16-year-old Katie, and the certain someone at my side.
Dear Teen Me:
This is not the end.
Life does not end at 18. I wish I could convey to you how magical life has gotten in the years since high school, but I know you won’t believe me. You think you’re worth nothing, that you’re less than dirt, that soon you’ll be swept out with the rest of the garbage. You’ll try to kill yourself many times, and thank God each attempt will fail.
High school will be a nightmare for you. Every day in those halls only tightens the anxiety’s grip on you. By the time your senior year comes around, you’ll be a spiraling mess, but somehow you’ll hold it together. Because not only do you live to see graduation, but you’ll do it with honors, proving you are as smart as you hope you are. All your insecurities are products of your anxiety, which is not your fault. You’d find some way to blame yourself if the sun went out, and honey, it just ain’t worth it. Let go of the guilt and fear and uncertainty. No, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Yes, you can do it.
High school may seem like a new opportunity for you. After all, as you step into your new school, you’ve left behind your old enemies and the pain of your last suicide attempt. It’s a fresh start, and I wish I could tell you it’ll be that simple. But the fact is, the worst is just beginning.
You’ll learn that demons wear friendly faces, that abuse isn’t just fists and screaming. The boy you’re about to befriend will completely absorb your life. You won’t realize it at first. You’re lonely, you’re depressed, and you want to make a fresh start, but this boy will only drag you back into everything you want to escape. He will pull you back down into depression. He will undermine your confidence. He will convince you that you are worthless, that you need him, that the two of you are soul mates. You won’t realize what he’s done until it’s too late.
After the first few months, you will become his prisoner. You won’t realize it, of course—after all, if he keeps telling you how much he cares for you, it’s difficult to see the negative side of things. But he will eventually hit you. And strangle you until you black out. And leap across the room to attack you. He may not leave bruises, you may think you deserve it, but it’s still wrong.
Don’t be fooled by his crocodile tears. He will say anything to convince you to forgive him. He will lie and cheat and steal from you. He will publicly humiliate you. He will turn your friends against you. Don’t ignore that anger you feel. It’s justified. Give into it, and start fighting back. It will be difficult, but slowly you will wedge a distance between you two. Don’t feel guilty for it; you’re doing what you need to for your emotional and mental well-being. Your other friends will understand, and they will support you, once they too realize what’s been happening.
When you finally free yourself from his control, it will be difficult to get back on your feet. You will try to hurt yourself in serious ways. You will face a crippling depression and anxiety. You may doubt your capability to do anything right. You will hit the lowest of lows, but you will climb back up afterwards.
I may only be a few years older than you, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s this: Nothing is forever. Not the good, and not the bad.
Someday, this pain will be useful to you. You’ll use it to help kids who are in similar situations. You’ll learn how to handle your worries and insecurities (Mostly.) You’ll gain back confidence. You will be happy again.
But please, don’t give up hope. It does get better. Trust me.