In four months I will be 20 years old. Two decades.
This is an important year for me. Four years ago, I couldn’t see myself where I am today. Four years ago I didn’t have much hope.
My 16 year old self almost didn’t make it.
I wrote this letter for her. It’s extremely personal.
I like to think she’d be proud of the person she grew up to be.
Dear 16 year old Katie,
You’re in your junior year of high school and it’s proving to be just as difficult as people told you it would be.
For you specifically though, this year comes with a unique set of challenges.
This year you have developed depression only you don’t know that it’s depression you just think you’re a failure. You’re sad. You sleep a lot. You don’t eat enough. You hate yourself.
It’s hard. Actually hard is an understatement. There isn’t really a word that describes what you’re going through accurately. It feels as though life is a mountain that you’re trying to climb with flip-flops on. You can’t get very far.
In the middle of the night one Sunday in April you will wake up and write a suicide note. You won’t end up going through with it. But you keep it on your laptop and read it every single day for a week. You will lock yourself in the bathroom one afternoon, bottle of pills in hand clutching your laptop reading the letter to your parents over and over. You think you might do it. But your mom comes home, knocks on the door, and makes you realize that she will lose everything if she loses you.
That night you tell your parents you want to go to therapy. You make a silent vow to yourself to make it to your 20th birthday. If you can just make it to 20, maybe things will be better. It’s only 4 years away; but it feels like a lifetime because every single day is a battle.
You go to therapy. You start to get better. You stop wanting to die. But, you still don’t really want to live either.
I’m writing this to you, my 16 year old self, who is caught somewhere between life and death, who hates herself, who is looking for love in all the wrong places, who doesn’t see a happy ending. Who doesn’t believe she will go to college. Who doesn’t think she has a future. Who thinks that when she does make it to 20 life will still be just as hard. Who thinks that her life will be cut short after only 2 decades on Earth.
I’m writing this to you now, 4 months before my 20th birthday.
16 year old Katie, I wish I could actually send this letter. I wish that there were a way for you to know that it will all be worth it.
I want you to know that, as cliche as it sounds, it does get better. As I write this I am sitting in my apartment in college over 300 miles away from home. I am happy. I am not just existing, I am alive.
When I celebrate my 20th birthday in four months, I won’t just be celebrating another year of life. I will be celebrating for my 16 year old self. I will be celebrating her choice to stay alive despite the weight of her pain. I will be celebrating the fact that I am still here, and that I want to be here.
16 year old Katie, I know that you are unhappy. But this unhappiness will be short-lived in the grand scheme of things. You will get through it. You will learn self-love. You will learn self-acceptance. You’ll learn to live.
It will all be worth it. And I am proud of you.
Your 19 year old self.
P.S – Surprise! You’re bi.