family. I know you must feel alone right now and think you are the only one, but again remember—this is a common disease. Don’t be ashamed of your mental illness because it’s not your fault and don’t afraid to tell the people around you. You should be proud of yourself because you had to struggle with more things to be healthy than the average person. Rely on yourself because you are strong enough to deal with it, along with the people around you. If they talk about you when you are there and you’re not sure if it’s your imagination just try to ignore it. I hope if you are reading this that you realize that you can still lead a normal life and don’t be too hard on yourself.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I hate to talk about my feelings, and I was scared to talk to anyone about how I was really doing. After a friend close to me died tragically, my mother noticed something was wrong. She took me to our family doctor, and from there I was hospitalized for the first time. At the age of 15 I was diagnosed with severe depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, social anxiety, OCD, and an eating disorder. After being hospitalized I was put on medications which I hated taking and refused to do so whenever I could. I was also linked to the local counselling agency in my town, but I was unable to get a counsellor right away, so they placed me on a waiting list. Because it was so hard to get any help, it made me feel very worthless and unimportant. After another visit to the hospital I finally got a counsellor. I hated having to go see her every week and I would make excuses to not go to appointments. While dealing with my mental health, I also struggled in mainstream high school. I was reduced to half days and placed in an alternative class because I would call in ‘sick’ so often. Eventually I was transferred to the school program that works specifically with kids dealing with mental health issues. With the hard work I put into counselling and support I got from the teachers at my school, I have been able to graduate on time and make some friends who have dealt with similar things. Going to the gym, playing volleyball, and taking care of my animals has helped me to stay motivated, as well as eating healthy and talking more openly about how I’m really feeling. Drawing, painting, and writing helps me to express my emotions in a way that makes me feel satisfied after. I am still in recovery, and it’s taken me four years of hard work. I still have bad days, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less happy.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

 My life wasn’t great and it wasn’t fun. Ever since grade 3 I have had anxiety. I became terrified of the world that I had no idea who I was anymore. When I was little my older half-sister would hit me, pull my hair, bite me, throw me, try to drown me, and push me off of chairs. I felt so helpless and dead that I still can’t believe that she still did that me. Most people think I am strong and brave because I hide my fears, but they don’t know what actually happened to me.

My anxiety started because of my sister, my father, all the stress I am under, the bullies, the teacher I had in grade 3 and the outside world. By the time I was in grade 5 my anxiety was starting to become really bad. I tried to hide it because in the small town I grew up in, kids with mental illness were not accepted. By the end of grade 5, I had tried to kill myself because of my anxiety and the bullies that make fun of me. I was stopped by my best friend, who to this day is still my friend in Ontario.

In grade 6, my panic attacks started to skyrocket. Everybody just thought I was looking for attention. In grade 7, I moved to Surrey. My anxiety got so bad that my school counsellor needed to bring me to see an outside counsellor in grade 10. I was in a class called LIFE, which is a class that helps kids with their mental illnesses and trying to cope with it. In grade 11, I peer tutored students with special needs. My anxiety got better by seeing my outside counsellor, talking to new friends, and peer tutoring life skills.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

 Know that I am proof of resistance to a relentless, self-destructive impulse which follows the urge to surrender to forces that may present tranquility from a quick carve of the wrist, leading into absolute nothingness. I write this letter to remind you of the person I have fought to become after having reached the extent of my emotional and physical capabilities. I beg the previous, broken version of myself to replace romanticized views on suicide with the ever-more beautiful ending of watching myself succeed in resisting the addictive desire to cross the great divide between the living and dead.

