I need you to know that you are not me.
Your incessant insults may make me briefly believe that I am all of the terrible things you tell me, but I now know that I am none of them.
I am worthy of love.
I am strong.
I am handsome.
I am enough.
The weak, unlovable, ugly monster you portray me as in the funhouse mirror of my mind is a lie. No matter how many times you tell it to me, it will never be true.
You are going to keep talking, and I wish I could refuse to listen, but we share a body, so that’s no an option.
Despite being housed in the same shell, we are different.
Your voice is not mine.
I am not you.
How dare you question me!
You don’t deserve the voice you think you have.
Stop pretending you are separate from me.
We are one and the same.
This voice you think you have is an illusion.
You are the liar.
To believe you are anything other than what I tell you will only delude you and lead to false hope.
How could you believe you are anything other than the waste of life you are?
Everyone hates you.
Those whispers you hear and those glances you see are them mocking you.
Listen to me if you want to stay safe.
Listen to me if you want to escape the pain.
This husk you briefly allow yourself to proud of is a prison, and the only way out is blood.
Your throat demands to be emptied of it.
Bleed and be free.
I am tempted to rage in response, but I am a peaceful warrior and my confidence is strong enough without needing to yell as you do.
I know that screaming will only fuel your fire and burn our mind.
Yes, our mind.
I refuse to believe you are me, but I also refuse to believe don’t exist.
I’ve tried pretending I don’t hear you.
I tried drowning you out with drugs and alcohol, only to watch you breathe bourbon and swim.
When I resist, you persist, so now I choose to swim with you.
I have the power of choice.
I get to choose, not you.
You will always be hungry, but I am the one who chooses whether or not I want to feed you.
You have been thriving on a diet of despair and anger, and you will starve without them.
I now have a hunger for hope, so I will ingest inspiration and love, and let all of the lies I used to lap up rot.
You can rant and rave all you want, but I don’t have to listen to you.
I can choose whether or not I want to.
I can choose love instead of hate.
I can choose gratitude instead of resentment.
I can choose to thank you for making me so self-aware.
So I choose to see you as a blessing, instead of a curse. And I choose to be proud of my scars instead of embarrassed by them.
You want me to believe that they are cracks that make me broken, but I am in no need of fixing.
Those cracks are an invitation.
They allow others to see the light in me that you have tried so desperately to suffocate in darkness.
You’ve always told that I’m a mistake, but I now know that I’m a gift.
Thank you for showing me that.
Joseph Penola is the founder and executive director of The You Rock Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to spreading awareness about mental health by using interviews with popular musicians as catalysts for conversation. Joseph is a suicide attempt survivor who created You Rock as a result of his personal battle with depression. Despite being surrounded by supportive family and friends, Joseph could not confide in anyone. He felt like music was able to speak for him, and it eventually allowed him to find his own voice, talk about his illness, and get the treatment he needed. You Rock’s video interviews with bands like Slipknot and Korn have given music fans the same kind of inspiration that was instrumental to Joseph’s healing. Joseph has previously organized a mental health support group at music schools, volunteered as a counselor for Crisis Text Line. He currently speaks at public schools, conferences, and other events.