Letters 2016

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: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, psychosis, self-injury, substance use and suicide.

 

Dear You,

Now I can’t say that I know exactly how you feel right now because everyone experiences things in different ways, but I can share with you my story and some advice that I can offer. At the beginning of my journey, I felt anxious, lonely, pessimistic, hopeless, and all of these other negative feelings. I had people around me who would have been more than happy to help but I was always too afraid to ask for help. This led to me spending almost three years living in anxiety along with sleep deprivation, which at one point caused me to have suicidal thoughts. Throughout all this, I also had the constant pressure to do the best in everything whether it was school, volunteer, work, or a social life. Everyone knew me as the “shy girl” and someone who didn’t share much about my personal life. However, to me I knew this wasn’t true because I had so much to share and I was in desperate need of help as I felt conflicted with every thought and action. I had several thoughts of giving in to substance use as well. But deep inside of me, I knew that I didn’t need any of that because I knew that I was strong enough to deal with these issues. Conquering all of these problems didn’t take a day‒ it took months, and I’m still working on it. I realized that everyone has a purpose in this world whether it’s big or small. It took me a while to realize and learn the importance of my life and how valuable it is, which then allowed me to have hope for the future. I thought about all of the people around me, and most importantly, my goals and hobbies. Personally, I love photography and I took time each day for this, and that’s what allowed me to be where I am today. So whatever you’re going through, just clear your mind and go do whatever you love one step at a time.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

I know you are tired of hearing all types of people give you advice on how to “work through” your anxiety and depression. You may feel like no one understands what you are going through, but there are people who do. I remember the anger that would well up when anyone would tell me to just take baby steps, how I would lash out verbally saying the most hurtful things, knowing I should stop but not being able to. I also remember how emotionally and physically exhausted I would be after such an outburst. I thought most people saw this as lousy, teenage behaviour but I slowly realized it was something a little more ominous. If you can relate please also understand that there is a way back but it requires you to dig deep, to reach out for help and to keep reaching until someone listens. Depression shows itself in so many different ways so do not let someone talk you into believing you are “just sad” or “hormonal”, be persistent and get the help that you know you need. I remember when I finally felt the correct medication start to kick in I felt less foggy, less angry and more hopeful. You can feel this way again too but it starts with the first scary step of going to the doctor and admitting there is a problem. After that please take your medications regularly, DO NOT self-medicate and be aware of your emotional health. I found that decreasing my stress level, getting the correct amount of sleep, exercising regularly and eating properly has allowed me to manage my stress which in turn helps with my mental health issues and ultimately gives me a sense of hopefulness. My hope for you is that you find this balance too!

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

Depression works its way into my life but it’s not always present. The way it works, for me at least, is that depression is an underlying feeling and sadness, guilt, shame, worthlessness which all paint the background. Then I wait until the next temporary up appears and I ride the cycle over again. But after living through this continuous emotional loop of pain and confusion for so long I still believe I’m allowed to have goals. I’m able to plan a future, to dream of a family and career in hospitality. Allowing myself to think like this makes me able to take all of my experiences and move it with me onto bigger things because mental illness won’t end me, it is a part of my story that I will continue to create.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

Life is hard. I don’t believe there’s a single person in this world that hasn’t had a cross to bear at some point in their life. Our character and who we are is determined not by the severity of the challenges we face but in how we face them. Coping mechanisms are integral to being able to survive in todays’ world. When I was 12 my father was removed from the home by the police and since then his presence in my life has dwindled from a father to a stranger. I made it a priority to cope as healthily as I could. I held onto the supports in my life, articulated my thoughts and feelings and made my mental wellbeing a priority. When my father was my age he also coped in the only way he knew how, and that was by drinking. It is that key difference in coping strategy and acknowledgement of my genetic predisposition that allowed me to evolve into a successful young man with many aspirations. Most importantly we owe it to those who have fallen before us to learn from their mistakes and choose to avoid them because once we are caught in the cycle of addictions, it is much more difficult to pull away from them. We need to take into account our environment and our heredity and augment that to give ourselves a better future. This awareness while overcoming adversity helped me build healthy coping skills in my life. I suspect that it will continue to guide me.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

