Letters 2015

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: anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, self-injury and suicide.

 

Dear You,

I’m writing you this letter because I want you to know something, but also because I want you to believe in what I’m about to share with you—it gets better. I want you to believe me when I say there is hope, love, and life, and it all gets better. Not too long ago I would have never believed someone who told me that. In fact, I heard it so often that it began to become this hopeless phrase. I was in a place where darkness became addictive and made me repel the light for so long. I felt like I was alone, like nobody would understand me. I didn’t know how to explain myself, and so I found comfort in my hopeless world. I pushed my friends away, I hung out with the wrong people, and I self-harmed every day. I ran away from the people who would bring me back into the light. The ones that told me that it gets better. And I ran for a long time. When things got too much for me, and the darkness took over I found myself at a crossroads: end my life now OR find help and get my life back. That’s when it hit me. I realized that all along this has been MY life, and it’s up to ME how I live it. I realized that getting better isn’t for anyone other than myself. I realized then that they weren’t saying it was going to get better for them, but they were saying it for me. They were saying it so I could believe that my life is WORTH getting better for. And I finally did. I never thought I’d make it. I never thought it was worth it. But here I am, stronger than ever. I’m in this world of light and hope. I know in the darkness the light can be faint and harsh on the eyes but I’m telling you the day you let yourself see the true beauty in the light, the pure safety and love and life in the light, you will find that It DOES get better. Not just for me, or for them, but for you.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

You are not alone. Each day that you wake up in the morning and decide to tackle the day, even if it’s by just getting out of bed, is a small victory. I have been in a similar position, feeling like you are at the bottom of a deep dark abyss that you don’t know how to climb out of. I have struggled for many years with mental illness and many of those years were without any support. What I came to understand is that it’s okay to feel depressed, and it’s okay to get help. Reaching out is hard, but it is the most courageous thing that you can do. If you can’t reach out for professional support, try with someone you trust. If they don’t understand, it’s okay, keep going until you find someone who can help you. There are people out there who care about you more than you can believe right now. There are some positives to mental illness. I have become more empathetic of people. Everyone is their own universe of emotions and experiences. And I’m not downplaying what you are going through, because sometimes, it feels like you’re the only one that feels like this. But the world can be a beautiful place. When I take the time to appreciate the world around me, whether it’s through photography or being outdoors, it makes me want to see more of it. I want the world to remain beautiful, and by helping others and helping the environment I can do this while feeling like my existence is meaningful. And the world is forever impacted by your efforts and your presence too. Find your reason to wake up in the morning, and each day will be easier to put your feet on the floor. You matter to the world. And you matter to me.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

Though it may be hard to believe, I know exactly how you feel. I know the ins and outs: the endless nights of crying, the pain that festers in your chest, the negative thinking and self-disgust. I struggle with depression and anxiety, and I’ve learned invaluable lessons through my experiences. Like many sufferers, I was in denial about my suffering. The stigma that surrounds mental illness frightened me from seeking help. The fear clouded my mind, and I suffered for several years before I finally sought support. I believed my feelings were merely a phase. I’ve learned that mental illness, however, is not a mere phase; it’s an illness that’s as serious as any physical illness, and it requires immediate attention and care. Today, too many teenagers and adults suffer in silence, and the illness only worsens. The journey towards recovery begins when we acknowledge the pain. It begins when we find the strength to seek support. I know it’s difficult to hear—I know it’s hard to put your own needs before the needs of others when it feels as though the world has turned against you. But I promise that you are worthwhile. Your needs are important, too. There are ways to help ourselves, and ways to work towards recovery. Nobody ever said the battle would be easy, but everybody does say it’s possible to overcome. Medications, along with CBT sessions, have been extremely helpful for me. I’m learning to identify my distorted thoughts, and I’m developing skills and techniques to cope with my depression. There is always a way out, regardless of how difficult it may be. We have support in our lives to help us fight the battle. Nobody has to suffer alone. I only wish to convey the message I should have conveyed to myself years ago: that I am worthwhile, that everyone is worthwhile.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

