Letter to the One Who Attempted Suicide

Dear (Friend),

To be honest, I’ve thought about what I was going to say in this letter for a while now, and I’m still not quite sure that I have the right words. But that’s the thing about words: context is everything; you take them out of a context they were meant for and place them in another, and they make no sense, or they change the meaning of the new context. If you do this enough times, the words become useless—displacing and relocating until the original meaning is lost. Right now, you’re probably hearing a lot of words from family and friends, some you may be even saying to yourself. Don’t take these words out of context. Your friends and family are probably telling you that they love you. Don’t turn these words into an “I love you but….”

You may be feeling a lot of feelings right along with these words: anger, sadness, shame, maybe even some guilt.

Everything you are feeling right now is valid. Every emotion you have and don’t have is valid. Somedays you might be feeling everything at once, and some days you might be feeling nothing at all—you might not know which one is worse, neither do I.

I don’t know your story. I don’t know what led you to attempt suicide. I don’t know if it was a genetic predisposition, or a single event, or a series of events that culminated in this one cataclysmic moment in your life. Whatever happened, your past is valid. Don’t let anybody tell you different. Don’t let anybody take the pain you might be feeling away from you to assign it to themselves. You are grieving. You are hurting. They, too, may be grieving and hurting, but this is not about them. This is about you. To take the focus away from you is to invalidate the pain you are feeling. Let the emotions roll over you like waves, take them as they come, one at a time. That’s all we can do: focus on one moment at a time.

I’m writing this letter; I’m telling you all of this because I understand. I understand what it’s like to be on the front lines of this very real battle. I understand what it’s like to feel as though giving up is your only option. I understand because seven years ago, I, too, tried to kill myself.

Seven years later, I’m still trying to pick up the pieces of my life. I’m still trying to recover. I’m still wrestling with tough feelings and intrusive thoughts that won’t go away. Sometimes I still wonder why I survived when so many others do not, maybe you’re wondering that too. Maybe you’re wondering what you did to deserve all this pain. I don’t have all the answers. In fact, for every answer I don’t have, I have a million more questions.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned in the last seven years, time goes on. Time goes on, but I still live my life in terms of anniversaries: I focus on how long it’s been since the events in my past because that way I don’t have to focus on the future. The future terrifies me simply because it’s unknown. I live in terms of anniversaries because they’re set in stone. I know what’s happened in my life, but I don’t know what’s going to. And that terrifies me.

I look to the past because it helps me gauge how far I’ve come: I’ve survived x,y,z, and today I did a,b,c.

I don’t know where you are in your healing journey, or even if you have begun healing yet. I am going to tell you that the journey ahead of you is going to be long and hard. I tell you this not to scare you, but to remind you that you are a survivor. You are strong. You can do this. And you need to have faith in something—I don’t know if it’s God, or if you wonder if God’s abandon you. I wondered that too for a long time. For me, the only thing I could believe in for a long time was gravity. I had faith that the ground would stand firm beneath my feet, holding me up when I was too weak to stand. Then, only then, was I able to reclaim my faith in a higher power.

Believe in something. It’s the only way you’re going to get through this.

I’m not going to say that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem because to do so would be to deny the truth that sometimes this pain doesn’t go away. I’m also not going to tell you to stay here because there are people that love you. If love were enough, the world would be different.

I’m telling you that depression will come in cycles—high tides and low tides. Somedays it’ll feel like you’re floating on air, like you’re weightless, you can do anything. Somedays it’ll feel like your chest is collapsing because the weight of the world is too much to bear. Have faith that this too shall pass.

Somedays it might seem that you’re living in at the South Pole, where the sun doesn’t rise for months at a time. But, even there, there are months where the sun doesn’t set. Have faith that in the darkest times, there will be light again. If you ever need to be reminded of this, look outside at the darkest night. Sometimes the only way to see stars is to have darkness.

I am telling you to stay here because right now you are walking through a valley, but when you start climbing up the other side, when you reach the top of the mountain, the view is so beautiful.

I’m telling you to live for the little things. Find what makes you happy and do it. Read, write, dance in the rain, pet every animal you come across, listen to that music, eat that cupcake, go see that animated movie. Sometimes we are so focused on the road ahead of us we forget to live in the moment. Sometimes we are so focused on the here and now we forget that it’s not forever.

