Dear My 18 Year Old Self

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Dear Charleigh,
I know things are tough, I know big changes are coming up.
You’ve been moved out into the big wide world, away from the safety of the refuge.

Your with a guy that you don’t really love, and who is messing with your head, who repeats to you that the devil is watching.

It breaks my heart.
I want to tell you that bad things are going to happen again, that everything will crumble around you.

I want to warn you of the upcoming battles, I want to tell you not to push everyone away again.
I want to tell you to be careful who you trust, I want to make you promise that you will speak out and not be afraid,
because your an adult now and your not in the refuge anymore, nobody is looking out for you,
Your on your own.

The guy you fell for, the one you looked to for safety and love, will hurt you in so many ways.
He will not respect your space and boundaries, and he will threaten you and scare you into doing things you don’t want to do,
he will keep a surprise in your draw, and try to get you into trouble.
The police will be called and your house will be searched.

Don’t push people away,
It’s okay to lean on people for support.

When all that’s over and he’s moved back to his parents, you will think everything is okay and you can carry on.
But it won’t be that easy.
Things will seem impossible, and you will do anything you can to block the pain out.
You will continue to isolate yourself,
and depend more on the online world you’ve joined.
You will lock yourself in your flat, hardly seeing anybody from the outside world,
You won’t leave the safety of your box bedroom and you’ll spend everyday there, scared to leave.

You will obsess over weight loss and will do anything you can to become your definition of perfect.
I would tell you that perfect is not attainable and it will destroy you.
You will take handfuls of water pills, laxatives, diet pills and restrict your intake until your barely eating anything.
I would tell you it’s not worth it and to get out again while you can.

You will lay in your bed at night unable to sleep, you will cry with loneliness.
I will tell you not to get involved with that girl, that she will tip you over the edge, that you will try to end your life again.

You will end up in a psychiatric hospital, but you don’t belong there, but still you are and you hold onto the safety that is there.

I would warn you not to trust your nan and that your mother will find out where you are.

Then after 2 months locked away, you have no other choice but to go back to the refuge.

Months go by and your still so terrified, you feel lost in the world.
Soon it will be time to move on again and you will be at a loss for where to go.

You will be left with hardly any options, you have 2 weeks to find somewhere else and your petrified.

I would tell you it’s okay and that there not against you, I would tell you not to take those pills and that it’s ok to be scared to move on.

But you probably wouldn’t listen because your scared and fear does strange things to people.

You’ll end up in a hospital again with no recollection of your actions.
You’ll feel even more stupid and lost and it won’t change what’s upcoming.

You still need to move on, you still need to go out into the big scary world.
You will move back into the flat that broke you except this time you decide to do it right, to do it properly.

You fight against the lie that giving up is the way, you buy things you need and everything is okay for a little while.

I would tell you that things will get bad again.

Eating will be scary and life will be scary.
You will run away and try to find something that confirms your real, you will take another overdose.

You will scream at them to let you home but they put you in hospital anyway and your devastated.

You will feel that the police have betrayed you and they do because they tell your dad that your in hospital.
You haven’t spoken to him or mom in months.

You try to fight them away, I would tell you not to trust dad, I would beg you not to let him in again.
That it will all go wrong but It will feel like the right thing to do.
It will feel amazing and right and good but it’s not.

He will come to see you a few times and you will think he’s changed and it will feel euphoric.

Soon he takes you out and about, he says he will help you make your flat a home and starts decorating and finding you things you need.

You stay with him for overnight leave and you realise that he hasn’t changed, he’s still the same old drunk he always was.

The hurtful word piercing man he was before, the blows to your chest are the same as before, the bruises are still the same as before.

You go back to the hospital where you lie in your room, burying your head in books and deciding not to trust anyone ever again.
It’s not safe and it’s not worth it.

You get discharged and hide away in your flat, ignoring everyone, missing your appointments and not caring.

I would tell you to stop isolating yourself, to let people in, let people help
but I am you, and I know you wouldn’t listen.

But then someone will come along
and make everything okay again.
You will learn to trust this one person
and you’ll let them in.

Things will get better,
things won’t be perfect and they’ll still be nights you lie in bed and contemplate if life is worth living.
The voices will still dominate your mind
but you won’t be alone,
you’ll have someone in your corner, fighting with you.

I would tell you to stay.

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Dear Charley….

*Written when I was 18 years old.*

Dear Charley,

When I look at the photographs from years ago, you sitting there with your ocean blue eyes and the fly away hair,
and the little blue dress,
it seems like a different person, it doesn’t seem like me
it breaks my heart.

I want to tell you that bad things will happen,
that you won’t always be that happy,
everything will hurt and you will want to die.

I want to warn you about that day and those nights,
I want to make you promise me that you won’t keep anything a secret,
because you’re just a child, you are only 5 years old and you don’t have to be brave,
and when you grow up a little,
you still don’t have to be brave,
you don’t have to be strong for anyone,
its alright to cry.

Afterwards, you will lay in bed,
you’ll be terrified and unable to sleep,
some nights, you won’t get to sleep in your own bed,
and you’ll spend the night in a dark dingy cellar,
you’ll shut you eyes and escape to a pretend land you’ve made up.