I just would like you to know that I completely know where you are coming from. The same journey you’re going through now is exactly where I came from. The constant sadness, the revolving feeling that this terrible patch in your life isn’t just a ‘phase’ or even just a ‘bump in the road’. Always wondering when the day is going to come when all the sadness finally just ends up getting up, growing a pair of legs and walking away from you for good. Forever. You can’t help always thinking “Is it just me, or everybody else?” and “Is it my fault or everyone else’s?” Always blaming yourself for everything going around you when in hindsight, it might not be your fault. You as an individual are just going through quite possibly the roughest patch of your life and you are unfortunately only at the beginning. Coming from a person who’s seen everything you’ve seen and quite possibly more, you should know that my experience with mental illness was not the brightest, but it never is. Also, you end up gaining a lot more than you lose if you just see it through until the end and come out on top. You learn so much about yourself during and especially after the journey. You will struggle so much. But guess what? So did I and a million others who are now, successful, healthy, and most of all happier than they ever could be. That could be you. No, that WILL be you. All you need to do is do one little thing for everyone. Never, ever lose hope. This is extremely key. What personally helped me the most to have hope for the future was to end up re-experiencing everything before, during and after the hard journey I was going through with new friends and my family. Before this experience, everything seems so bland, but as soon as you get the help you deserve, everything you do will be fun.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

It’s another one of those nights—you’ve experienced them before. One when the moon, stars, and dark night are your only company. You may be thinking about whether you should sink or swim, but please don’t forget that floating is an option. Trying to just survive in order to heal is allowed. Remember what inspires you, and makes you feel, deeply. Whether it is music, writing, reading, or anything, throw yourself into those things, and let them set you on fire. Let them consume your thoughts, and fill you with a sense of belonging, and life. Sigmund Freud stated, “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful”. Hold onto the hope that his words will prove true. Reflect on the fact that your difficulties have made you kind, thoughtful, and self-aware. Through my years of living with bipolar, I have discovered that simply persevering is a success. Within a few years of my diagnosis, I also realized who my true friends and allies are. You will too. Hold onto these dear humans, and don’t be afraid of going to them for support. Make sure to never keep things bottled up inside of you. They care for you. A positive mindset is key. In order to have hope for the future, I consistently reflect on the good moments in my life. In my head, I’ll think, “If I chose to die this night, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy that nice meal with my friend. Or experience that concert when I met my favourite artist. Or simply, watch that episode of my favourite TV show”. By focusing on the little good things, I’m filled with the hope that my future will involve tiny moments that have evolved into big, good moments. Try it, maybe it’ll help. You are a force of nature—indestructible and powerful. A flaw in chemistry, not character.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

Although times are tough, and it may seem as if life just won’t give you a break, I am here to reassure you that it will. You will get that break, darling. I know how it feels like to hate yourself—feeling disgusted by every last inch. I have endured those long lonely nights, where you are kept awake with only your thoughts flowing through your mind. I too have contemplated ending my life. I have been where you are. But, as clichéd as it sounds, recovery does come. With time, persistence, and support, you can reach recovery just as I did. The recovery process is never easy and it will never follow the perfect ‘cookie-cutter’ path that the self-help books lead you to believe. Recovery is rocky; there are relapses and rough patches. It may take several counsellors, friends, or support systems in order to fully help. But, my point is that there are so many people out there who love you, and who will devote their time and energy into helping you. Please do not get discouraged if you fall down or take a wrong turn, for each day you’re alive is a great step in the right direction. Keep pushing, it’ll be worth it. For me, I reached happiness when I finally let go of my eating disorder—I completely took off the label. Of course, I went through months of treatment to get to that point, but I mainly found peace when I began to live my life again. I enrolled myself into sports teams, clubs, and I even committed myself into further developing my friendships and relationships. Letting go of the things that I could not control, and grasping the factors that I could change, really brought me to see the positives in life. Anyway, all I wanted to say was keep your head up. I know this is a very hard time, but recovery is just around the corner.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