I don’t know if this letter has helped or hurt or really if it’s made any sense at all. But I’m going to end with this personal story:

The summer after my freshman year at college, I went to Guatemala with a group of students. One day, we went to a multi-story mall. A smaller group of students and I, while exploring, went to one of the upper levels of the parking garage. As I went and stood next to the barrier and looked around and over to the ground, I thought that I was going to feel the urge to jump. I always had before, which is why I tend to avoid heights. But in that moment, as the sun was beginning to set and the horizon was turning to hazy dusk, I felt this sense of calm and peace rush over me, if only for a moment. That’s how I know I was beginning to heal.

A few days later, we were serving dinner in the Guatemala City dump. A teammate and I climbed onto the top of the bus and looked around. As I looked over the dilapidated, rundown metal shanties in front of me, I caught sight of the mountains in the distance. In that moment, I was reminded that beauty and brokenness can live right alongside each other. Out of brokenness comes beauty.

 

You are beautiful.

Love, your friend,

Kaleigh

 

 

 

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Letter to My Biggest Bully

This letter has been a long time coming—forgiveness has been a long time coming. And it’s not like I haven’t tried to forgive; I have.

I’ve forgiven others.

I’ve forgiven my rapists for what they did to me, for the years of pain and anguish they caused me, for changing the trajectory of my life.

I’ve forgiven God for the injustices I perceived He let happen to me, even though He did absolutely nothing wrong. But when you’re hurting, you need someone to blame.

I’ve forgiven the friends who walked away when I needed them the most, even though they had every right to, because when you’re depressed, you tend to sabotage relationships.

I’ve forgiven those who bullied me throughout Middle School and High School because someone has to. And in order to move forward, I have to step out of the past, even if that means never going to a High school reunion.

I’ve forgiven those who have caused me harm, who have hurt me mentally and physically. But I haven’t been able to forgive you, yet.

Until now.

I had forgiven everybody else, but I hadn’t been able to forgive my biggest bully: me.

I forgive you—I mean, me. And I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for allowing the opinions of others to become the way I defined you. I’m sorry for the way my voice began to echo and mirror what other’s said about you. It’s hard enough to ignore being called ugly, fat, unworthy if it’s someone else’s voice doing the calling, but when it’s your own voice that suddenly becomes your biggest nightmare, it’s next to impossible.

I’m sorry for silencing you. I’m sorry for making you feel like you couldn’t say anything, you couldn’t speak up about what you were going through and struggling with because every time you looked in the mirror, you said something mean about yourself. It’s hard to speak up when every though that sprints (and then trips and hangs around for a while) in your mind is harsh and cruel. You believe in Thumper’s mantra: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all. And you couldn’t, so you didn’t, even if speaking up could’ve saved your life.

I’m sorry for making you hate your reflection. I’m sorry for making you feel unloved and unworthy and how all of that unworthiness translated into not eating. Now you’re stuck learning how to do all of that again, because once upon a time you ate too little, then too much, and now you have to learn how to find the perfect middle. Learning how to love yourself again is so hard, but I promise it will be so worth it.

I’m sorry for making you believe that your whole identity and lovability was definied by your attractiveness.

I’m sorry for allowing you to become some numb and full of hate that the only relief was found in a knife (or a razor, or scissors. Whatever was convenient).

I’m sorry for making you believe that you weren’t beautiful the way you were, and are, and will continue to be.

I’m sorry for becoming your worst enemy when you needed me to be your biggest advocate. I’m sorry for abandoning you, for causing you to lose yourself when you really needed to be found.

I’m sorry for the tears cried, the blood shed, the scars gained, the pounds lost. I’m sorry for trying to die.

I’m sorry for all of it.

But mostly I’m sorry for taking so long to realize how much I hurt you. I’m sorry for taking so long to apologize. I’m sorry for taking so long to forgive you.

It’s hard to forgive others, and it’s even harder to forgive yourself.

But I’m ready now. I’m ready to say: I forgive you. (I forgive myself.)

Most of all, I’m ready to accept your apology. (I’m ready to accept my own apology.)

I’m ready to step into the future together: past me and present me. I’m ready to combine the two to prepare for future me. I’m ready to learn from my past mistakes and apply them to what I will encounter down the road on the journey ahead.

Because I don’t know where this future leads, but I am ready to take that journey—together.

Hello From the Other Side

Here’s the thing about time: it marches on.

Every day, the earth moves through the cosmic background, ending the day 32 million miles farther than it began. It moves around the sun at a speed of 100,000 km/h, and somehow, you’re still clinging to this planet that is mover faster than you can even comprehend.

Gravity is holding you firm to this earth.

Please remember that when the weight of your past is compressing your chest, and it feels like you can’t breathe: gravity is keeping you’re here.

