CW: Graphic description of self-harm, self-hatred.
I sat down just now to write you a blog post about loving things without restraint; about the freedom of being able to be enthused and comfortable in your hobbies and likes and loves. I’m still intending to show you that post later this week. But whilst I was looking through old files to find examples of my personal guilty pleasure, I found something else.
Within my documents, I have a writing folder. In that writing folder is a fanfiction folder. And in that fanfiction folder, perplexingly, is a folder of original writing. Curious, I opened it, and I opened some files. There are bits of my very first Nanowrimo in here – all five pages of it! Bits of poetry, some of which I have shared, some of which I never will.
And a letter.
You know that thing people do where they write letters to their future selves? At school we did that. In year 7 – age eleven – we wrote letters that we would open when we were sixteen and finishing high school. I still have that letter, somewhere. I read it years later and laughed at it, at how different and yet the same I was.
The letter I found is not one of those letters. It is a letter I wrote when I was sixteen, but one that I wrote – and never sent – to a young man that I was infatuated with. I say infatuated rather than ‘crush’ because there is something about having feelings for someone as a teenager that is different. It seems all-encompassing to you, constant, intense, more real than perhaps an actual relationship could be.
So I read this letter with some trepidation, because I feared – and indeed found – that it was full of precisely that sort of saccharine, exaggerated teenage romance. But as the letter went on, it contained something else. And when I got to this passage, I started to feel nauseous.
I accept that I fail in many aspects of life and move on, because I cannot take it back and I would not want to. As hard as it is for me to admit, I learn from things I have done wrong. Like the time I took a sharp edge and scratched meaningless words into my arms. I still have the scars. I still have the knowledge that it is meaningless, and that I should not have punished myself in such a way because it was purposeless.
I still, however, remember the immense feeling of redemption at the moment that blood began to seep from the wounds. I was redeeming myself for my mistakes through the loss of my own blood. The fear I have of feeling this again is overwhelming, compromised only by the small part of me that remembers my elation at the pain I underwent. I told one of my friends, on Valentine’s night, that I was scared I would do it again. The look on her face told me that she knew I was a freak.
And that was the point at which I knew that people were only around me in a false pretence, the pretence that I so hated the idea of having surround me. None of those who claimed allegiance to me were really there because they wanted to be. They were there because they felt obliged to be. It is this knowledge that compelled me to write this letter. Because nothing, nothing else felt to me as bleak as that moment. I wrote this letter to indulge the fantasy that perhaps, one day, you would care.
Suddenly, in the midst of all of these awkward proclamations of love, there was this hard, horrible truth.
It wasn’t a letter to my future self, but it feels like it now. Was I writing to that person I was so infatuated with, or was I writing to me? Did I dream that, one day, I would care about myself?
At another point in the letter, I wrote: “There is a part of me that finds me repulsive”. Another: “I regret every mistake I have ever made”. Another: “I cannot talk to my friends because I feel as if I would be overburdening them with my problems”. Another: “If I were to die this very moment, then all I would feel was that no one had ever loved me”.
The thing that makes me feel terrible is not the fact that I wrote these things about myself. After all, sometimes I still think them. But I very rarely say them out loud. They feel precious to me, strangely so, in the same way that my writing does before I give it to other people. I don’t want them to be precious, but they are. It is like giving up my very innermost self.
Somehow, aged sixteen, I was able to be so very honest and open, even at a time where I – by my own admission – shut people out at every opportunity whilst simultaneously yearning to not be so alone. I have struggled, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully, to capture this same honesty and verity in the years that have passed since.
And all I can think now is that I am so glad, so very glad, that I never deleted any of these things. That I kept everything, and never threw it away.
Because the part of me that felt like this is now so very, very small. Because those words I scratched into myself – no shortcuts – have faded, and even the scars they left are gone. Not forgotten, but no longer seared into me like a slave’s brand.
Now, I am free.
If you are experiencing anxiety or depression and you are not already seeking help, please consider doing so. You are worth so much more than you think. You can find resources for the UK here and for the US here.