An Open Letter to My Teenage Self About Her Depression
A guest post from Melissa Jane Osborne, author of The Wendy Project.
You’re eighteen years old. You’re lying on the bathroom floor. I know that you’re so overwhelmed with emotion that you can’t feel anything. I know that you can’t see past this moment, let alone going to college. I know you feel empty, that you can’t breathe, but you’ll get up and you will.
I’d like to tell you that your depression will go away forever. It won’t. Life is going to trigger it, illness, hormones, events out of your control will invite it in. It’ll creep back in like a heavy blanket. Some days you’ll pretend to be happy, some days you will be. I know it sucks, but much like someone who has diabetes, it’s just something you’re going to have to manage. It’s something you have, it’s not who you are.
What I can tell you is you are loved. I know you don’t want to hear that, but you are. That thing you despise about yourself—that over sensitivity—will be your gift. You told your mom you wanted to “turn off your heart”—don’t. Because if you can’t feel this dark, you’re never going to feel the light. You feel at 110%, but someday people will pay you to create those feelings. I know you feel like you’re too much, and in your life you may be too much for some people. Forget them, those are not your people.
I know your poker face is bad. I know you’re sick of pretending, so don’t. Pretend in your work, not your life. You want to retreat, be here.
Someday you’ll realize over a beer with your friends that they have felt this way too, maybe even at the same time as you. Your parents, your grandparents they’ve struggled as well. It’s not the most fun inheritance, but talk to them.
Therapy and medication are not weakness. I know you think your therapist is a moron. You’re going to call lots of therapists morons. Go anyway.
Your parents are secretly cool people who happened to become parents. They’re just trying to figure it out too. It hurts them when you hurt. They’re stubborn, and they’re seekers like you, so don’t shut them out. Also ask them for music recommendations as soon as possible.
You’re going to use food to feel feelings, and to not feel feelings. You’re going to use it to control what you can. I’d be lying to you if I told you this battle doesn’t wage for a while, but someday you’ll make peace with it. Don’t mistreat your body. Don’t do stupid diets. I know you hate it now, but someday you’ll look at photos and be shocked at how young and thin you were. In your life, in your industry, a lot of people are going to think they can comment on your body. You’re going to listen to them for a while, you’re going to try and make it into what you think they want, and it’s going to hurt you. But someday after a lot of fighting, you will no longer tolerate those voices and you will love your curves.
Don’t take things so seriously. Play! Mess up now when you’re parents are paying for it. Actually, let’s not call it ‘messing up,’ let’s call it exploring. The world will not end if you explore. Laugh, you have a lovely laugh. It’s okay to laugh, because this whole thing is ridiculous.
You’re going to laugh again. You’re going to laugh so hard that your sides hurt, that you fall to the ground. You’re going to go to college, fall in love, have your heart broken, fall in love again, move to the best city in the world, travel across the country. Swim in multiple oceans. Dance in the middle of the street. Make out in the rain. You’re going to consume art that has yet to be created. You’re going to eat ice cream that’s made out of nuts, and pizza made out of cauliflower (Yeah, the future is weird.) You’re going to call your parents your friends. You’re going to learn, realize you know nothing and learn all over again. You’re going to be millions of different people in work and in life. You’re going to say and do stupid, beautiful, hard and amazing things. You’re going to make things, make plays, and books, and movies, make friends. Make a difference. You’re going to matter. You do now. You’re going to create a life that matters.
You’re going to do things you never imagined possible, but first you have to get up off the floor.
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