Trust me when I say that gravity is one of the universal constants. Please don’t test it by jumping.

One day you’ll look in the mirror and see stretch marks zig-zagging across your body, like the cuts you used to inflict on yourself.

Don’t fight them. Right now, you think stretch marks are the worst thing that could ever happen to you: as if saying, I don’t want to be if I’m fat. A million miles later you’ll see them as a sign of recovery because, once upon a time, you took the greatest pride in yourself after someone said, “Oh my gosh; you’re so skinny.” And in that moment, you will realize just how far you have fallen.

Right now, you’re trying to get rid of the skin in places you’d rather forget being touched. You cut yourself open because you can’t remember what it’s like to feel something, anything. You’d rather feel pain than nothing at all. I need you to know that cutting yourself open, leaving your own scars, is not going to cancel out the emotional scars left by your rapists.

Right now, you’re wondering what happens if you let your guard down. What will happen if you stop fighting against the thoughts that threaten your life? You can’t remember the last time you slept because every time you close your eyes, unwanted memories play on repeat in your mind.

There will come a day soon when you are so tired. You just want to sleep. You will let your guard down. What happens next will not be your fault. You will lose control of yourself. You will take some pills, and time will slow down.

This slowing of time will be what saves your life. It will give your true self time to regain control of the self you try so hard to hide. Three little whispered words are enough to snap out of it, allowing your light thoughts to shine brighter than your dark thoughts. You’ll be ok.

And you will.

Hello from the other side.

I’m writing this from the future, more for me than for you. But time itself is a confusing topic, and scientists still don’t understand how it works—if it’s linear or not.

There is this theory called Eternalism, which, in basic terms, is the idea that the past, present, and future occur simultaneously. So maybe, somewhere, this reaches you before you begin to waste away, to lose yourself.

I don’t know what I believe about time, what theory I subscribe to.

But I do know this: it marches on. It waits for no one.

It can also heal you, strengthen you, but only if you let it.

Please let it.

2016 has arrived, a year which you never thought you’d see. But you’ve made it.

Here’s to another year of life.

 

Me of 2014, Here’s to You: A Year in Review

At the conclusion of every year, I like to make a mental list of things I’ve learned throughout the year. This year, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve also written a lot. So instead of making a mental list, I decided to write what I’ve learned down. What I’ve learned turned into a list summarizing what I’ve written about, what I’ve talked about with friends, and what I’ve thought about late at night. It turned into a list echoing a letter, partially inspired by a wonderful friend I went to Guatemala with. Do with this list what you will, but I’ve discovered the importance of reflecting on how much a year can change you, on how much you grow over the course of twelve months. Without further adieu, what I’ve learned in 2014.

Dear Me of January 1, 2014,

In 2014, you will:

  • be challenged, step out of your comfort zone, learn so much, cry, laugh, heal, celebrate, and mourn.
  • experience the healing power of forgiveness without expecting an apology.
  • be pushed to the breaking point (again) with one of the most physically and mentally exhausting semesters. You will learn from this and follow it up with one of your easier semesters. Thank yourself for this.
  • receive an unexpected apology.
  • experience God in new ways: through the first sunny day after a long, dark winter; through the cuddles of a toddler on Friday mornings; through the strength you find to get out of bed in the morning.
  • deepen old relationships, discover new ones, and cut ties with toxic people.
  • celebrate milestones marking things you’ve overcome.
  • rediscover yourself, redefine yourself, learn to love yourself.
  • make it through another year. Sometimes you’ll fight an uphill battle; sometimes you’ll walk on solid ground.
  • be knocked down, knocked down, knocked down, but you’ll get back up over and over and over again.
  • stop writing your book after a long period of self-doubt, and then you’ll start writing again after revamping and reorganizing because you have so many stories churning inside that sometimes you can’t sleep at night because the words inside your head won’t stop screaming until you give them live. And you learned a long time ago about the power of words–how they should not be silenced.

In 2014, you will:

  • realize it’s ok to ask for help, to be vulnerable, to let people in. You should not be ashamed of your past.
  • learn more about the world, and in doing so, your views and beliefs will be challenged, but in the process you will become more open-minded. What you believe may not line up with what those around you believe. Embrace this. The world in not black and white; it’s a complex amalgamation of issues that cannot clearly be defined. Life is not a math equation, no matter how many people try to define it as such.
  • learn that you don’t agree with the way everyone lives their lives. That is ok. Some people don’t have the same beliefs as you. Don’t push yours on them. Love is more important.
  • learn to appreciate the little things.
  • have a hard time getting out of bed somedays, but you will anyway. Although it may not be until after you have an argument with yourself in which you way the pros and cons: it’s safer here, but you won’t get to see your friends. It’s warm and I’m tired, but you won’t get to learn. You will learn to have faith that the floor will hold your weight, and when you feel like the burdens of this world are too heavy for your legs, God will carry you through it.

