I was going through an old flash drive recently when I ran across some blurry selfies I took in February 2008. Using my Sony digital camera (or was it Samsung?), I snapped some photos that I thought were capturing the excitement, anticipation, and happiness I felt. You know how I took this particular picture? I crouched next to Ma’s red Ford Contour, pointing the camera at myself with its back LCD screen facing the car’s wing mirror so I could see what I was doing, and I thought “Damn, that looks pretty cool!” And, well, there’s the result of that.
(I never said I wasn’t weird, but it’s okay because I love being weird.)
Silly-looking selfies aside, I felt like life was about to come get me at last. I was preparing my mind and my soul for the adventures that lay ahead, and I couldn’t wait. I was almost 24 years old, I was healing from a physical ailment, and the promise of Virginia springtime was bringing with it the breezy whispers of the adventure that was about to come that May.
In May, my then-boyfriend was coming to see me, then he was whisking me away to Toronto, away from my life of isolation and emotional abuse.
If only I knew what adventures and sorrows were to be had in the next decade that stretched, seemingly immortal, in front of me.
If only I could send a letter back in time to tell myself some very, very important things. It would go something like this…
For you, it’s May 27th, 2008. Your life is about to undergo monumental changes starting tomorrow. You’re excited as all hell.
Tomorrow, you’re going to go to the Greyhound bus station and meet the boy you’ve uncertainly decided you still love. You’re going to journey to Canada to be with him. You’re going to marry him in a whirlwind desire to be someone’s wife and also to stay out of the Hell from whence you came.
Your love is a fondness, a need. It’s unfair on both of you. This love won’t be pretty, even though you keep telling yourself it is.
Don’t try to change what cannot be changed. People will better themselves in respect for their own lives. You are not a magical healer of people like you think you are right now.
Don’t put your entire heart and soul into something when it is never reciprocated. You will reach the point where you are devoid of your entire Self and have no idea who you are anymore, but you keep shouldering it all alone because you feel that is your duty as a wife. You’re going to deeply regret choosing the wrong person and you feel like you just can’t tell anyone.
Don’t let him use up your body until it is an empty well and you cry in bed alone, time and time again, from the pain and the deepening anger.
Tell your birth mother how much everything hurts. How much you need her but Ma won’t let you have her. How much you feared rotting away at the foot of those hazy mountains. How you’re not sure you love him at all but you needed to run far, far away and now you don’t know what to do. Tell her how alone you feel even in a room full of people.
You’re going to fear making the friends given to you by the boy. You’re going to hurt them. You’re going to bail, you’re going to snap, you’re going to be awkward. You’re going to be the toxic friend sometimes. You’re going to lose some of them; don’t let it hurt you too deeply, because we all evolve and grow away from some people sometimes.
You are still worthy of the love of the friends you make. Rejoice in them always.
You’re going to feel like you’re worthless. Ugly. Unappealing. You’re going to feel like you’re a horrible person who doesn’t deserve love or happiness, and you’re going to constantly berate and curse yourself for even the smallest of mistakes. Don’t keep living your natal home trauma until it affects everyone around you and makes you wonder who you even are. Don’t abuse your body with food, or with insults, or with various blades. Tell yourself you’re wonderful, and that life is yours to live. Thank your body for everything it does. Convince yourself that you deserve happiness.
Don’t wait for someone else to save you. Be the princess who saves herself.
Seek therapy as soon as possible. I mean it. Ten years from now, you’re going to regret not doing it.
You’re going to feel unending panic as you go through not only Canadian immigration, but British later on (if that latter part hasn’t clued you in yet, nothing will). Terror. Dread. Desperation. You’re going to be forcefully pulling yourself by the fingernails back over that wall of suicide. Remember that the universe is not out to punish you. Keep yourself busy with friends, family, and exciting hobbies. I promise you it’s all going to be perfectly fine.
Make sure your best friend always knows how loved and appreciated he is. And when the time comes; be brave. You’re so much stronger than you will think you are. Don’t give in to your confusion and loneliness after you leave the boy you thought you loved–who is still just a boy after all. Always, always treat your best friend like he is the sunlight in your life; the way he treats you. Let his love fill your empty well and restore you, and do the same for him.
You are also going to feel the greatest surges of joy. A fireworks show in your soul. You’re going to start living life, and learning how to do things, and becoming a better person than you are now. I don’t have to send this message back in time to tell you to appreciate these moments and to grow as ecstatically as a weed, because you most certainly will. You’re going to live all these moments, days, and nights to the fullest joy you can manage.
You’re going to pray under the moonlight. Walk in a blizzard. Your toes are going to sink into the warm sand in the shallow waters of Dorcas Bay, you’re going to breathe in the scents of Canada in springtime. You’re going to feel very small amid the Swiss Alps and you’re going to feel quiet reverence at Stonehenge. You’re going to learn to conquer aspects of your mental illness as you begin to understand it more and more. You’re going to explore many places and see many sights. You’re going to decide to conquer your own life and do what’s best for you. You’re going to decide to be authentically you. You’re going to breathe in the night air and smile so very often just because you’re alive.
And even in the times where that smile fades and you feel like you can’t keep going, like it hurts too much…
You will make it through.
You will always make it through.
This I promise you.
And in ten years’ time, you will be me and I will be congratulating us on how far we’ve come and on how many demons we have slayed.