Soon it will seem like an awful nightmare and you’ll pretend it didn’t happen,
but it did happen,
and I know that’s impossible to accept.

By your fifteenth birthday, you won’t feel anything anymore,
you will be numb
and in one of those awful moments,
you will lock yourself in the bathroom and draw a blade quickly across your leg
and you will say to yourself,
‘if anybody is going to hurt me, then it will be myself’
You are in control, but I promise you that you aren’t in control,
its a cruel illusion,
because it happens again and again,
your exposed bones and scarred skin will not save you.

Over the years you will write pages upon pages and you will read hundreds of books,
and you will do you best not to upset or anger people.

You tell yourself that you are holding it together while you hide the scars under your clothes,
and you can’t tell anymore if you’re eating or not.
You will become so cold that you won’t like anybody touching you
and the anxiety rises up in you chest like a heavy weight.

I know all this seems beyond awful,
and I know there will be days when you are so tired that you can’t even take another step,
and whenever you want to give up entirely, just remember that you survive.
At 18 years old, I can tell you this, you survive the first time,
you survive the second time,
you survive all the other times,
these terrible things happen to you and you survive,
slipcovered in lies and scars.

Things I Wish People Understood About Chronic Illness.

I’m sat on the sofa and all of a sudden, I can’t feel my legs. This is a regular occurrence for me. The exhaustion engulfs me, the simplest things overwhelm me.

A lot of the time its all about riding the waves, its about trying to find things you can do whilst unwell. Its about having a nice day out then needing to rest for a week. I’m 22 years old and a lot of the things I used to love to do, I can’t do anymore.

I feel like a burden a lot of the time because I can’t do the things I used to do, the things I so desperately want too but my body just can’t cope with. I try my best, but sometimes it just doesn’t feel like my best is good enough.

I am wheelchair bound. My flat is too small for me to use my wheelchair indoors so I have to bum shuffle around. Its so exhausting, but I do it anyway because I refuse to lose any more independence and put more work on my carer.
I get so many different reactions when I’m out and about. I get dirty looks, stares and looks of pity.
I do not want or need people’s pity. I am still me, I just need extra help to do normal everyday things.

Here are some of the things I wished people understood about my chronic illnesses.

1. A good day doesn’t mean my symptoms have gone away.
I am still in pain, I am still exhausted. I am just better able to function. Or I am able to push through the symptoms. These good days are less often now.
The prospect of being unwell for my entire life, is terrifying. I don’t know when I’ll have a good day, when I do I just have to grab it with both hands and make the most of it. Although, the good days always lead to a flare up as I do too much thinking it’s okay.

I have to cancel plans because I’m too unwell.
This leads to people thinking I’m lazy and don’t want to see them. When in reality I want nothing more than to see that person or do whatever we were planning on doing.
I can’t predict when I’m going to be okay to do things. Planning things in advance is a nightmare for me. It causes me extreme stress because I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it or be well enough to enjoy it.

3. It’s not fun to sit around all day.
This is a massive one. It is not fun or enjoyable to sit on my sofa or lay in bed, day in and day out. It’s fucking frustrating and upsetting. I want nothing more than to get a job and enjoy my life.
Some days it’s hard to even concentrate on my book or cook a microwave meal, let alone go out to work.

4. Just because I’m smiling, doesn’t mean I’m okay.
I smile, alot. It’s my coping mechanism. I refuse to let my illnesses get the better of me, so I try my best to see the positive in every situation.
I hate people asking me if I’m okay or if I’m feeling better, so I smile like everything’s all good. I don’t want to be known as the miserable one who isn’t any fun, I don’t want people fussing me around all the time. I don’t want pity.

5. Everything isn’t always about my illness, but it kinda has to be.
I don’t want everything to be about my illness but that’s hard for me, when my life does revolve around my illnesses. It effects everything I do, it effect what I can and can’t do. I’m in a wheelchair so there are places or things I cannot do. It is incredibly frustrating. I’m sorry that my problems affect your decisions. I don’t want it to be that way.

6. Limiting myself and rethinking goals is not the same as giving up.
I have wanted to start uni for a long time and have always not been in the right place. But in February I am starting an Open uni degree, part time. I know it will extremely hard and more exhausting but if I can get one step closer to my goal, it will be worth it. I have always wanted to go to a campus uni but I had to rethink those expectations and come up with something new.

7. I am not ungrateful, I do not take people for granted and I do realise how hard it is for my carer.
I have been blessed with an amazing best friend who became my carer when things took a turn for the worse.
She has been there for me through thick and thin, through everything and I will be forever grateful.
I do understand that it hard to do so many things for another person and I do appreciate it. If she turned round to me one day and said I can’t do this anymore, I’d understand.

8. I appreciate the small victories.
Sometimes all I can do one day is get on and off the toilet. Other days, I can go out and have a day out at the zoo.
When my legs are so weak or I’ve lost feeling, just moving them slightly is a victory.

Having a Chronic Illness, whatever it is, sucks. Especially when people around you, don’t understand.