In 2014, you will:

  • come face-to-face with the ignorance of people. You will be forced to validate your existence to people who make jokes about your past. Look them in the eyes as you ask them to explain how the joke is funny. Watch them squirm as their face turns red. Do not apologize for embarrassing them. Do not accept their apology for cracking that joke. How else will they learn? Somethings are not meant to be joked about.
  • learn that some professors wil make insensitive comments. Next time you hand in a journal about a depressing poem, compare the poem to your own life.
  • learn that some professors are the most caring people on the planet and give so much time to their students. They will stop you on the sidewalk because they know you are having a hard time. You will pour your heart out to them. Tell these professors how much they are appreciated. Don’t take them for granted.
  • encounter people who make you feel insignificant. Don’t speak softly. Assert yourself. Make your presence known. Do not apologize for existing.
  • call people out on their behavior.
  • realize opinions and beliefs you previously held were wrong. That’s ok, because now you know better. You have matured and learned.
  • learn that people are the worst and the best. You will be horrified at the way people treat others, but in the midst of it all, you will realize the good of humanity: out of darkness comes light. Embrace the good. Learn from the bad.

In 2014, you will want to change the world. You will find strength you didn’t know you had. You will start fighting. You will continue fighting.

For 2015, promise yourself you won’t stop. Life is too beautiful to give up.

In 2015, you will:

  • graduate from college.
  • find a job.
  • learn to love yourself more.
  • ?

It’s a blank book, a blank slate. Embrace it. You’ve come so far in 2014, and 2015 holds so much more promise despite the unknown.

“How do you prepare yourself for another 365 days of uncertainty?”

  • pray
  • hope
  • trust.

Sincerely,

The You of December 31, 2014.

A Father’s Day Letter and a Father’s Response

I was going to write a post for Father’s Day, but then my Dad suggested that I share a letter I wrote about a year and a half ago, as well as his response. So, I decided to do that. I have no fixed any of the ages or information:

A Daughter’s Letter:

Life is fear. And lots of it.

When I was little, I was scared of the monsters under the bed, Santa getting lost and missing my house, and spiders. Now that I’m older, I’m scared of the future and spiders.

I have a rose from my Grandfather’s funeral to remind me that death and sorrow are real. This was the first time I cried at a funeral, which was the same day that I realized that there would be one less hand to hold mine when I needed someone there.

The most painful thing I’ve learned so far is that no matter how much love I wrap my family members in, no matter how many ropes I weave from their hearts to mine, they cannot stay with me forever. The ones that I hold most dear to me are growing older as I am. And it terrifies me. Because one day, the wind will carry them home, and they won’t be here with me to dry my tears, to hug me and tell me it will be ok. Even though a heart can be the home of memories, a home can’t be a heart.

And I’m scared of growing up and moving on.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Daddy, I miss you. And I know break just ended, and I saw you a lot; but I miss you. I miss our talks, your hugs, cuddle sessions on the couch. And even though I’m in college and still live under the same roof, I never see you. And it’s hard, and it’s painful.

I’ve given this whole “growing up” thing a shot, and I’ve decided that it isn’t for me. I want to go back to when I was five. I want to go back to the days of playing airplanes, back scratch wars, sitting in your fort, curling up next to you and falling asleep. I want to go back to the times when putting a Band-Aid on a cut was enough, because now there’s pain that you can’t fix even though you try so hard to do so. I want to go back to the days when you held my hand to cross the street, and to teach me to walk. I want you to hold my hand forever, because I’m scared of tripping and falling. These shoes of adulthood are too big for me.

And I can’t help but think if this is how I feel now, how am I going to feel when I don’t live with you? How am I going to feel when you’re not there every day for a hug?

And while I’m sitting here trying to figure it out, the world keeps spinning. People keep breathing, and while my mind is stuck in a corner, refusing to let go, I’m getting older and closer to moving on.

I know I’m only 18, and I have my whole life ahead of me to ‘figure it out,’ but that’s what scares me the most: not figuring it out.

Because life is a mystery. Life is pain, fear, and love. And when you love someone, pain is involved.

And Daddy, I know I’m growing older, but I’ll always be your little girl.