I beg of you to stay, so no one must wake to a day where you no longer exist, having never known that yesterday would be your last. I have come to realize that only we can know the purpose and extent of our suffering. The raging fire of self-hatred burning within you can be tamed and you can be saved from the inner demons chipping away at your soul from beneath your skin. Your days of self-punishment conclude once you accept the devastated state of health you have acquired. Realize that the pain and sorrow you feel for yourself is projected on the hearts and faces of all those who love you. Do not leave them by a foolish, irreversible mistake. Think of the influence this would leave on future generations and the world, which is already on the brink of self-destruction. Visualize your child-self and the innocence which radiated from your gracious presence. Know that no matter the level of dysfunction your psyche has acquired, you will regain the emotional security you once felt. Above all, never deny your innate human senses telling you to trust yourself, because you are worthy of self-love.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I don’t know specifically what you’re going through, but I know one thing for sure—it’s temporary. No, that girl isn’t laughing at you, she’s laughing at something her friend texted her. No, just because you failed this test, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Everyone makes mistakes, but you need to understand that the majority of “slip ups” you think you had, don’t actually matter. They won’t define your future, so why spend your time and energy worrying about a little thing that doesn’t matter? I know it seems like it’ll last forever in the moment, but trust me, it’ll pass; why make a decision so permanent for such a temporary problem? I’ve gone through it, time and time again and each time I wanted to try; after every attempt, things always got better, or things didn’t turn out the way my pessimistic view on life made it out to be. As I matured into my later years in high school, that’s what kept me going, day after day. It may seem like the end of the world to you now, but you have your whole life ahead of you, you’re only 15; you can only imagine what life has in store for you. Each day has the possibility of being an adventure, or even the day you finally meet the one you love. It’s just about taking that chance, taking the opportunity in making the next day the best one you’ve ever had. Tell me this; why give it all up, just because something didn’t go the way you thought it would? You can do this, things will get better…you just can’t give up. Push on; make the best of every single day!

You got this.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I’m going to start this off real. Sometimes life sucks. Especially when you’re battling with your own mind every day, of course it will be hard. You’ll want to give up some days and that’s okay as long as you do not give up. Your darkest hour is only 60 minutes. I know there’s many quotes like: “Things get better with time.” You probably hear it every day but it’s so true. Your dark feelings will turn into good ones. You’ll live years full of happiness, care, excitement, relief, laughter, success, and love. There is so much to live for in this world, so much to fight for. The sun always rises, and so will you. Once you reach out for help and receive the support you need, you’ll see the little things. You’ll fall in love with how beautiful the earth is, you’ll recognize how much you appreciate laughing with your family, you’ll enjoy waking up and seeing the sun shine through your window. I promise, you will see the beauty in life again. Then the next thing you know, you’ll be graduating, surrounded by the people you made endless memories with and you’ll be SO happy you pushed through. You’ll throw your cap high into the air and get teary-eyed over the fact that this is just the beginning. You will thank yourself for taking that first step and asking for help with your mental health. That is the most important thing that I have learned with my experience. The first step to support is the hardest but most important one. It’s mainly uphill from there, you will flourish. You just have to believe that the hard times will end. That is what has given me hope for the future. Believing, but also knowing. I started to believe in that light at the end of the tunnel and then I knew I would be okay.

Know that the good times will outweigh the bad ones. I did, and you can too.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Recently I’ve heard that you’ve been struggling with depression because of an abusive situation and I would like to help you if I am able. I was once where you are now and I understand the feelings of self-harm and suicide. The self-harm makes you feel real and suicidal thoughts seem to show an easier way out. I found that when dealing with these thoughts and feelings, the best thing you can do is to be open with somebody you trust implicitly. If you don’t let anyone know the level of pain you’re in, they can’t begin to help. Try your best, even though it’s going to be really hard, because people do care and have ways of finding solutions—they may not occur right away but there is more than one way to solve problems.

More than anything else, what has helped me to have hope for a brighter future was to build and be able to count on close friendships. My friends were/are able to listen when and wherever needed and I always know that they have my back. The last thing I would advise, Alice, is to try and find a good therapist that you can trust.

Good luck and remember, I’m here if you need me and I understand because I am a fellow survivor.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

“Don’t let your struggle become your identity.”

This quote is something that symbolizes why I got so caught up in my illness. I thought this is who I am for the longest time and just let it eat away at me. Not getting the help you need in the beginning can lead to problematic issues in the future. If you let this consume your life it will become your life which is not something you want because it’s YOUR life, not your mental illness. You deserve to feel “normal” and not “weird”. Please don’t take things so heavily because, in the end, you will break your back trying to carry this load. Would you hate on others as much as you hate on yourself? So why do you do it? You are not your illness your illness is not you. If I knew what I now know, I wouldn’t have let my thoughts take over my life because in the end unspoken emotions never stop. They are only buried down and will come forth later in uglier ways.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I have been raised by my adoptive grandmother because my parents are addicted to drugs and alcohol. The first five years of my life was very traumatic. I was abused and neglected. My grandmother took me in when I was five. It has taken many years of counselling for me to learn how to deal with my trauma. I suffer from anxiety that interferes with my ability to function normally a lot of the time, and makes it difficult for me to do well at school. I have to work harder than the other students and I constantly try to hide my anxiety from others, which is exhausting. I love to draw because it relaxes me. Playing rugby helped me a lot until I developed a chronic health condition which meant I had to give it up.

