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A Letter to My Younger Self About Mental Health


Have you seen those those "Letters to My However Old Self" blog posts? I know they're usually addressed to the person's seventeen year old self, or fifteen year old self, but I thought I'd take a completely different spin, and address it to my much younger self. As in, my five/six year old self, back when I was first diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. This was a memory that had been haunting me for a while, but thanks to a recent EMDR therapy session, I was able to process it and find a new and positive meaning in an otherwise upsetting memory. Later that night after my therapy session, I wrote this, and I've decided to share it with all of you. I hope if you're struggling with the shame that comes with having a mental illness, that this will help you and hopefully reshape those bad feelings into something positive. 

"Dear Little Me,

Hi there! It’s big me. Terrifying, right? I’m you, but in grown up form. And see! You finally got that bowl cut you had for years to grow out. It’s not forever, don’t worry. Hair grows. But you already knew that and that’s not why I time traveled from the future to tell you about.

I’m actually here to tell you something important.

I know you just learned something about yourself from a doctor and your mom. You have something called OCD. It stands for obsessive-compulsive disorder. I know the doctor explained it to you, but it’s when your brain gets stuck on an idea or action, and you just can’t stop thinking about that thought or doing that action. It makes you feel better in a way to keep doing it, but it also makes you feel worse. Remember when you got so upset in kindergarten (you must have been about five at the time) about school that you hid under your desk at home and couldn’t stop rolling your hands over each other, over and over again, while your breathing shuddered with cries caught in your chest? Your brain wouldn’t stop thinking about how upsetting your classes made you that doing those actions made you feel better, but also upset you and scared you, because you didn’t know why you were doing them.

The doctor and your mom (especially your mom) were very worried about how upset you were, so they decided to put you on medication. They knew this was a big decision for someone so young, but they wanted you to feel better. They also thought going to therapy to talk about why you were upset might be a good idea. This made you feel better, that something could make these bad thoughts go away, instead of running around and around in your head, never stopping and making you cry and scream.

But then your mom sat you down for a conversation. I think you were about five, maybe close to six. In a gentle way, she told you that there was nothing wrong with being on medication, or going to therapy, but that maybe, just maybe, you should keep it to yourself, and just let your mom, dad, and sisters know. She warned that sometimes some people may not understand, and she didn’t want you to get hurt. You remember feeling a little shocked and confused, didn’t you. You thought, what was wrong with me? What’s wrong with being on medication? Was there something wrong with me? And from there, this secret brought you shame.

Your mom didn’t mean it. Not at all. She was just trying to protect you from the world that she was used to. And trust me, kids (and even grown ups) can be cruel sometimes. She just didn’t want you to be hurt by your friends or by ignorant people who don’t understand mental health. But you carried that shame with you for years. Knowing that you took medicine for a chemical imbalance you couldn’t control. Because that’s all it is, a chemical imbalance. In your brain.

People call it mental health, because it’s in your brain, and affects your behavior, but it’s really a physical problem too. Your brain is a physical, real thing and affects your body. Those shuddering, painful breaths? Those are physical. That painful rhythm of your heart as panic sets in? That’s physical. That feeling of electricity running up and down your legs as your irritability grips you like a knife? That’s physical. Your mind and body are connected, and no, you are not crazy. You are completely normal.

Because there’s one thing your mom forgot to mention, something I just learned now, as a 30 year old (yes, 30! I know, I’m old): that there is hope. Yes, there will be bad times. Sometimes you need to find a new medication, sometimes several, and sometimes those medications won’t work. But one (or two) will. It might take you a while to find a doctor that actually cares about you, you might have some (truly) awful ones in between, but there will be a good one there to support you. And no, some friends and a certain boyfriend (yeah, you’ve had boyfriends. Some better than others, lemme tell ya!) will not understand your struggles, but there will be friends who, without having to explain, will support you, no matter what you’re going through. They will stand by your side and listen when you want to talk, or just be there, letting you know they’re there, just in case.

There is no reason to feel shame about your mental health. Your mental issues may be a part of you, but it’s not all you are. There are people out there who understand you, who know exactly what you are going through, or have went through it, or something similar, themselves. And there are people who may not know what you’re going through, but can be there for you. There is nothing wrong with you. You are yourself, and that’s okay. That’s more than okay. That’s wonderful. That’s great. It’s splendid. It’s beautiful.

I promise you know, as a grown up, that things will, and always do, get better. That you will not always feel bad, that the sun will shine through the clouds. The right medication will help, therapy will help, and you will get better. You just have to try and want to feel better. You have to put in the work, no matter how hard it is. But it works. It really does.

It will be okay, little Emily. I promise you. I won’t let the world and our mind defeat you. Because I’m still here, and I’m proof that it didn’t.

Love you, you odd little thing,
Your much older odd self

PS. They lied about Beanie Babies. They aren’t worth squat. Trust me."

This was such a personal piece for me to write, but I think it was important for me to share. I want to be more open about my mental health experiences, and become an advocate, and change those negative feelings I have towards myself and my mental health, as well as others who might have felt the same exact way I did about mine. And don't get me wrong; I'm still struggling with the way I feel and have felt about my mental health. But it's a start. A good start. And I'm honored to share it with all of you and I hope it helps you if you're struggling the way I was. And remember: there is always hope.

Question for all of you: Do you feel or have you felt ashamed about having a mental illness or illnesses? If so, how do you combat or change those feelings to something more positive? I'm still working on it, and maybe so are you, so tips all around are always appreciated!

Stay Weird,
Emily



7 comments on "A Letter to My Younger Self About Mental Health"
  1. This was such a touching post and I love the idea of writing to your younger self. I have struggled a lot and I still do at times, but I try my hardest to remember I am not alone. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww thank you! I've always wanted to write a letter to my younger self but I always figured it would be about teenage me, and mostly about boys and friends ;) I'm so sorry that you've struggled and are still struggling, but you're absolutely right, you are not alone! If you ever need to talk, feel free to DM me anytime!

      Thank you for reading my post and commenting! I adore your blog so I'm incredibly honored <3

      Delete
  2. What an honest and wonderful post. It's nice to hear about mothers being supportive of their children's mental health issues, because that's not always the case. It looks like you have a great support system :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! Thank you so much for your kind words! I do have a great support system, I'm really so, so lucky in that respect. And thank you for reading and commenting! It made my day <3

      Delete
  3. This was a lovely post. I enjoyed your letter to your younger self and I think she'd be proud of how far you've come. It sounds like you had (still have?) a great support system. I can relate to feeling ashamed of your mental illness and like you have to hide it. In some ways I still hide it, from some people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kim! Thank you! This was kind of a hard letter to write, but I think it was worth it! I just wish I could have helped younger me, in some weird way (time travel? lol). I do have a good support system, thankfully, I'm quite lucky in that way. I'm sorry that you've felt ashamed, and I certainly still hide my mental illness from some people. I'm trying to be more open about it, but I still feel like I only share with people I can trust with the information and who will understand. So I completely understand!

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post! It means a lot to me <3

      Delete
  4. Hey Mate, it is very well written article, thank you for the valuable and useful information. Keep up the good work! FYI, please check these depression, stress and anxiety related articles:

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    ReplyDelete

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