Right now I’m just confused about why life must hurt so much. Right now I’m just scared about what the future holds.

And I don’t know if I’m ready for it, any of it.

I want to be five again. Then I can say “tay me bit more,” and it might actually work.

 

A Father’s Response: (originally posted on his blog: http://rdistaffen.blogspot.com/

Dear Kaleigh,

When you were younger I was afraid of monsters in cars trying to steal you, but not spiders so much. Now that you are older, I am afraid of boys, but still not spiders.

I, too, miss grandpa. There are still times I have a question I want to ask him, or something my girls do I want to brag to him about. There are times I realize that even though he is gone he has planted a deep impression of himself in me; when I sound like him, or deliver a witty comeback, or unleash an amazing joke.

Kaleigh, I miss you too. Observing from a distance is no fun. I can tell you, everyday I am amazed at how much you have grown and matured and become a lovely young woman who loves Jesus. I miss you sitting in my fort, cuddling on the couch, and especially back scratch wars.

When you were younger and something broke, I would tell you to put it on my desk. Then I would fix it. Even then I knew that someday there would be a problem that wouldn’t fit on my desk and I wouldn’t be able to fix. So, when I superglued a limb back on a plastic doll, or untangled a dollar store necklace, or taped the cover on a book, I prayed, “Father, your eyes are better than mine, your superglue stronger, and your tape more adhesive. When my girls’ problems are bigger than I can fix can we put them on your big desk and let you take care of them?” It was at times like that the words of Ira Stanphill’s song would float through my mind.

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

I remember in vivid detail that day as a toddler that you announced that you had two daddies. I was confused until you explained with great earnestness, your little finger pointing in the air, “I have a heavenly Father” then your little finger pointed at me, “and a down-here daddy.”

I long for the days when you were little and you would say, “ ‘tay me bit more.”  and I would linger for a few more minutes, snuggling you. I wish you still needed to hold my hand in busy parking lots. But you are growing older, and I am still stuck at 25.

I feel a bit like Moses, who after leading the people of God for 80 years, stood with them on the border of the Promised Land and told them he wasn’t crossing the Jordan river with them. He finished his comments with these words, found in Deuteronomy 31 and verse 6.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Don’t be afraid Kaleigh, when your down here daddy can’t hold your hand, or fix what is broken, or isn’t nearby, because your Heavenly Father is holding your hand, helping you cross the street or the river. Be strong and courageous.

 

I have learned so many things from my Father, from his father, and from my Mother’s Father. I’ve learned how to have a good sense of humor, even when I cannot laugh. I’ve learned to question everything, keep learning, keep reading, because life has so much to teach. I’ve learned the characteristics of a good man, a faithful man, a strong man, the kind of man I should marry, the kind of (wo)man I should be. And I hope one day, the two of us can teach our children what it means to be strong in the storm, the same things my Father taught me. 

To the Guy who turned a date rejection into a sexual invitation

First of all, how dare you.

Second of all, You don’t scare me anymore.

You see, I saw you in Target the other day. I didn’t freak out. I didn’t run to the bathroom and cry. I walked by you as if you were a normal person. I didn’t even acknowledge your existence.

And that’s a big deal, because up until a few months ago even meeting someone with the same first name as you was enough to make me break out into a cold sweat. But not anymore. And I can’t tell you how great that feels.

For so many years, you’ve had this invisible hold on me. I couldn’t allow myself to be happy. I couldn’t allow myself to be loved. And even though I forgave you, I wasn’t healed from you.

But I am now. I am completely and totally free from you.

AND I COULD SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS, BECAUSE IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME COMING.

You don’t scare me anymore.

However, that doesn’t mean the Depression you caused will go away. It won’t. It hasn’t. Some days I’m fine, and others I’m not at all fine. Some nights I lie in bed and feel  nothing. Some nights I lie in bed and feel everything. And I don’t know which is worse.

But I do know this: I’m a different person than I was 5 (almost 6) years ago.

And I’ve learned things from you I might have never learned. They’ve made me a better person. So, I guess in a way, I’m saying thank you, but I’m not really.

I’ve become stronger.

I’ve become more open at my struggles with depression, anxiety, anorexia, and even you.

And one day, I’ll meet a guy, and he’ll be fantastic. Maybe I’ve already met him, and he is fantastic. Either way, one day, I’ll tell him the whole story.

And he’ll probably be mad (if he’s a good guy, he’ll be mad), but I’ll tell him to forgive you, to have compassion for you like I do.