I know you just woke up and went through your morning routine of staring into the mirror, sleep still in your eyes, with your wandering hands poking at your chapped skin and protruding hip bones. Every morning when you brush your hair, you shed more, and your favorite jeans don’t fit you anymore, but that doesn’t matter because you think you love it, but it’s simply Ed. That is the abusive voice inside your precious head that tells you to skip meals and exercise those meals that you do enjoy, off. You analyze nutrition labels as though they are a Bible, your phone’s calculator is your constant best friend, and Ed leads you to believe that your body is perfectly healthy living off below minimum calories. But, this is my letter, not Ed’s. I am here to tell you that life is not measured by any label, body check, or by standing on that scale and criticizing every tiny fluctuation. Life is measured by the memories you make; the memories you aren’t making because you are too anxious to visit the new coffee shop, because there are no nutrition facts online. You may want to be alone with your disorder, but you need to acknowledge that you need help, mentally and physically. Clutch onto all of the help you are given, because the tough truth is Ed can kill you. You may cry over meals, probably more than once, but you can work through it, and in the end, you should be proud of yourself because you did exactly what Ed told you not to do. Next time your friends ask you to go out, say “Yes!” Try that lemon cupcake you’ve wanted to try for ages, because you are more than this eating disorder. You, are a warrior.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

I’m not going to tell you that it gets better, because I know that you have heard that enough already, and I know you will continue to hear it. People seem to think that ‘it gets better’ is this mantra that will fix everything. But it’s not, is it? Those three words aren’t going to fix anything. Instead, I’ll tell you that you learn a lot from your mental illness and that those little lessons will help you get through, because that is something that is actually helpful. From my mental illness I have learned that it gets easier. That eventually, all of those coping mechanisms drilled into you by counsellors will become useful and that those stupid little exercises will one day become very helpful. I have learned that it’s okay to rely on other people, and it’s also okay to need your space. I have also learned that even in the darkest of times, if you search hard enough you can find hope. Hope is a tricky little thing, but you will find the thing that gives you hope for the future. For me, it’s remembering that 5 years ago, I attempted suicide. Funny that would give me hope, isn’t it? But let me explain. In those 5 years since I almost took my own life, I have traveled the world, graduated high school, seen my sister get married, read countless books, and met people who make it all worthwhile. If I had lost my life 5 years ago, I would never have gotten any of those experiences. To have hope, I think of what may happen in the next 5 years. Five years from now I could be married to the person of my dreams, living in a house that I own, with two golden retrievers named Augustus and Hazel. I could have kids, and a car, and a job I love. I don’t know where I will be in 5 years, but I can’t wait to find out. This is what gives me hope, because deep down, I know that it does get better.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

I am writing because I want to give you hope. I personally know how hard it is to battle a mental illness but I can also say for sure that it feels fantastic when you can say you are a survivor. I know what it feels like to not want to get out of bed in the morning because the mere thought of facing the world makes you feel overwhelmed. I know what it feels like to care too much about everything but also feel like you aren’t caring enough. I also known that in your present mindset you feel like nothing could ever get better, but I am here to tell you that you are wrong. Things do get better, and if you just hang on a little while longer you can get through this. If there is anything I have learned from my many years of battling a mental illness is that its hope that keeps you alive. Push yourself as hard as you possibly can to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of thinking about what bad things come out of all of this, think of all the good. You are more caring of others feelings, you are stronger, but most importantly you will provide a success story to others that are feeling the exact same way as you are now. If I could tell you one thing that could help you through this rough time it would be to talk about it what you are going through. Don’t hold all of your emotions in, the more you let out, the more free you become. I am writing to you because I believe in you, I believe that everyone is capable of greatness and if you just hold on a little longer you will achieve yours. Please don’t give up, there is so much more to life than what you are going through and you are worth way more than what this illness is trying to tell you you’re worth. Hold on a little longer and you will be a survivor just like me.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

I wish to share a few words, from my heart to yours. When you experience something miserable, and it feels like it’s such a part of you that you cannot live, and I mean truly live, while it is there… Challenge the idea that that miserable thing will eat at you forever and keep you from experiencing happiness. Slowly, it will fade. It’ll disappear in a hush beneath a world of beauty that you had forgotten exists. There are people who’ll help you overcome this. If you open just the tiniest crack in your heart to let the littlest bit of someone else’s light inside, even when it seems that all you desire is darkness, it can ignite something special inside of you. Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. Depression? I have it! Anxiety? Check! Suicidal ideation? Experienced it. Self-harm? Done it. Do I take medication? Every day. But my greatest hope stemmed from my willingness to be a part of this world and grew from there. Because I can now recognize the contrast between depression and the beauty and wonder through which I now view life, my smiles are genuine and I empathize with people. A few lovely people helped me rediscover joy and realize my passions. Yes, there will be days when you want to crawl under the covers and shut out the world. But there will also be days when you experience such joy that your heart is overwhelmed and you wonder how such a beautiful feeling could ever be possible…but it is. Be kind to yourself. Be gentle with your body and mind. Hug yourself. Right now you may feel like you don’t love yourself; that’s okay. There is no rush; you have hours upon hours over the span of seventy-something more years to do what you like, to grow and experience. And if you’re that kid who sits alone at lunch—I see you, my friend. You are not alone.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

