I don’t think that anyone would have guessed I was depressed in high school. I had great friends, I dated, I was an honor student, I played two sports, I was in 11 clubs, I was the prom queen, I came from a good home. I could not possibly have had anything to be depressed about. I don’t think anyone would have guessed that attending a hockey game would send me into a panic attack. I can vividly remember my back against the cold concrete wall of the Resch Center, gasping for air, wringing my hands, and feeling as if my heart was going to jump out of my chest and leave my anxious body to collapse on the floor among the oblivious crowd. I don’t think anyone would have guessed that my class participation grades were consistently lower than the rest of my grades because raising my hand in class incited enough anxiety in my body and mind that I felt dizzy and lightheaded. I don’t think anyone would have guessed that I coped by scratching – I scratched my widow’s peak, the insides of my wrists, and just above my knee caps. Sometimes I scratched until I bled, sometimes I scratched until I feared someone around me would notice. Oftentimes I felt shattered – as if little parts of me were thrown in every direction, and I could never quite put them back together.
I have always experienced emotion in floods. Even some of my happiest moments have also been shrouded with anxiety. I don’t just feel happiness – I feel apprehensiveness, confusion, self-consciousness. I worry about the past, present, and future in a simultaneous blur. Anger is accompanied with fear and regret, sadness is its own tornado of emotion. During my freshman year of college, I found numbness in alcohol. I never developed a dependency on alcohol, but I felt release from my stress and anxiety and welcomed the opportunity to numb my pain with “fun” nights out. Antidepressants did nothing for me. Sleep was a stranger to me; I was lucky to sleep three hours a night. My therapist and psychiatrist spent session upon session attempting to tailor techniques and strategies to help me sleep through the night, but I was plagued with doubt and anxiety, unable to escape the prison of my own mind. My bed was not a safe haven, it was a black hell of despair. There were nights I laid in my bed and planned my funeral. I could not bear the burden of consciousness and there were moments I was scared of my own thoughts. I cried what felt like rivers. My mom asked me if I needed to drop out of school. I felt like I was screaming underwater, desperate for help, but no one could understand.
I don’t know how I got to where I am today. I would be lying, both to you and myself, if I said I no longer struggle with anxiety on a daily basis, but my depression is well managed. I have a loving community of family and friends. I have overcome days of darkness and nights of oblivion. Most importantly, I have learned to love myself. So in honor of that love, I’ve decided to write a love letter to myself.
First of all, I am proud of you. You have overcome obstacles that once seemed impossible. You have a graceful spirit, and you love to put others before you. You are hardworking. It’s so exciting to see you turn your aspirations into reality. You have achieved several of your goals and continue to do so. You are loyal. Your dedication to Alex and your relationship is admirable. You have grown from a victim to a fighter. You have stopped finding strength in those around you in favor of strength within yourself. You are beautiful – not just on the outside, but in the way you bring smiles to others and offer your listening ear and support. You have faults. Sometimes you are selfish, and sometimes you procrastinate and avoid things that intimidate you. But, you’re aware of your faults and you work on them. You have matured – a lot. Seeing how much you’ve developed into a gracious woman is refreshing and a great reminder that sometimes rock bottom is the greatest classroom on earth. You’re brilliant. You’re witty and crave learning new things. You’re empathetic. Your experiences have allowed you insight into the struggles of people around you. Sometimes, you’re superwoman. I’m amazed at how much you have on your plate. You’re doing a really great job of managing it all. I know you get exhausted, but I hope you don’t ever give up. Being you has been challenging and exhilarating, and I look forward to all the wonderful successes and mistakes you make in the future.
I love you!
We usually have a limited amount of control over what happens to us. However, we usually have a greater amount of control over our minds, bodies and attitudes. Take it upon yourself to heal as a person. Find your strengths and your weaknesses. I challenge you to write a love letter to yourself. It’s more difficult than you think, but I’d be willing to bet that you’ll learn some things about yourself you otherwise would have been oblivious to.