I have compassion for you, because I don’t know the whole reason why you decided to get your friends together and sexually assault me after I turned you down. Maybe you were abused. Maybe you had a rough family life. I don’t know.

Whatever the reason, I hope you’re in a better place now. And I want you to know that me having compassion on you, is not the same as justifying what you did. Because I will never do that. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Time changes a person.

I hope if you ever find somebody who loves you, that you’ll treat her with the respect she deserves.

I hope one day you can ask for forgiveness for what you did to me–not from me. From God. I don’t know where your relationship with God is, or if you even believe in God. But I hope one day you do.

Because everything He’s done for me, He can do for you, too.

 

 

Open Letter to my Depression

Dear over-bearing body sharer,

I now understand how Sisyphus felt everyday when he finally got the boulder to the top of the hill only to have it roll all the way back down: joy and immense despair all at once. Because in that moment, all his hard work failed to pay off. Likewise, I too think I’m over this hill, and one small action causes me to stumble and roll all the way back down into your arms. And then I have to fight to find my footing, to find the strength to stand up and try again.

I do have this to say about you: if nothing else, you are persistent.

But other than that, I don’t really know what else to say to you. I’ve referred to you with many titles. You are the Mr. Hyde to my Dr. Jekyll, the Yin to my Yang, this Omnipresent sadness. But more than any of those things, you are perhaps most like a volcano: sometimes you’re active, but most of the time you’re dormant, bubbling under the surface of my facade, waiting for an (in)opportune moment to burst forth.

And notice I said, “inopportune moment,” because that’s what it is. An ideal time for you proves to be the worst time for me. Like in the library last week. Dude, what you did was harsh and mean and cruel, which makes sense because you’re a bully. But let’s be honest, I was all fine and dandy until you pointed out the group of girls a table over from me, laughing and whispering. And I know they most likely weren’t laughing at me or whispering about me, but you showed up and made me feel so inadequate, I honestly, truly thought they were.

And in an instant I went from self-confident to insecure, which happens more than I’d like to admit.

The whole insecurity thing isn’t even the worst of what you do to me. The worst is your cousin anxiety you bring over for dinner once and a while. Our conversations are anything but reassuring.

I can deal with the feeling of numbness you sometimes decide to bring home. But I can’t deal with the constant fear of being judged, of making a fool of myself, of being alone. Because when your cousin Anxiety shows up, I over-analyze everything. I can’t sleep, because I’m afraid to dream. I can’t get out of bed, because what if the floor collapses under my feet? No, staying in bed is definitely safer.

People keep telling me I’ll grow out of it. It’s just a phase. But, I’m not so naive to believe that. I’ve been trying to fight against you for long enough to know you’re not going anywhere. You’re like the people I try to avoid when I see them in public, but I can’t avoid you. We occupy the same space. You are a part of me, and I can’t hide from myself. I can’t fight against myself. And I most definitely cannot preform a lobotomy and separate you from me.

So, I must live with you. And I don’t always know how to deal with the feelings I experience, the thoughts that zip through my mind, but that’s why I write.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think you are trying to kill me. But I’ve been there, and I’ve written that letter. And I’ve also burned that letter (and by burn, I mean “I’ve torn you up into a million pieces and threw you out the window as I was driving). I’ve come to realize, though, you’ve helped me discover a lot.

Yes, you’ve shown me the valleys, but when you’ve allowed me the occasional room to breathe, I’ve seen the heights. And yes, sometimes the thought of ending it all enters my mind, but when I reach the heights and don’t want to jump, all I see is beauty. And even though I have to convince you to let me out of bed, when I take that step of faith, I realize the world isn’t so bad.

You’re the reason I need to remind myself to breathe, and the reason why sometimes I’m so focused on breathing in and out, I forget how to put one foot in front of the other. But, I’ve learned that sometimes forgetting how to walk is better than forgetting how to live.

Without you, I wouldn’t have found the passion to change the world, to impact others lives. But without you, I’d have the courage to do so.

I’ve learned to live with you. Learn to live with me. Because what’s yang without yin? 

We’ve learned from each other. We’re in a symbiotic relationship, and I can’t escape. I’m not suffering because of you. I’m living despite you. And I want others to do the same. Because this life truly is beautiful.

You’ve taught me I’m stronger than I think I am. You’ve learned I will always prove you wrong.

But ultimately, I’ve learned if we work together, we can change the world.

