Dear 13-year-old Jessica,
I’m sorry your soul hurts so much today. That you’re lying in bed between sleep and nightmares and you’re afraid to get up. 2004 is a hard year, but I’m so proud of you dear one, because today it is 2017, and you are alive.
13 years later, and you are alive.
This day in February will lead you to the doctor, where you finally get that diagnosis of ‘severe depression’ you’ve been waiting for. Somehow in the next few weeks mum will book you an appointment to see a tall man with a strange title. You will be afraid to talk to him, but you will push through. And he will teach you how to save your life.
I know you’re scared for your life. That as much as a diagnosis is a relief, it’s also painful because to get better you know you have to work really hard. The counsellor will challenge you to get up, and walk outside, and eventually return to school. It all sounds too much right now, and that’s okay. But over time, you will do all these things and more. You will become the strongest person you know, and that is how you will survive. In fact, you will be happy.
In 12 months you’ll be sure that you’re over the depression, but I want to give you permission to not ‘get over it’. The suicidality will pass, but one day you’ll learn that this depression and anxiety is part of life. You are not weak, or less of a person because of it. In fact, it will be your becoming.
You’ll start taking anti depressants in 18 months and you’ll still be taking them a decade later. That’s okay though – that’s how you stay alive. So be gracious with yourself.
Keep being that ‘Jesus Kid’ that stands out because he’s still your best friend, but know everyone doesn’t hate you for it, they just don’t understand. Don’t be afraid to wrestle with your doubts. Just like the obsessive thoughts they will pass, and you will learn to love yourself with all your flaws and failings along the way.
I know you’re scared to walk outside right now, but soon you’ll learn to love long walks and airplanes and chaotic Los Angeles streets. You’ll be brave enough to sing again, and you’ll realise that writing is more than a hobby. You’ll stop being so afraid of people that are different from you, and they’ll become your best friends. And even though you don’t have a church at the moment, you’ll start a long and beautiful journey where you learn about grace and courage-so try going to youth group and see how it pans out.
Love still seems a way off for you, but life isn’t and that’s what makes your 13 years in recovery all the more important. Remember homework doesn’t define you, PE will end in three years, and the cool kids hurt too.
Keep listening to Guy Sebastian over-and over, and rewatch Australian Idol and The Saddle Club until the VHS’s wear out (they will). This will empty your mind and make you smile when it all feels like too much. Cover your walls in posters and keep learning too much trivia about Delta Goodrem. The hobbies and music that saved you will help form a career that you haven’t even dreamed of yet, and it’s worth sticking around for.
Today is the scariest day of your life dear one, but I want you to know that I’m proud of you. Proud because even though you don’t feel it, you are stronger and more beautiful than you could ever hope to be in this moment. God won’t forget you, and he will continue to show up and save you every single day, so don’t stop asking.
I’m so proud of you Jessica. 13 years in recovery. We did it. Be brave today, I promise we’ll make it.
Ps. I met Guy Sebastian. He’s just as cool as you expected. Also, the braces will come off in a year – so hang in there. X