What I have learned from having a mental illness is that it is always a good idea to seek help from a loved one or a counsellor so you aren’t facing it all by yourself because it is very stressful to handle by yourself. What has helped me most is the support my extended family gives me so I can build a better future for myself. Even when it’s hard they help me get through the tough and stressful times. I don’t always feel like sharing things when I am really stressed, but eventually I do. I know what you are experiencing. I recommend you talk to a counsellor and try doing sports or exercise because it helps a lot.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I might know where you are at. My dad would yell, when he got mad he freaked out threw things or hit me or my sister. My mom got diagnosed with cancer. The only thing that had kept me going in life was my mom and the thought of losing her would kill me, and it did when my mom passed away after two painful years of watching her get better and then get sick again. I watched her die. The doctors sent her home so she could be at peace when she died. I can still picture her lying lifeless on the bed. I was truly never the same. I had a lot of questions and I couldn’t figure out how I could be happy. I felt that I didn’t deserve happiness because I believed I didn’t do enough to help my mom. I went to a dark place. It is hard to go back to that time, to think about it. I absolutely did not care about anything at all. I kept a pack of blades in my purse. I tried to end it all; I tried to make it all stop. I drank to get away from my stepdad. But I got out of that place. I met someone who I could talk to, he was nonjudgmental and I could literally talk all day with him. I started seeing a mental health counsellor. I got enrolled in a program that let me live on my own away from my stepdad. When I went to live on my own, I felt free and empowered. Now I try to stay healthy, get good sleep, and eat healthy. I work with my horses. I had a horse that had her own mental health issues and I helped her work through those and she has helped me work through mine. I found something that I loved doing, welding. I saw something that I could make a career out of, I saw a future for me. I want you to know that sometimes the darkness can show you the light. I am a strong person now. My mom always said, you never know how strong you are until your strength is all that you have.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Throughout your life you are told that “life gets better” and how much better things are going to be. When you think about it though, life can also get much worse. It can pull you down into a pit like quicksand, unless you actually do something about it. Life doesn’t magically get better one day and all days after are perfect. It takes effort. If you don’t put any effort into changing your life, then your life will never change. Throughout my life I have suffered from extreme depression and anxiety as well as my family having substance use problems. Every day I felt worthless. When I grew up with my grandparents instead of my parents I felt like I was not good enough for them. They never put time or effort into seeing me, it only made my life feel more worthless and as though I was unwanted. Between the ages of nine and seventeen I constantly had suicidal thoughts and very low motivation to do anything. But my biggest problem was that I put no effort into changing the situation. When I was about fifteen I dropped out of high school due to my extreme depression, I felt like anything I did wasn’t good enough so what’s the point of doing anything. During that time I attempted suicide. Finally I decided if things were going to change it was up to me. From that point on I went out of my way to get help and I went out of my way to help myself get better. Even though life isn’t ever going to be perfect, you can make it better for yourself by trying your best to change the situation you’re in to make you happy. When I am down I think of how much good can come of life such as raising a family or having a dream career, but the only way to make that happen is if you put effort in it. Life may be hell at times but we can always put effort into changing it.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

This is an open letter to anyone who has ever loved someone who is suffering from a major illness. I will not pretend I have any of the answers that you so desperately need but rather that I have asked the same questions. I have sat in hospital waiting rooms for hours asking myself why this happening to them and not me. I have cut people out of my life because the fear of losing them caused me so much anxiety it seemed easier to just end the friendship. I will also not pretend that I was courageous or mature enough to handle such trauma, depression, and suffering on my own. The day I allowed myself be vulnerable and seek help was the start of my own recovery. I very quickly found that support was everywhere I looked. Mental illnesses are heavily stigmatized which, when reflecting back on my experience with depression, was the main reason it took me so long to ask for help. Depression makes it easy to feel isolated and alone, but I began to meet new people who had also experienced similar grief and loss. These new connections inspired me and gave me hope. Flash forward to present day; I work for a not-for-profit environmental education center, I am a principal’s list student, I dance almost fourteen hours per week and balance a social life on top of it all. In June, I will graduate from high school and go on to study health sciences in university. I have worked incredibly hard to get to where I am now, but I would not be the person I am today if I did not open myself up to help.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I suffer from OCD and depression. I never thought I was good enough and that left me feeling hopeless and helpless. I never wanted to be diagnosed. I thought once I put a name to it, it would become real. I’ll be labeled, I’ll be damaged. But there is nothing I regret less than getting professional help. I went full circle and I still can’t believe how much I’ve improved.

