Dear me at 16

Thanks to a prompt from a trusty random subject generator, I’ve decided to write a letter to my 16-year-old self.

Let’s see what happens.

I’ve been wrestling with this post for the better part of a week, and I just cannot get it going. So, I’m going to try to write it in stream-of-consciousness. Just whatever comes to mind, so that I can get past this writer’s block.


Dear 16-year-old self,

Hi, this is your 26-year-old counterpart, and I’d like to write a letter to you. This letter obviously won’t change anything that’s happened before or since I was 16, but maybe it will be cathartic for me.

So here goes.

I know you carry a lot of shame with you, and as of now, you have never shared where it comes from with anyone.

I want you to know that the shame isn’t your fault.

What happened to you is not your fault.

At all.

There is nothing wrong with you (I only know this because of therapy and friends who could be therapists). I still sometimes think there must be something wrong with me. Because let me tell you, there is more to come.

You are going to go through more swamps of shame before you graduate high school.

You are going to feel alone and worthless and broken.

You are going to think God is against you. That he doesn’t care. That it’s all too much for one person to handle.

Now that it’s all behind me (I promise it does get better), I see the value in everything I went through. I still wish with every fiber of my being it didn’t happen. I still lug a lot of shame and self-loathing around with me, but I’m working through it, finally, and I think I could use some of my trauma to help other people.

Your life gets worse before it gets better. When you are 18, something devastating is going to happen, and it’s going to set the stage for a psychotic break the fall you start college.

None of this can be helped now, and nothing I do or say will change anything you are going to go through. You are going to lose faith in people, and you will have a hard time trusting anyone.

Then you are going to go to college and experience hell. It’s going to suck. Losing your mind will destroy what little self-esteem you had. You will be diagnosed as bipolar.

You will remember almost everything you did while manic, and you will be embarrassed and ashamed of your behavior.

You will lose some friends who won’t even try to understand what you’re going through.

You will be in denial and you will be lost.

You are, and have always been resilient, and you will get better and become a better version of yourself. It will take time, so you have to be patient. Your entire life will be turned upside down, but you will never stop trying to get better.

Your parents will be there for you, and they will make sacrifices for you. They will do some goofy things; be forgiving. They will push you to get help, but you will want to take your time. You will eventually seek help, and it will be at just the right time for you.

The first several years after your diagnosis are going to be a grind. Your medicine doesn’t have too many adverse side-effects, but the medicine will force you to adjust your lifestyle, and it’ll take trial and error to get used to it.

Once you’re better, you will still have a hard time with your emotions, particularly your anger. You will be angry with God because of your diagnosis.

Eventually, though, you will come to accept your illness. You embrace it and feel blessed on some level. You think it must be boring not to be bipolar. You recognize that it provides countless gifts. Some aspects of it are really hard, like your Dark Thoughts, but on most days, the pros outweigh the cons.

After college, you will get a job and meet someone who will become one of your best friends. She will help you grow in ways you thought you’d never grow. She will keep you accountable, and she is trustworthy. You will trust her with your innermost thoughts and a lot of details from your past. Lean into that relationship.

Your default tactic when you are mad is going to be passive aggressiveness at least until you are 26. I still struggle with it. I wish I started working on this tendency when I was your age. I don’t think it’d be as engrained in my personality if I’d attempted to break the habit earlier.

Over the past year, I have befriended someone from church, and my trajectory to a better version of myself has skyrocketed. She will change your life in significant ways, and she will provide some much-needed intimacy. Not in a sexual way, but you will realize how much you need hugs and words of affirmation. She will provide plenty of both.

She will accept your quirks, and she will appreciate the ways you express love.

You will love both of these friends dearly, and sometimes you will think your heart will burst with that affection. You will realize how much you missed out in your teenage years and early twenties by not having healthy and close friendships. But that doesn’t matter now. You have them, and you wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Continue to grow in any way you can, and be careful into whom you pour your soul. Work on giving grace and being quicker to forgive. Learn to apologize sincerely, and work on breaking the habit of passive aggressiveness.

I’ve heard I’m a pretty neat person, and I think a lot of people have thought that about us for a while (it’s hard for me to write that, partly because I have low self-esteem, and also because I don’t want to sound cocky).

I’ve recently accepted my single status, and I wish I’d accepted it earlier. You have a lot of growth to come, and it’s actually been really nice to be unattached. Embrace it and take advantage of it.

Love well, and be accepting of love from others. Be confident in yourself, and try to get out of your shell as soon as you can. It’s very freeing and fun.

I love you.

Love,

You at 26 years old

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