To my 16-year old, suicidal self,
Well, I suppose the existence of this letter is a spoiler warning. You did attempt suicide, your overdose put you in the hospital for five weeks, but you didn’t die. In fact, I’m you, and I’m 18 now. I know right now you’re sure that you’ll just attempt suicide over and over until someday it actually kills you, but that isn’t what you did.
You met a therapist in the hospital. She was a social worker too, and she’s the reason I want to be a social worker now. She helped you a lot, and when you left the hospital she gave you a card. That card is sitting on top of my desk now. She gave you hope for the possibility of help actually being out there. She showed you a light at the end of the tunnel. So, when you left the hospital, you met another new therapist. You bounced between her and various intensive outpatient and inpatient programs for about a year. I have an appointment with her tomorrow. I also have a uniform fitting for a new job on Wednesday. See, your life actually does get somewhere, after all. I also live in an apartment, by myself. I’m also an introvert now – talk about a 180!
But this is about you, not me. Well, I am you, so I suppose it’s about us. I know you think this world hurts too much. I know you think you’re not strong enough. I know you think life isn’t worth the fight. I know you think you’ll never be happy again. I know you think someone else will kill you if you don’t just kill yourself. I know suicide seems like your only choice. But you have it in you to keep fighting, you just can’t see it right now. You’re so much stronger than you think you are.
I need you to do something. Walk out of the kitchen, without the pill bottles that you’re about to grab. Go upstairs, and get your laptop. Message every adult that you know in whom you have even an ounce of trust. Message your aunt. Message your friends. Message the staff from your church. Get the home phone and call the after hours line for every doctor’s or therapist’s office you’ve ever seen. Tell them exactly what’s going on. Tell them every detail. Tell them that you’re not okay. Tell them that you have a plan and that you don’t trust yourself to stay safe. Tell them that you’re suicidal. Tell them that you have the supplies to carry out your plan. Keep telling everyone until you get help. Tell them that you have an endless list of backup plans and that they can’t possibly take away every single thing that you’re considering. Let them take you to the hospital. Tell the crisis counselor or social worker everything. They can help you. Help is real. Hope is real. You’ll find it, I promise.
I know you think that no one loves you. I know you think that you’re a horrible person. I know you think you’re a burden. I know you think that the world would be better off without you. But that isn’t true. You’re worthy of being alive. You deserve help. You deserve happiness. You deserve to be okay. You deserve love. You deserve to be safe, and not just safe from other people, but safe from yourself.
Don’t worry about the little things. The world isn’t going to end if you fail one exam. Remember that every mistake is only one moment in the context of the millions of moments that make up your life. I know it’s easier said than done, but try to let those things go. You’re going to be okay, I promise. I know you’ll be okay, because I’m the older you, and I’m okay.
I know you’ve given up on people, and you’ve given up on yourself, which means you’ve probably also given up on me. So, if this letter doesn’t change anything, if you still take those pills, when you go to the hospital I want you to talk to everyone who comes in the room. Speak up for yourself. Tell them how you’re feeling. Tell them what you need. I know you’ve given up on help, on hope, on other people, and on yourself. I know this world has failed you too many times and too many ways. But I promise you, there is some good in this world. There are people who actually care. There are medications that actually work. There are therapists who actually help. The biggest challenge is simply finding them. It’s a bumpy road, I’m not going to lie to you. Life is hard, but it’s so worth it.
It’s worth it for the spontaneous Starbucks runs at 3am. It’s worth it for taking pictures of the perfect sunset. It’s worth it for laughing with friends until you can’t breathe. It’s worth it for listening to the latest hit single from the top 100. It’s worth it for the latest Johnny Depp movie. It’s worth it for the day when all of the dandelions bloom. It’s worth it for the magic in the air before Christmas. It’s worth it for the newest flavor of frozen yogurt. It’s worth it for discovering designer clothes for five dollars at Goodwill. It’s worth it for your latest art project, and every one that could ever possibly come after it. It’s worth it for getting your writing published. It’s worth it for helping people. It’s worth it for tomorrow, and every tomorrow that will ever come.
Dear self, put the bottle down. You’re going to be alright. It’ll be worth the fight. You are loved. You are worth it. You are strong. This world wouldn’t be the same without you here. This world would miss you. No one could ever replace you. The world needs you here. I need you here.
Please, don’t go. Put the bottle down and take care of yourself. Paint your nails, photograph the sunset, bake cupcakes, sing in the shower, dance in the middle of Target. Whatever you do, just stay here.
It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to feel hopeless. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to need help. It’s okay to tell people what you need. It’s okay to stand up for yourself. There is nothing wrong with you, and there never has been.
Put down the bottle of pills, and find the bottle of hope. It’s out there, I promise.