It’s going to be hard at times. There’s no getting around that.  I know you must be scared and feel hopeless but you need to know you are amazing. It’s true. I don’t know you but I know you are amazing. I’ve struggled so much in my life thinking I’m worthless and maybe you do too, but the thing that helped me get around that is doing what I love. For me that’s skiing. When I ski, I feel totally and completely myself and at peace. Find something you love and never let it go. You might have to fight to keep doing what you love, but fight those fights. Don’t let anyone get you down or tell you aren’t worth it because you are.

I always try to remember that bad days are just a day. You can’t let them define you. People who make you feel bad are just people. One day you will look back and be so happy you didn’t let them control you.

Follow your dreams and don’t ever give up. It’s cliché but true.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Mental health is anything but linear; rather, it is dynamic and unique to each individual. We all have mental health, and that is why I have always found the stigma around it so absurd. My mental health journey has taught me a variety of things, especially the importance of self-love. The bittersweet reality which I found true is that you have to motivate yourself to better your own mental health. However, this definitely does not mean you have to navigate through your mental health challenges in solitude. Reaching out for help is always a good first step, and there are so many different resources you can access in order to do this. Talking about my mental health challenges has not only relieved the pressure I put on myself, but it has also helped break down mental health barriers prevalent in my community. What has helped me to better my mental health is creating a strong support network, educating myself, finding a sense of community, and a sense of passion. It is beyond important to take care of you; this includes forming constructive lifestyle habits and maintaining healthy relationships. You should always put your health first, and make sure you are your number one fan. It is important to remember that achieving optimal mental health overnight isn’t feasible. Finding what tools best benefit your mental health takes time, patience, and help. Try to take time out each day to participate in self-care, which are activities ‘by you, for you.’ Struggling with your mental health can feel isolating, but you are far from alone, and it will get better.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Firstly I want you to know you are not alone. I know the pain you are in and the turmoil which your life feels like right now. If I could, I would lean in and give you a hug because sometimes you just need to be held. I think the most important thing I can pass onto you is that it is okay not to be okay sometimes. When I was in the thick of my illness I tried to deny myself any reason to be upset; I felt that I was being stupid and ungrateful for the life I had. I thought that it was unfair of me to be so discontent with life when I was blessed with such a beautiful life in reality. But that’s the thing, I had a chemical imbalance—the struggles of my life or the fortunes of it were correlated to my depression but not the causation of it. Of course, everyone is different, your story is different than mine but, in the end, I think it is important for you to know that you do not have to be okay all the time. When you are ready for change, do not be afraid to reach out. It is the people who guide you back into happiness who will give you hope again for your future. Looking forward to what the future holds gives hope to me because I know I will be okay. In the end, after whatever happens, I will be here, with the ones i love and I will be okay.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I am an 18-year-old girl who had a suicide plan at the age of 15. I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety in April 2015. I was struggling with my illness since the beginning of high school but I never came forward until a friend of mine had died by suicide a few days before I was planning on doing the same.

I remember the mood in my high school had shifted. It didn’t feel stressful, happy or frustrated. It just felt as though everyone’s heart had broken at once.

I came forward to my school counsellor and informed her of my suicide plan. She had immediately contacted my parents and they put me through therapy.

Through our meetings, I decided to drop French Immersion due to the toxic environment of snobby kids and just being miserable altogether.

Once I had made that decision, my grades improved and so did my mood. I got rid of toxic friendships and I started focusing on making myself happy. I became more focused on my studies and my extracurricular activity, theater performance.

Through my journey, I have learned about self-love and knowing that this wasn’t the end. I wasn’t alone in this world.