Was it just a normal day when it happened? When, out of nowhere, you started to shake, notice your heart race, and felt utterly nauseous? And then maybe you felt scared, but you didn’t know why. That must have terrified you even more. That’s what I felt when I had my first panic attack. Panic attacks suck—especially when they come frequently. Being on your toes in anticipation for the next one is exhausting. So is avoiding places or behaviours that seem to cause them. And I know how hopeless it feels when it’s like you can barely keep it together. It also doesn’t help when your thoughts and anxiety levels make you feel worse. It sucks and I’m sorry you had to go through that. For what it’s worth, an anxiety disorder is a valid medical condition to have. Anxiety disorders are fairly common and because of their prevalence, there are treatment options. You don’t have to live with it forever. It might be scary doing exposure exercises or facing the thoughts you’ve fought to suppress. However, I still urge you to push through with treatment. Changing old habits is hard, but it will be so worth it. I wish it would be clear skies ahead as soon as you decide that you’re not going to let anxiety win. But there will be bad days along with the good days. On those bad days, just remember that it won’t last forever and that there are people who care about you. Friends, family, counselors, and others will do their best to help you because you mean something to them. And remember, there are some people who lived through their personal hell, received treatment, and got better. This fact gives me hope because there’s a chance that you and I are capable of doing the same. Even if the road to recovery is long, I know you can do it. We’ll get through this together.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

I know it appears as though you aren’t going to make it through this dark time but I promise that you will. As you gasp for air and your heart feels like it’s collapsing please remember one thing. Remember that you have so much going for you. I know that graduation seems like it’s a lifetime away but just believe me when I say that you will make it and even pull off straight As despite all the people who doubted you. Look around and see all the people who truly care for you and would be lost without you. You have directed so many people to get the help they deserve and without you they would have taken their own last breath. So please, breathe. Fill up your lungs with the air that keeps you alive daily because you are meant to be living here. I know it terrifies you when you collapse onto the floor unable to control your body and I would love to be able to tell you that it doesn’t scare you anymore but it still does. But I can promise you this; you survive every single time. You are stronger than you will ever know, despite the fact that you believe you don’t deserve anything. Don’t be afraid to tell people the real reason why you sometimes have to leave school early because it turns out you’re not the only one. You will be surprised with how many people you touch with your story and how many are thankful that you had the confidence to share it. I know you think of yourself as a daisy in a field full of beautiful roses but looking back on it you remained beautiful despite the thorns that surrounded you. Hold onto the hope that you will make it. Please remember to believe in yourself and to breathe. You deserve it. The girl you become is proud of you.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

First things first. I know they always say that “it gets better”, and I know that right now that seems like the most atrociously untrue thing you could hear. Those words sound hollow and ridiculous. You feel like—no, you KNOW—it’ll never get better, or if things really do get better, they’ll be getting better for someone else, not you. It’s never you. I felt this way for years. In and out of the hospital, spending days and nights crying, cutting, screaming at people I loved and hating myself for it all. Hating myself for what I was doing, hating myself for the person I was, hating myself just for having the nerve to exist. It’s never going to get better, I repeated to myself, over and over and over again. It’s never going to get better. Yet here I am, only months after a suicide attempt that left me unconscious for more than a day. Only a year after I was taken to the hospital in the back of a police car after my parents called the cops on me. On January 26, 2015, I wrote in my journal: This will never end. What I’ve discovered is that it does end. It does. The most important thing I’ve learned from my mental illness is that the pain can never be eternal. The pain will never beat you. The pain ends, and you are alive. You are alive, and, to use another trite adage that you doubtless hate, while there’s life, there’s hope. Once the fog of depression opens, cracks of light begin to shine through. You see slivers of hope that broaden and become clear. They are your loved ones, your family—whether the family you were born with, or the family you chose for yourself. They are what you see when you are finally able to think about the future without being terrified. People love you, friend. Remember that. And I love you, too.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