I Think Someone Died Today: Letter to my Future Boyfriend

Dear Future Boyfriend,

I read somewhere once that when a person dies, and there is no one who loved them and who will miss them, the mourning is assigned to a random human, and this is why people sometimes just feel sad. I doubt there’s any truth to the tale, but some days I wish there was at least a small grain. Because some days my sadness outweighs my other emotions, and I don’t know how to tell people the reason behind it all. But this little nugget of mostly incorrect knowledge is so much easier to swallow than the truth behind this dark monster.

Because how do you tell someone there are days when you can’t love yourself? How do you tell someone that somewhere along the way from your brain to your heart, the love for yourself was accidentally renamed and rerouted to love for others? How do you explain to someone that hating yourself doesn’t mean hating others, because the two aren’t mutually exclusive? I don’t think you can; at least not easily. But I’m going to try to anyway, because it’s something you need to know. It’s a part of who I am. It’s not a phase. I won’t grow out of it. We’re a package deal, which sounds a little foreboding, but I can help you along the way. Because I’ve been living with Depression for five years, so I guess you could call me an expert on darkness.

Which is why I want to help you and as many other people as I can understand this sinister plague. And the first place to start is to let you know thoughts can be detrimental to happiness. People like me have the tendency to over-think everything, 98% of the time. And over-thinking, well, let’s just say no good can come from it. Believe me, I know. Over-thinking leads to doubt, and doubt leads to self-loathing, and self-loathing leads to all the side-effects of Depression. We can go from relatively happy to overwhelmingly sad in less time than it takes to blink, which leaves most people saying, “Well, that escalated quickly.” And they’d be right.

I’ve gone from laughing myself into an asthma attack to absolute self-hatred in the time it takes me to catch my breath. And then I’m left wondering: how can anybody love me if I can’t love myself? But the fact that I still believe in love and I still see the beauty in the world despite all I’ve been through is a sign of the strength of the human spirit.

There are days when I don’t think I can get out of bed because the weight of this load I’m carrying is too much to bear. There are days when I use up all my faith as soon as I get out of bed when I trust the floor will stay firm under my feet. There are days when I hate myself so much, I wonder how other people can be around me. But these are the days when I love others the most, because I know they’re travelling the same dark road I am, and it makes this journey so much more rewarding. And I want everybody I meet to feel loved.

And I’m going to warn you now: there will be days when I tell you, “I don’t need a man with a superhero cape to rescue me.” Don’t believe me. It’s a lie. Because for a long time, I tried to wear my own cape, but I couldn’t get out of the pit since my cape was held down by my own two feet (which goes to show that you really can be your own worst enemy).

There will be days when I call you at ridiculous o’clock because I can’t sleep and my mind’s a battlefield in the middle of a war. Just listen. Don’t try to fix me. You’re not God, and I’m not either. God will do what he will in his own time.

There will be days when I won’t believe any of the nice things you say to me. Tell me anyway, and I’ll save them for a day when I need to hear them the most.

Accept me for who I am, Depression and all, and I promise I’ll accept you too. You help me, I’ll help you. And when I’m having a bad day, and I can’t love myself, I’ll come find you. I want you to do the same. No one ever said life was easy; they just said it was worth it. And I for one believe them. And yes, I tried to kill myself, but now I’m trying to outlive myself.

Because this is something I have to live with. I’ve made it this far, and I will keep going. I won’t always know the precise, exact reason why I’m sad, but when that happens, like it did today, when I come up to you with tears streaming down my face, and I can’t tell you why, I’ll just say:

 

I think someone died today.

 

in response to: http://thoughtcatalog.com/2013/what-its-like-to-love-someone-with-depression/

An open letter to my Attackers (Part 2)

Dear Attackers,

Two months ago, I wrote you a letter saying I forgive you. And I did forgive you, but I need to warn you and tell you a lot of people don’t like you. My Father doesn’t like you. My close friends don’t like you. There are a few adults I know who don’t like you either.

And I need to tell you I have never told anybody who you are. Nobody knows who you are. Nobody from High School. Nobody from town. Nobody from anywhere knows who you are, except for me.

I never told anybody what exactly happened in that bathroom. Well, I’ve never told anybody until now. But I need to tell people now, because I’m trying to heal, and I can’t until people know. I can’t heal until people know why unexpected physical contact upsets me. I can’t heal until people know why shirts, scarves, and necklaces too close to my neck upset me.

I’m telling people now, because I’m going on a trip with a fantastic group of people, and I want to not have a freak-out attack in front of them. I’m telling people now because I need to move on with my life. One day I will start dating a fantastic man, but I can’t be ready until I say this:

I remember. I remember it all. I remember one of you coming up behind me, grabbing me, and then pinning me down. I remember the other 4 of you walking up to me, laughing, as if it were some kind of joke. (I kid you not, it was no joke. Because it hurts to write this, and I find no part of this funny.)

