I’m here and you are not alone. I know you because I have felt as you do. I have fought as you do. I have kindled all the courage in my body and mind to move out of the mud and onto the green grass. And I want you to know that I did it for myself, but I did it for you too.
Girl, I am writing to reach you, and I have sat down with pen and paper many times thinking of what I’d say to you if I got the chance. There is a reason why I have been writing to you, who I’ve never met. And the reason is that simply, I care.
I share a coin with you. I may be tails, you may be heads, yet somehow we share a space together. We exist in a place where our stories connect. In this world, at this hour, in this moment, you may be a city away from me or even overseas, but this does not matter much. Distance does not affect the necessity for me to speak to you.
Girl, I believe in a better world for us. I imagine living on an earth where we can share our stories, hold hands, cry in front of each other, and rise up together. I have a vision for us girls. I envision that we may hold space for each other and listen to one another so that we don’t have to go through it alone. I see a future where we don’t have to feel any violence in our vulnerability.
Girl, I have felt embarrassed, ashamed, rejected, sad, angry, and absolutely terrified as a woman who once lived with the intensity of mental illness.
Girl, I have been there. Quit many jobs, keeping the secret of my diagnosis locked up in an imperishable cage, embarrassed to tell my supervisors and employers the truth.
I’ve been there. I’ve been ashamed of being branded with a diagnosis that I just didn’t understand. I’ve ridden the rocky, swerving, diving rollercoaster of denial and feeling powerless over my thoughts and emotions.
And girl, I’ve rebelled. I’ve resisted guidance and consumed the tonics and elixirs ready to free myself. I’ve covered up my reality with escapism, only to later find it wouldn’t cure me like healthy practices would.
There was a time, for a long period, when I felt that no one understood. I masked my mental health condition every day.
Girl, I understand the darkest moments, the rejection of guidance, the depression, the desperation, and the pain of keeping mental health conditions a secret. You, girl, have not been alone in this experience.
Girl, I couldn’t be real with myself. I would rather fly to the moon, daydream, isolate, complain. I rather behave these ways than look at myself in the mirror and say, “I love you.”
When I couldn’t bear to look into my own eyes with love and kindness, that is when I knew I was looking through the wrong frame. In moments like those, I had to look at the cards I’d been dealt and use what I’d been handed. I had to realize, hey, I have something. My voice, my writing, my creativity!
This routine of facing myself and all that comes with me helped me on this journey of self-discovery and self-care.
In time, I learned to talk back to the stigma. I began to fight myself less, and I started to consider mental health conditions as blessings in disguise and not sentences. With gratitude, I began looking straight into my own eyes to see all the good, rather than what I disliked. I discovered that contrary to previous belief, I was actually a young woman with many options, who had the incredible power of choice. Looking within changed my reality. I started making choices that could uplift me, because I began to understand the truth, that I was worth it.
I chose light over darkness. I chose friendship over isolation. I chose humility over pride. I chose listening over knowing. I chose activity over wallowing. I chose breath over escaping. I chose blessings over nightmares. I chose grace, not just by looking for the parts of me I disliked, but by seeing both the beauty and the struggle. I chose grit as I ended denial, faced my adversity, and approached it with kindness and laughter.
Girl, I chose me.
Amazing girl, no one can tell you who you are. However, someone can share their heart and tell you that it’s going to be okay. And I’m telling you, it’s going to be okay. Only you can begin a new journey and write your own book by choosing yourself—your whole self, your self with a mental health condition, your self with an addiction, your self with trauma, your self with struggles. Choose to see your light and darkness wrapped into the magical being you are. Girl, I believe in you. My knowing you are alive, breathing, and pushing forward helps me too. Thank you.