Please, I encourage you to step forward if you are suffering. There are plenty of people who love and care for you. Do it for you.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Although I don’t know your life story and I may not know who you are, I will still tell you this because it can apply to everyone. Throughout my long journey, I have learned many lessons but the couple that were the most beneficial for my personal growth. Firstly, I learned to never be afraid to express how you feel whether that be spoken or written. Don’t ever allow anyone to make you feel that your struggles are invalid because everyone deals with the same situation differently; a circumstance that may severely affect you may not even phase another person’s day to day life and that does not determine one’s greatness as a human being and it most definitely does not define personal strength. Regardless of what you may believe, the truth is that you cannot take on the world simply by bottling up your emotions and pretending that everything in your life is okay, because believe me, that bottle will eventually break and it will break violently. Talk about your struggles with others and you might be surprised as to how many people share the same struggles. Secondly, although your mental health issues are not your fault, that doesn’t mean that you are unable to change your circumstances. Now you might be wondering how on earth you’re supposed to do that and lucky for you I have a great answer. If you want to change your circumstances or at least how it’s affecting you, you need to find a different perspective. Various perspectives allow you to discover several options simply because you’re being open minded. As my favourite quote of all time states “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”, just six words but filled with so much truth. I recommend this strategy because it is what helped me during the treatment process the most and because of it, I have greater dreams.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I am writing this letter to you today because I want to give you hope. Some sort of peace of mind that it does get better. I know that when you’re in this dark place that phrase seems so utterly hopeless and empty, but I mean it wholeheartedly. It may be hard to believe, but I know exactly how you’re feeling. Since I was twelve years old I’ve struggled with depression, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. I know about the sleepless nights spent crying, the self-hate and disgust that haunts your bones, and the ruminating thoughts that never seem to cease. I too, have contemplated ending my life; however I think we both know that is not a solution. This isn’t just a phase or merely a rough patch, and you should not let others tell you that it is. I needed help, and I almost lost my life from being so afraid of the stigma for that it took attempting suicide for me to realize that there is so much more to live for; and there is. Don’t let that happen to you. You may not see it yet, I know I didn’t for quite some time. But you will, and I can guarantee that the moment where the light starts to creep back into your soul replacing that bit of darkness that has lurked for so long, you will be able to breathe again. You will be alive, and for the first time you will feel it too. Over the years I have learned just how much life has to offer. There is so much more out there than just high school, it’s an entire world full of new experiences and people that you haven’t even skimmed the surface of yet. So please, I ask of you to hold on to that. I know things are awful right now and that it feels as if your life is collapsing underneath you but please, don’t leave. The pain will end; just hold on a little longer.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Having depression and anxiety can be difficult. There was multiple times where I had wanted to give up. I wish that when I was younger I had someone to explain the hardships I would face. Growing up, life became frustrating and bothersome. However, when I was at my worst point in my life, I received support from those around me and others who have struggled. Recently I have started to realize my value and potential. Although there are multiple setbacks in my road to recovery, I have learned to accept the challenges. Having depression has made me the person I am today. Without having gone through it, I would have never have had so many wonderful experiences and met amazing people that have gone through similar situations. I have learned to trust people around me and that it is okay to have setbacks and struggles. I have learned that talking about struggles can be beneficial when you are able to. Through the years, my family and friends have been my biggest supporters and have helped me through multiple difficulties. Having a goal has really helped me, as it gave me something to work towards and focus on. The theater program at my school has been one of the best things to ever happen to me. I have learned to come out of my shell and embrace life, no matter what struggles may come. I also found a way to be happy in life and enjoy myself. It gave me hope, and gave me purpose in life. Having a part made me feel extremely important and needed. It also was wonderful to do something that I extremely enjoyed. It also helped me by giving me something to talk about, and be passionate about. I love that I am able to be a part of a production, to be able to take my mind off the difficulties and focus on something more amazing. Everything will work out the way it’s supposed to, so stay strong.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I know it feels like you’ve hit rock bottom, you cry yourself to sleep every night, but one of those quiet cries… you don’t want anyone to hear you. You don’t want them to know, you’re embarrassed maybe, and you don’t think they’ll understand the emptiness that has taken over your entire body. That skeleton feeling; you feel the bones but the warmth your soul your body used to give you is a feeling; forgotten. It’ll end but, not in the way you think. Depression and anxiety is something we can get addicted to, trust me I know that feeling. Don’t feel you are an unsolvable puzzle, not worth someone’s time. There is always that one person who is willing to put in the time to figure out that puzzle and to make it whole, like it once was. I’ve been through the sleepless nights, crying every night, no desire to eat. I wouldn’t be here to tell you this now if I gave up when I felt like life was too heavy on my shoulders to keep walking. I am here to tell you from personal experience. Telling someone is probably one of the scariest things, most anxiety filled things I’ve ever experienced, but without that courage, I wouldn’t be able to write this letter to you. Keep your head up and if you keep walking, you might be able to see the light.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