I know you are a strong, inspirational person. The whole world can see that, everyone except you. I know you want to seem tough, strong, as if nothing can ever bring you down. The truth is, even the strongest people fall, and it’s okay to let our guards down sometimes and accept the fact that at some points in our life, we all need help. Throughout high school, I have always been that girl, the one who doesn’t open up to anyone as the fear of judgement overtakes the chance of comfort. If there is one thing I have learned from this experience, it is that we create our own destiny, we choose how we want to live this life. Dealing with a mental illness isn’t something we have chosen to deal with, but that’s just how life is, we have to take what’s in front of us and go with it. What I have learned is that we need to handle life one day at a time, and strive for the best. We have to work together to realize that what seems like something only one of us is dealing with, is something numerous others are dealing with as well. What’s helped me deal with the thought of the future the most, is the idea that we have control over it. Not our disease. Not our illness. But us as a whole. WE have the control to make the future bright and get over what’s been placed upon us. We don’t have to be what our mental illness is, we don’t have to be our mental illness. We can be whoever we want to be. When days are hard, you just have to take a step back from life and breathe. Just breathe. Don’t think about all the hard days you’re going to have to encounter, because you’re not there yet and those days may not even happen. Look back and think about all the hard days that you have made it through. If you have made it this far, keep going, because your mental illness can’t grow, you can.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

Right now, living just one more day may seem impossible. You may feel angry, confused, betrayed, ashamed, and that is exactly what your eating disorder wants. I know how it feels, and I know right now your eating disorder has managed to sneak its way into every aspect of your life, and may very well be your best friend. However, it’s crucial for you to realize that this ‘friend’ has one goal; and that is to ultimately end your life. I learned that the hard way, and it wasn’t until I was lying in a hospital bed with wires stuck to my chest that I decided to fight. My experience with this mental illness taught me that my own brain could become my own worst enemy. But more importantly, I learned that recovery IS possible, and I can honestly say that it is worth every tear and every seemingly impossible step forward you need to take. Personally, having hope for the future was not easy during my journey, and it may not be for you. I would look at others with envy, jealous of the experiences they were having—from travelling the world, to having children. Why couldn’t that be me? What’s stopping me from fulfilling my dreams? These questions tormented me until it hit me; those would be MY future experiences. Once I realized I was in control of my future, I began to have hope and dreamt of the endless possibilities my future held. This fuelled me with determination to fight for my health. In order to have hope for your future, you need to believe in yourself, because you are stronger than your eating disorder and what you want to do in the future is up to you, not your mental illness.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

How are you feeling right now? Do you feel confident, carefree, and extremely energized? Or are you feeling small, tired, and perhaps a bit hopeless? No matter what you are feeling right now, I just want to share some of my experiences with you. In school I had alternating times where I felt that I was high and invincible, and times where I felt I had no true purpose in life, as though life was not worth living for. Later I learned the hard way that such drastic swings in my emotions were unhealthy. For example, during one of my energetic bouts I neglected my physical condition. I had not eaten a meal for a few days, nor did I sleep much. My condition worsened and I eventually required treatment at a hospital. I learned several things that would have prevented my decline in health to begin with. First and foremost, I must create and adhere to an appropriate sleep schedule. Yes, I know that sounds boring, but consistent high-quality sleep solves a ton of problems! Next, I do self-check-ins often so that I acknowledge how I feel. If I feel too excited, nervous, or depressed, I realize it may be an unhealthy symptom, and I must not be afraid to ask for help. There are MANY people out there who are happy to help; these include counselors, parents, friends, and siblings. Now when I feel depressed, I will reduce my stress load; I go for a walk or do less work. When things look gloomy, I reconnect with nature. I observe my surroundings, appreciate its evolution over billions of years, and feel a sense of belonging. We spend only a short time here on Earth, so no matter what challenges you are facing right now, make the most out of it. Just remember, your body will stay with you the rest of your life so taking care of your health is number one priority!

Sincerely,

Me