Letters To L: “The first of many: mental health edition”

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Dear L – 

Welcome to the first of many letters addressed to and for you, along with whoever else needs a little advice from a “big sibling”. I think I’ll start this letter off by stating the obvious: this is on the internet. Meaning, anyone can read this. Although I seriously doubt that more than 10 people will ever read this, including the students who will end up editing this, I just thought I should note that this is not private and I am hypothetically airing my laundry out for everyone to see. 

But, I feel that this makes it more special. I’ll mention things only you and I understand. I’ll give advice to you that you’ll need in due time. I am targeting this at you, and if anyone else needs this then they can experience the mess that is my writing. 

This first letter is going to be focused on mental health. Strange way to start off a letter to one of the most important people in your life, I know. But it’s something that’s been on my mind lately, and I’ve even written a few articles on the mental health problems that plague our world. I personally suffer from anxiety and depression, and I know many people around me who can say the same.

I’m putting this out into the world because I know that one day you will have a moment when the stress becomes too much or you get so sad that it’s all you can think about. And when that day comes, I hope you read this and realize that you’re not alone. You have me and you have your family and friends and complete strangers you see on the street. 

Anxiety is a crazy fiend that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It makes you second guess everything you do. It drives you against the wall and gives you no way to escape. It makes you physically twitch against your will. It will trap you in its unwavering grasp and never let go…unless you know how to escape. I find that breathing helps a lot, but can also seem really tedious at times. If that’s the case then try moving around, like pacing or running or even dancing. Sometimes your body needs a moment and the movement helps put all the energy from your head into your body. When I get anxious, I talk to those around me or will reach out to people for an anchor. It may seem silly, but it helps ground me to reality and keep me centered. We get so stuck in our heads sometimes that we all need to share our thoughts with others, no matter how scary that may seem.

A lot of people I know are scared of opening up like that, of reaching out to others in fear of being a nuisance or a bother. But I will tell you right now that when I receive calls for help or see an obvious hand reaching for an anchor, I feel honored to have been their choice of survival. Simple response to those texts or continuing conversations about someone’s anxiety can and will save lives, as impossible as that seems. I speak from experience as the savior and the savee. 

Now, on the topic of lifelines, let’s switch gears to depression. I like to think of depression as a loss of flavor. Like let’s say you used to love chocolate, but now you find no enjoyment in it and can’t bring yourself to eat it. Everyone around you tells you to just “put some icing on it” or to try a new flavor, but none of that works. You simply don’t enjoy cake anymore. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but what im trying to say is that depression is subtle at first but can and will end up changing you forever. Whether it’s in a good way or a bad way, that’s up to you.

When I went through my worst depression period, I couldn’t find reasons to continue on. I couldn’t see any light in my own tunnel of shadow. It was a cold and dark time of my life, one I wish to never return to. But here I am today, writing you a letter, all because I reached out and asked for help. I turned my depression into a learning experience and grew from it. I still find myself drifting to a land of shadows when times get rough, but I know now how to bring myself into the light.

Asking for help can be terrifying and not something you may want to do. I get it, I was raised to be independent and to solve my own problems. But when it comes to your mental health, that’s not something you can solve on your own no matter how much you think you can. Sometimes letting yourself be weak is the strongest thing you can ever do. And personally, I don’t find asking for help as a sign of weakness. I see it as strong, something that shows you know you need help and aren’t afraid to ask for it. 

You don’t have to ask someone you know for help, either. I know talking to people you have a relationship with can be scary since they have previous judgment to base you off of, but sometimes that can work in your favor, it all depends. But if you don’t want to go down that road, then talk to a professional counselor or an adult. Starting with how you’re feeling really opens the gate and allows for the rest of the conversation to flow so much easier, it’s just the first step that seems daunting. 

There is so much I can say to you. There is so much I can elaborate on and so much I can just rant about, but these letters aren’t going to write themselves. If anyone reading this has any questions or just wants to talk to me, please don’t be afraid to reach out. I have my own personal email called [email protected] for these letters that no one else reads, and I promise to keep everything confidential and anonymous. Thank you all for taking the time out of your day to read my rambling thoughts, and thank you L for finally finding these. I love you.

Love, C