This post is somewhat inspired by the book I posted a review of earlier today (Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig). In the book he has sections like ‘Things you think during your first panic attack’, and conversations between himself now and himself then. It got me thinking – what would I like to say to myself aged 13 if I could.
You are not crazy.
The title of this site is taken from my lifelong fear that I am crazy/abnormal/weird etc. When I first started feeling anxiety and depression I would wonder how long I could last like this before they locked me away. A lot of my fear of seeking adult help stemmed from this belief. I wish I could go back and tell myself that it is going to be OK.
Lean on people.
No, 13 year old Alexandra, your mum is not going to be mad at you. She might get angry, sure, but she loves you and cares about you. Your nan will listen too, if you feel like you can’t talk to mum. So will Aunt Sandy, and you know she’s cool anyway. What I’m saying here is to use the support around you. It will be hard at first but the road is a lot smoother when people are ironing out the bumps.
Please stop hurting yourself.
This is a tough one. I wish I had known how much of a slippery slope this is. Cutting is the most common form of self-harm and it leaves marks on skin and soul that fade but don’t disappear. I know that when I’ve been engaged in it it has been because I literally didn’t know what else to do to cope. Even now that I’ve learned how to utilise healthy coping skills I still find my mind turning back to self-harm. I would tell myself to stick it out with the psychiatrist, learn to use exercises like STOPP and The Butterfly Project and I would ask myself very nicely to chuck out the blades once and for all.
You will make it past 20.
I spent my teenage years acting as though I had a death sentence looming over me. I was convinced I wasn’t strong enough to see it out to reach 20. I’m now 25 and still here, and it’s been well worth the wait. In fact, I can say I started to see the future when I met my now-husband aged 18, so the last two years of my teens weren’t all that bad. Certainly 13 to 17 year old me was hopelessly lost in a depression that hardly lifted, ruined my college years and felt like the end of everything. But here I am, little me, and life now is well worth sticking it out for.
Talk to a therapist or doctor.
Professional help is key to recovery. Perhaps I’d never have developed Schizoaffective if I’d been treated for my depression and anxiety earlier. Or perhaps it is in my genetic make-up. Even if I had been seen in my teenage years and still developed sza, it would likely have been caught earlier, treated sooner and I’d have lost out less. I was so scared of doctors (still am in truth, but I’m better with it now) that I avoided and avoided going unless I was literally falling apart. So if I could I would encourage myself to be open and honest with a medical professional and ask them for help getting through the rough times.