[CN] Let it not be a surprise that this piece has references to: mental illness, self-harm and injury, racism, sexism, mention of ‘blood’. Please don’t read on if you feel like it would be triggering.
Dear younger shell,
This letter is for you, for all the times you felt the whole world crashing down on you.
I still haven’t figured it out yet, but there are some things I can tell you. Things you can cling to. I can tell you that your feelings are valid, that you matter. I know how you feel sadness like a widening hollow in your chest. I know how you feel it like a boulder in between your shoulder blades. I know how you feel it running down your cheeks; I know how you feel it, escaping through your wrists.
I believe you, I’ve always believed you. Despite what people tell you, you are allowed to feel this way; you are allowed to get help. You don’t have to place first in the global Whose Life is Worse? competition they signed you up for. They don’t see your anxiety attacks; they choose to only see your straight A’s. They don’t hear you sighing every time you wake up. They say you have “talent”, but you know your art is so much more than that.
I know you hate being called “smart”, you hate that it’s used interchangeably with “Asian”. You do well because you work hard. And I also know it’s even harder for you because you don’t even want to be here. You’re doing really, really well.
Blood doesn’t and sometimes can’t always mean love because of circumstances. You are allowed to take care of yourself. I know this makes you feel lonely and nostalgic for things you’ve never known. But you will meet people who love you more than you can imagine.
You will find company online, in songs, in artists, and books. You will begin to understand your illnesses and understand that it’s ok. You will begin to care about things that matter, that need to matter. And you will begin to unlearn the self-hatred you were taught. You will begin to unbury your culture, and you will stop gleaming when people tell you you’re “not like those other girls”.
In a few years you will be able to get the help you need. You will learn to stop depriving your body of its needs. You will stop being afraid of taking up space, of feeling. You will learn that “recovery” is just this unnecessary polarisation of illness and wellness. You will focus on management, and you will get a lot better.
Your teachers will be there for you; they will be very understanding. They would have helped you earlier had they known. They will ask how you are. They will take care of you, and go to lengths to help you do your best.
And you will do your best. You will do so well in school, but that’s not the only side to you. You will learn so much more than the things in your textbooks. You will inspire, create, build and mend. You will have friends you learn to love with all your heart. Sometimes you will feel like it would burst!!
At 17, you will travel Europe by yourself, you will enjoy it more than anything. You will get to see Van Gogh’s paintings in real life and eat so many baguettes you almost become one. You will roll in the snow, watch sunrises, dream in another language and feel, truly feel.
You’ll end up going to uni, and you still won’t know what you want to do. But you’ll learn that not many people know either. You will do exhibitions, where people admire your art like maybe it was magic. You will be on the radio, educating others about mental health. You will start a zine with a new friend, and together you will celebrate all the things you love. You will be a part of causes you care so much about you think you might cry.
You will appreciate all the different, surprising, amazing dimensions to you. You will become someone you wish you knew at your age
Please, take care.
Love, older shell.