I remember you pushing my clothes out of the way, because you didn’t think I’d need them, because you had the audacity to think my body was yours to use.

I remember the choking, the pinching, the way you touched me that was not at all gentle. It was almost as if I were an animal you were sizing up, getting ready to buy or sell.

I remember you choking me, hitting me, and calling me names I wouldn’t repeat to my worst enemy. I remember the sounds of zippers as you revealed parts of you I was too young to see.

I remember sights, and smells, and the way things felt. And I remember the feel of my tears rushing down my cheeks, and the sound of my voice saying “stop” over and over, until it lost all meaning.

I remember the way you touched me and the way you forced me to touch you.

I remember the bruises I had for days. I remember the bruises around my neck, on my upper arms, around my knees and every where in between.

I remember your strength and my weakness.

I remember the things you told me.

And there are nights I can’t sleep, because I remember it all. And people wonder why I am the way I am. People wonder why I randomly freak out over small things. People wonder why I hate big groups and why I hate being anywhere alone.

And yet, somehow, I’ve still forgiven you. And my forgiveness shows you messed with the wrong girl, because I’ve forgiven, but I haven’t forgotten.

I haven’t forgotten, but I’ve used my experiences to help others. And I’m writing a book, because I want people to know they are not alone. I want people to know healing is possible. I want people to know there is always hope. I want people to know true strength comes from within. I want people to know they are beautiful.

Because somehow, despite everything you took from me, I’m still beautiful. I’m still standing tall, shining bright, and you can’t ever take that from me.

Letter to My Grandfather

Dear Grandfather,

I should probably start this letter again, because I never called you “Grandfather.” I called you, “Boppa.” But, I am a firm believer deleting when writing is a bad omen. It’s better to keep the bad sentence and work around it, to make the rest of the piece beautiful. It’s symbolism for the past. I can’t change my past, but I can learn from it, and make my life beautiful. I learned symbolism from my other Grandfather (Boppa). And I believe life is full of symbols, which is why my brain speaks in metaphor, and why I write.

Your death was the event that sparked my writing. The first thing I wrote was a song, which was probably mediocre at best, but I know you would have thought it was beautiful. I found the music score when I was looking through my piano music a few days ago. And then I found the lyrics not too long after. You always did enjoy listening to your family make music. When we would come down and visit, I would play the piano. I heard you tell my Grandmother, “Listen to how beautifully I play the piano,” as if in that moment, your fingers were no longer bent from years of battling Rheumatoid Arthritis, and you could do anything—even do something small like play the piano.

I spent years trying to make myself seem smaller. There came a point in my life when I didn’t think I could stand up, because the weight of the world seemed too heavy for my shoulders to carry, and my spine didn’t seem strong enough. There came a point in my life when I forgot what your voice sounded like, but in that moment when my back was so bent that my stomach met my knees in agony, I heard “listen to how beautifully I play the piano,” and my spine became a little bit straighter.

When you died, I was only in 6th grade, so I didn’t really understand, and some days, I still don’t. But I think about death a lot now. I think about my death and how much easier it would be to die, because then I wouldn’t have to spend every day fighting battles I don’t feel equipped for. I think about the future, and how one day, my cousins and I will be the older generations. And when I’m lying in bed, thinking about that, the world seems so vast, because I don’t know how to exist in a world where my Grandparents and Parents don’t. That’s how I know I won’t handle death well.

I don’t handle life well either. There are many days when I’d rather stay in bed than face the day, because I’m too exhausted to fight any battles. I’d rather walk through life with my fists crossed in front of my face ready to protect myself, than to walk through life with hands open, palms up, ready to catch whatever life drops in my lap. But I’m learning that’s no way to live, so I’m working on changing that mindset.

I’m trying to be a member of society, but right now the future seems so intimidating, which is why sometimes I need quiet. In that quiet I hear, “Listen to how beautifully I play the piano.” My spine straightens up, because I can do anything.

You taught me what true strength is. You taught me with the right attitude, anything is possible.

I can do anything.

I’ve never been good at endings, in life and in my writing, which is why it’s been so hard for me to move on. But here goes nothing. 

I love you. I miss you. I hope Heaven is treating you well. I hope your sense of humor is being put to good use, because if you and God are not telling each other jokes, then I’m disappointed.

I’ll see you someday, but until then, I’ll be listening for your voice.