When I was first diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, I was ashamed of myself. I realized that it wasn’t my or anybody else fault that I had an eating disorder. I told my best friend she was so supportive, it became easier to tell my other close friends. I’m not saying you have to tell the whole world but even just telling one person can make a huge difference in your recovery. There is somebody you can talk to who can make sure you receive the support and treatment you deserve. My family and friends helped keep me hopeful that I will reach a full recovery and have a normal life again. It’s not gonna be easy and sometimes you’re gonna want to give up and let the eating disorder inside you win but you deserve so much more‒the ability to go out with friends and eat and have a normal life.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

You’re not going to suffer for much longer. You will find that in your struggle, you will find comfort, strength, and a support system that drag you from the depths of your depression and will show you how truly special this world can be. You’re going to make it. You can’t fix your depression alone. Find the people who you trust the most, your teachers, and open lines of communication. You may think that all the teachers are scary and they don’t want to talk to you, but they are wonderful people who will carry you through thick and thin. You will make friends. You’re going to strive in life, you’re going to be successful, but only if you don’t give up. If you give up now, you’re not letting yourself shine. You might think that life hates you, that you’re not worth it, but right now I earned one of the highest awards in Girl Guides, I am an active leader within the school, and I still have depression and anxiety on the backseat. It doesn’t leave you, you learn how to accept your mental illness, work with it, and you’ll learn how to find passion and strength within yourself. Don’t give your time to people who don’t respect you. Be true to yourself, what you believe in, and what your heart tells you to do. Things will be okay, you just have to push through.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

I started suffering from depression and anxiety at a young age, at that time I didn’t have any support or even know what was going on with me. It started getting really bad and noticeable once I got into high school. I started to distance myself from my friends and my family, I started to skip school and fail all my classes. I didn’t care if I hurt the people I loved or if I even hurt my teachers. I thought no one cared about me or what I did. In grade 10, I started self-medicating with hard drugs. I was also given medication for depression and anxiety through my family doctor. I was hanging out with the wrong people and doing illegal things. I should have known better but I didn’t care. Throughout grade 10 I just kept getting worse and worse, to the point where I would have emotional episodes and I would be sent home because no one knew how to handle me. Over Christmas break I ended up in the hospital for attempting suicide, this is when I woke up. I finally realized what I had been doing was completely wrong, and I had to get better. I started seeing a mental health counsellor again and I also got taken off the medication I was on, I knew from that point on I did not need medication to help me with my issues. I started going to my classes and getting my grades up. I had no idea if I would graduate on time or not. I started by gaining trust again and staying in school all the time. I am now graduating when I am supposed to be and no longer suffer majorly from depression or anxiety. I learned that you can’t always cope by yourself and that it is okay to not feel okay at times. My counsellor and all my personal supports have helped me to become the successful student that I am today.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

Anxiety is something that can creep up no matter what you do to prepare yourself, there are ways to help, and you have to find these ways if you want to get better. You are not alone, which is something that needs to be remembered, because a lot of the time it can feel like everything and everyone is against you, like you have no one to relate to, but that’s not true. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, a teacher or a professional there will always be someone to talk to. For me personally, it felt as though there was always something wrong with me, like it was something I could control and I just needed to stop myself, but that’s not true. You can’t control it, you aren’t making it happen, and it doesn’t define who you are as a person. You are much more than your mental illness, you are an individual person and can do so much more than you could ever imagine, even if you think your life is confined by your mental illness, it definitely isn’t. I believe that with the proper professional help there is always hope for the future.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

