To My Sixteen Year Old Self
By Natalie McCann
Not everyone is going to like you. That is a fact and it cannot be changed, nor should you let it affect the way you think about yourself. Just because you aren’t a size 2, and you don’t have a thigh gap or you don’t have protruding hipbones does not mean you can’t eat breakfast. Just because you woke up this morning and weighed 2 pounds more than yesterday does not mean you have to workout an extra hour this evening. Just because you can’t see the beauty in yourself right now does not mean it isn’t there.
At this point in your life the concept of mental illness and depression is most definitely not on your radar. But I wish I could go back and change this. I wish I could make you aware that you are not meant to feel this way. It should not be a struggle to get out of bed every morning, and when asked, “how are you?” your response does not automatically have to be “I’m fine” if you really aren’t. Feeling this way is nothing against your character or your strength. Being depressed is a chemical imbalance occurring within you and getting help no matter how hard it may be, will make things so much better.
At sixteen, things weren’t even at their worst. There were still good days. But if at sixteen you could recognize the path you are about to go down, maybe things might have been a bit easier. Instead of smothering your emotions till it is 4:00 am and you are alone in your room, there are people who want to listen, who want to help. It took me three years to realize this, but it is okay to not be okay. But do you know what isn’t okay? Three years of silence. That is 525, 600 minutes wasted on the false sense of aloneness you created for yourself.
You wont hear someone talk about you and depression in the same sentence until grade 12, and for that I am sorry. You wont see a doctor until first year, and for that too, I am sorry. You wont start doing better until second year when things could have turned around much sooner, and again, I am so sorry. I am sorry that you feel the stigma surrounding your struggle with mental illness is permitting you from living to the fullest.
To end this letter, I will leave you with some parting advice I wish I had been told at sixteen. 1) Talk about it. Talk about how you feel, share your emotions, relate to others and make connections. One in five people struggle with their mental health and you’d be surprised which of your friends could use the comfort of knowing they aren’t alone in what they’re going through. 2) Do not contribute to the stigma. By hiding behind a mask, and downplaying what you feel, you are letting the demons win. Get involved in breaking the stigma and raising awareness because everybody is affected by mental illness, everybody has mental health and we all have our own story. 3) Finally, do not allow your struggle to define you. It has contributed to who you are now and who you will become but it is not all that you are. You are more than a size, a number, a percentile, a grade; you are a daughter, a sister, a friend, and most importantly a human.
A nineteen year old who is doing alright.
About the Author:
Hey I’m Natalie and I am in my second year at Queen’s University currently studying concurrent education with a medial in psychology and sociology. I am an avid fan of adult colouring books, scented candles, and late night chats with friends.