Reading this might not be helpful. It could just be triggering more of those thoughts in your head as you keep on reading. That’s not my intention. By reading this, I hope you can understand that you are not the only one going through the same experiences. There might be a few differences here and there, but to quote High School Musical, “We’re all in this together”. Don’t feel ashamed if you start breaking down in the middle of class and have a gigantic meltdown. Don’t feel ashamed when the voices start to appear and distract you so much that you’re considered to others as “crazy”. Don’t feel ashamed if you take a long nap because you’re both mentally and physically tired from dealing with all the symptoms, and your family starts to wonder. You are trying the best you can when tackling this and that won’t take a few days to recover from. For some, it’ll take weeks, months, or even years, but you’re trying your best to recover. Don’t be discouraged by the time frame of your recovery though. Focus on the fact that you’re realizing your condition, and trying to deal with the symptoms. You can try a few tiny things to slowly start off the recovery. Giving a hug, taking small, deep breaths, or even going on a nice stroll around your neighbourhood is a great start. Soon you could be on your way to brushing off condescending comments from strangers or saying no to requests. Either way, you can be on your way to recovery…just at a slower pace to not overwhelm yourself.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

How are you feeling? I hope you’re doing fine. I want to tell you my rollercoaster journey and what I’ve been through. Last year, I was depressed, everything was crumbling down and I couldn’t stop it. I needed to tell someone but I was too afraid to talk to my parents with their high expectations. My friends got curious and found out that I self-harm. It was one night when my friend came with me and I decided to tell my mom, everything. Scary right? My mom took it real hard and I remember that I couldn’t stop crying. After that night, I started seeing my school counsellor but she thought that I needed a professional help. The first time I met another counsellor, I was sent to the hospital right away because that was when I realized one thing. I was suicidal. I was kept there for 3 days and 3 nights. Fast forward, I took medications, sleeping pills and lots of counselling. During my dark days, I learned that I had, and still do, trust issues and it will hard for me to be back on my own feet. That didn’t stop me though; I didn’t want to be selfish. I needed to remember that my mom worked real hard to get me here to Canada. I needed to remember that I want to finish high school, study college and give back to my mom and my grandma. I learned how to be stronger than I was before. I learned how to trust again, still with difficulty, and started to regain the old me within a few tweaks. Depression wasn’t nice to me, I struggled a lot and it was hard for me to be happy. That didn’t stop me though. Having a goal and a dream to achieve definitely helped me to get back on my feet and recover. I am still recovering from depression and self-harming but I have my family and real friends beside me. This will soon be over and it will for you as well.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

If you are struggling, the most important thing to know is that you are not alone. There is always somebody out there who can relate to what you’re going through. In addition, there are countless others who have come before you; people who have struggled every day to cope, people who, in the end, have managed to persevere. And if they can come out of the fight victorious, you can, too.

And another thing: if my struggle with mental health has taught me anything, it’s that it’s OK to be sad. I know that might sound like the opposite of what you should be hearing but it’s true. Being sad doesn’t mean you’re broken. I personally still struggle with depression. In fact, I have for years. But my depression doesn’t stop me from living life to its fullest. Sometimes the path to recovery can be a long one and it’s OK to take your time when traveling down that path.

And lastly, all you need to do to stay hopeful when things get dark is to have faith in yourself. Trust your strengths, and accept your weaknesses and mistakes, whilst also finding ways to grow from them. Hope lives within you; you only need to look inside to find it.

Sincerely,

Me
Dear You,

I felt alone, in a dark place, and didn’t want to tell anyone thinking that nobody will understand me. Mental illness has a serious stigma associated with it. Things will remain this way until we all speak up!

Finding the courage to admit that it is a real illness is the first challenge. My teachers gave me the opportunity to privately explain why I had a hard time speak in public more so than other students. Through hard work and counselling initiated by the academic advisors, I have become much stronger and self-confident than I had ever imagined I could. To further strengthen my journey to overcome my mental health challenges, I met other others who struggled through the same challenges as me in the same school. This inspired us all to find others that are working through OCD and anxiety disorders, by joining a support group. I could not have done it without the mental health therapist and the positive support of my family. My life has gone from what felt like zero to such a high calibre in a short period of time. Please, if you are having second thoughts about life, debilitating panic attacks, or any issues that seem out of the norm, approach your school counsellor with full disclosure. They will keep the issue confidential while doing all they can in their power to actually change your life for the better. These things will affect your life in the future if not dealt with now. I am still on a long road of recovery, but now I have the tools to face any problems that I might encounter. I cannot stress enough how life-changing talking to a health professional is. Working through these issues will fly by once you find the right counsellor to talk to. Get out of your comfort zone for 30 seconds and make an appointment with your counsellors today!

Sincerely,

Me