To those who find yourselves struggling to move forward and feel that you won’t be successful, this letter is for you. I “suffer” from ADHD. I cannot get a ‘B’ in school to save my life and I feel worthless when I get my test results back and I have the lowest grade in the class. I feel I have to be medicated to get good grades and to turn into a “normal person” which I hate with a fiery passion. I often wonder why I do so bad in school and so I decided to research my “condition.” Instead of looking up the negative attributes of ADHD I looked up ‘successful people with ADHD’ and after ten minutes of reading I was the happiest I had been in years. I found out that that the most successful people in the world have my so called “condition,” and they struggled just like me. It is a unique blessing that makes me extraordinary, not something I should “suffer” from. The next thing I did was researched all my good attributes and learnt how to use them to my advantage as well as taking my not so good attributes and figuring out how to get around them. I am proud to say I have ADHD. My message to you is: learn the advantages of your “condition” and use it as a strength for everything you do. The other piece of advice is to LOVE YOURSELF!!!! You are the most amazing person in the world and just because you’re not good at being normal doesn’t mean you should be upset with yourself. Accelerate your ability and love yourself!

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

Okay so… Mental illnesses can be a real bummer, and they always seem to have a tendency to get in the way of things that you want to do. It can also be difficult when you have to deal with how people treat you, what with the constant patronizing, treating you like you are incapable just because you’re brain happens to be a bit more all over the place, or even just flat out rude, saying that your mental illnesses and experiences aren’t that bad because they aren’t physical injuries. But such is life, and you really learn to live with the fact that people will just be like that, and while a lot of them are very ignorant, there are always people out there that will make an effort to sympathize and understand you, and will try to make you’re hardships easier to bare. And sure, it is also a pain in the butt having to deal with the repercussions of having brain difficulties. I can’t do long division without having a panic attack. And despite what a lot of people say, those problems don’t always go away. Sometimes your brain will just always have those issues. But you learn to live around them, and accommodate yourself in such a way that you can live life with ease despite the things you were diagnosed with. One thing I was always taught ever since I was a kid was that I wouldn’t go far in life because of my mental illnesses, and for the longest time I believed that. But right now, I’m living by myself, I’m graduating high school and I’m about to go to a private art school. I feel like that’s pretty far, and I’m not even finished my journey. I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t let people tell you what can’t do, because even if you happen to be ill, you have the ability to do great things.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

I’ve suffered from depression, anxiety, and psychosis since I was pretty young, though I never got treated. I finally spoke to my family practitioner about the problems I was having, and then they called my parents (which was pretty embarrassing at the time). That was in Grade 10, which was one of the most unpleasant years of my life. I remember feeling either everything at once or nothing at all. I was lucky in some ways, though, because after that year, I was able to find a long-term clinic that would help me. I was pretty terrible at voicing my feelings. I think that’s partially why it took so long for me to start feeling better. I fell once when I was fourteen and the front of my tooth was knocked out. It was terribly painful. My friend nearly passed out but I laughed it off, refusing to cry in front of my classmates. I don’t like to cry at all, actually, much less in public or in front of people, so you can imagine how reluctant I was when I had to vocalize my feelings in therapy. My point is: professional help is always going to be the best option for treating any kind of mental health issues, but I think we’re often hindered by our own reluctance to vulnerability. For me, hope for the future hadn’t existed until that year. In fact, I was certain the future wouldn’t include me at all. Then I had this mind clearing epiphany, wherein I understood that every person in this world had the potential to do extraordinary things. Suddenly, the idea of suicide seemed like a waste of that potential. In a universe full of infinite possibility, we cannot discount what the future may hold simply because we haven’t experienced it yet. It doesn’t matter what your niche will be, only that you stick around long enough to find it.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

