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.
I know people like you. You need the truth; the good, bad, and ugly truth. I was just like you. I remember standing in the mirror and sucking my stomach in, thinking this is what I was supposed to look like. I remember getting a bad mark on a math quiz and not being able to go to school for the next three days because I was busy punishing myself by not eating. I remember feeling nauseous for days on end and not being able to get up. It took me months to even recognize that I had a problem, and so many months after that to even start to feel “better” and I’m still not where I want to be. It took me months after that to realize that was okay. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that recovery is not something distant to look forward to. Recovery is right now. It is the decisions that make you feel uncomfortable. It is ignoring the voices in your stomach and your thighs and your back, and saying “yes” to an extra slice of pizza, and realizing that little bit of grease is just going to add to your glow. There will always be days where you don’t feel your best, but there will always be days where you do. Hold on to them. There will also be days where life sucks. Hold on to the fact that those are just days, they aren’t forever. A huge part of recovery is talking. Don’t hold your voice back because you’re afraid of scaring people off. That’s what I thought would happen when I first started talking, and then people stayed and listened. I was shown that there are people who loved me and valued what I had to say. Not everyone was like what the voices in my head were telling me. And that gave me hope. You are not alone in this, I promise. It is okay to feel uncomfortable–it means you’re growing. There are people who love you and are proud of you.
Silence is not the solution. I know you believe you are alone in your struggle, that everyone around you has it all together. Push aside your embarrassment and humiliation; share how you are feeling with friends, a teacher, or your parents. You will be stunned to discover how many other people are hiding their distress. I was emotionally abused by the person in my life I trusted the most. I was closer with him than I was with my siblings, my friends, and my own parents. He was my teammate, my partner, and my best friend. I wish I had spoken up when he first started the abuse, but I blamed myself. I thought somehow things would get better or would stop, if only I changed, improved, tried harder. Degraded, isolated, and destroyed. Everything was my fault, and I believed it. I became a possession, easily replaced and meaningless. I cried myself to sleep. The abuse lasted for two years—long enough to send me into a spiral of depression and anxiety. It’s difficult to not blame myself for my current struggles. If only, I should have, why didn’t I? Seek help. Your school or your doctor can help you find a counsellor. I have learned now that I am not to blame for the toxic situation, and there’s no point looking back at what I could have done differently. What happened happened, it’s how I move on from here that really counts. I have learned to be kind to myself, to take a walk in the forest, to meditate, to do yoga. And journaling has really helped. I have learned that healing might take longer than I hoped, but it will happen. You may be worried, you may be scared, so please tell someone. Silence is not the solution.
You can do this. It’s hard, and recovery is a long, dwindling road with many ups and downs, but you can do it. There will be days where you’ll feel like you’re back at square one, but also days where you’ll wake up and realize that you can handle this, where you know you can get through it because you’ve done it before. It’s a process we all go through; I’m still recovering. There are days where anxiety and nausea take over my body, but I’ve learned how to manage and work through it. Swallowing my pride and reaching out ultimately saved me, because no amount of pride could’ve cured my depression and anxiety. Talking about what’s going on helps a lot, especially with friends, family, and professionals who understand what you’re going through. Find those people. It can be difficult to get support, but you’ll feel so much better knowing you have people to fall back on that will support and help you when things get tough. Relapse is part of recovery, so don’t get worried about your progress, because one day you’ll be okay. You’ve gotten this far, be proud of yourself.