Friday, June 20, 2014

Letter To My Little Self

Dear Little Me,

You are not an asshole. I know that you think that about yourself often, and I know I've been dismissive of your complexity in calling you that, but in hindsight I couldn't be more wrong. You had to deal with more in your small life than you were equipped to deal with gracefully, but that you dealt with it at all means that you are courageous.

I'm writing to tell you that I am so proud of you. I'm proud of all of the things that you learned to overcome. I'm proud of your ability to accept, grow, and change in spite of so much resistance. Not only resistance from many of the ignorant adults around you, but also the resistance of yourself. I am proud of your depth and your fearless navigation of it. I'm proud that you climbed out of the deep, dark trench you found yourself in and managed to come out on the other side better for it.

I'm also writing to tell you that you don't have to be so ashamed of your story, and you don't need to take on guilt for other people. That's a heavy load for such a tiny person.

I know that your parents' divorce feels like the end of your world, but it's not. It is the beginning of a challenging time fueled by a pain-induced rebellion. You will be more independent and introspective for it all. Your parents will learn how to love better and healthier, which will be good for all of you.

Your mom is dating a woman, and that doesn't define you. It will, however, shape you in some way to become a more accepting, tolerant, and patient person. You'll understand it more when you're fifteen and first learn how to love someone that is not your family. When you're twenty-two she'll start dating a man for the first time since your dad, and it will still take getting used to. So long as she's treated right, and happy, so are you for her.

I know you feel as if the world is against you and ending all at once. Your self-sabatoge is your only sense of normalcy, but it doesn't have to be. The cocktail of anti-depressants you've been prescribed will be short-lived. You will live free from reliance on medications or substances to find stability.

But first, you will descend further than you ever thought possible. You spend a week in a psychiatric hospital. It will feel like some cruel, brutal hell as punishment for being angry and so desperately sad that every aspect of your life uprooted. It will feel awful; like a fluke that you would be sent to some place with people like this. You are not a monster, or crazy - just hurt. You won't realize until you're twenty-four the value of this experience. It shows you what you could become if you continue down the path of self-destruction. It also teaches you to have gratitude for the life that you were given. The life that allows you to be present in the world you have the privilege of experiencing. Gratitude will become a driving force of your life. When you are twenty-three, you will finally not be ashamed of this part of your story. You will be talking to a friend, and he will share the story of his sister going to a psychiatric hospital. He will explain with such compassion how he felt sad to see her in such an awful place. Right then, that will be the first time you will ever feel like you could talk about it without feeling shameful. You won't, because it won't be an appropriate time to make the conversation about you, but you will feel the capacity to do so, and that will be enough.

You'll be less selfish and more aware of others. You'll realize that you don't have to carry such a tremendous weight all the time. I know that you feel so much shame for your story, but none of these things define you. You don't have to deal with struggles in secret; that's what friends and family are for.

Your family will forgive you for all the times you treated them unfairly, and you will forgive them for the same. Your parents will be some of the most supportive people in your life, and for that, you are lucky. You will make friends that feel like family, and you will continue to grow friendships with some of your current friends. Your brothers will become your best friends, your mom: your confidant, and your dad will swoop in during times of despair. You will find love and you will lose it too. When that happens it will feel unbearable at times, but you will find so much strength in being alone. You will be catapulted into a web of self-discovery, gratitude, and friendship. Do not fear the valleys of life, for you are still ascending upward. You are in a valley, but it will not descend forever, and it will not be the last that you come upon. You will learn how to navigate them with less heartache as you get older.

Finally, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for being the last to forgive you. You will grow into someone who knows more about openness, healing, acceptance, love, and gratitude, but for now you are right where you need to be.

Future You