Fighting against our own mind? It’s pretty scary. The thing about our mind is that it’s ours. We can take it back. I’ve had those days where I didn’t want to get up; I’m sure you have had them too. Nights are lonely; it’s the time where things creep up on you. I’ve also learned the hard way that being alone is better than being with someone who makes you feel alone. Sometimes it feels like your skin doesn’t quite fit right. In those moments, I want you to recognize that you are more than your body. You have skin and bones and tissue, but that isn’t who you are. When I felt like giving up, it was hard to remember the things that were worth fighting for. When you get into that state of hopelessness, when you feel as if the ground is breaking apart beneath your feet, take a moment to breathe. I want you to remember. Remember the feeling of your favourite teddy bear. Remember the time you went driving with your friends and you opened the window and felt the window rushing past your face and through your hair. Remember the feeling of bubble gum ice cream trickling down your chin. Remember the breeze by the ocean. I want you to remember the first time you held someone’s hand. Remember the butterflies in your stomach when that kid in second grade called you cute. Remember long hugs. Think about the feeling of your pet’s soft fur against your fingers, and their sand paper tongue licking your face. I want you to remember splashing in puddles, watching raindrops fall past your car window, the taste of snowflakes on your tongue, the feeling of the sun warming your back, the glow of a summer sunset. I want you to remember these things, because sometimes it’s hard to get out of our heads. Sometimes, we forget the simple things that, in the end, make everything worth it.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

Please tell someone how you are feeling. I know you feel ashamed, embarrassed, and distressed about what is happening inside your mind and inside your body. Believe me, the faster you tell someone (a parent is the best choice) the better. Do not wait. That just gives the nasty feelings inside you more time to grow and develop on their own terms. Please don’t get mad at yourself. You are separate from this disease. You are not your anxiety or your depression or your panic attacks. You are you, in all your quirky and fun ways. You are not going crazy. You are not going to be taken to loony town if you tell someone. You will receive help. And if you don’t get help right even after telling someone (like I did), don’t give up. Use the rejection as a fuel for fighting to get you help. The anger you feel from that will allow you to feel someone other than numb, too, so that’s a plus. Please don’t punish yourself. Inflicting scars upon yourself may allow you to feel something for a short amount of time, but it only leads to an endless cycle of pain and hurt on top of the nasty stuff you already feel inside of you. Go buy a container of your favourite colour Playdoh and roll that out whenever you feel the urge. Please know that it’s okay to cry. You’ll often feel better afterwards, anyway. You’re not weak. Talk to yourself like a friend would. Hold your own hand or your favourite teddy bear’s paw. Tell yourself you only have to get through the next ten seconds and then keep repeating the next ten seconds. Write a list of all the things to keep fighting for‒all the reasons to keep living. All your dreams, goals and all the people who love you. Please keep fighting. Please keep going. Please get help

Sincerely,

Me

 

Dear You,

As you read this letter, take a minute and imagine that I am there sitting right beside you. Imagine the way I hold my body as I try to portray all that I can. Imagine my facial expressions, follow my intonations and know that in my eyes as I tell you my story, I hold a reflection of my younger self. At the beginning I could not understand at all what was happening to me. I had no words to put to the feelings and emotions that surged though me. “What is happening in my head,” I wondered, “what is this?” Although these words are not easy to digest, I will tell you that for years I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety and it’s been very challenging. In my initial confusion I could have never predicated what was to come, but in remembering all the twists and turns to get to where I am today some things ring true. I’ve realized that identifying what I am experiencing, putting words to a feeling, and separating emotions is so important. One of hardest things for me to learn through my entire experience with mental illness was that I needed to listen to myself. When there’s a difficult emotion, or if I’m falling, or drifting away I stop and ask “what can I do to help myself?” Hope is very powerful, but it can also seem fleeting, and at times absolutely unattainable. With my depression it seemed that I had lost sense of who I was. I found that when I held on to the truth that I am here and I am me, I saw glimpses of my creativity and zest for life I thought had disappeared. Slowly, I began to believe in myself and that if I had a sense of true self, I could get through anything. If there is one thing I can tell you to hold on to, it is that even if you have to fight so hard through the darkness, when it fades you will see the word anew.

Sincerely,

Me