*Trigger Warning* Before continuing, please note, this post contains some emotional content and discussion of self-harm behaviour which can be a potential trigger
I really want to share some news.
Are you ready for this?!
I finished…READING A BOOK! A whole book!
It’s not the thickest of books but it is a book. Which I read from beginning to end!
Now I’ll explain my excitement.
I have been struggling to read anything longer than a paragraph for over a year now (or maybe longer), due to a lack of focus, concentration, intense frustration and general exhaustion.
Until this week. When I managed to finish reading a book called “Advice To My 18-Year-Old Self”. It’s a collection of short essays written by authors who wish to give some much needed advice to their younger selves.
Being in the state I am in at the moment; in my late twenties, with a serious mental illness, unemployed, in therapy, confused and working on recovery & self-discovery, the title of this book was extremely appealing. I really could have done with some good advice from a wiser self when I was 18 years old. Maybe things would have turned out differently?
I highly recommend this book, reading it has me thinking about where I was at that age and what was happening in my life then. What has happened in my life since. What would I say to my 18-year-old self?
Thinking about that time in my life instantly sent me mentally travelling through a tunnel of memories and emotions. Some awful things have happened, but I’ve also been very lucky in life; I’ve had fun. I travelled. I grew up in Brasil. I went on many camping trips. I bathed in rivers and in the rain. I laughed. I danced, oh how I danced. I danced on tables, chairs, podiums, mailboxes, phone boxes, you name it; I danced on it. I’ve made some good memories, so it’s not all doom & gloom. I experimented. I kissed a girl (and I liked it). I snuck out for no good reason. I rode on motorcycles. I snuck in at 8am. I fell in love. I got a tattoo in Thailand. I made some amazing life long friends. I got “engaged” according to Islamic traditions. I broke hearts and had my heart broken. I did some some crazy things. I worked at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and the 2012 European Championships, and the 2013 Confederations Cup, and many other interesting events around the world. I got to watch the sunrise from the top of Corcovado mountain; where Christ the Redeemer stands. I had the opportunity to make mistakes. I got to watch the sunset from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. The list goes on & on. I have been very lucky.
But now I know that I have to deal with the fact that there is trauma in-between and intertwined in all those lovely memories & experiences.
In the end, I found myself writing a letter to the 18-year-old me…
“Dear you, myself…us,
It’s you here. It’s you with 10 more years of life experience. And boy, it’s been an eventful 10 years!
How are you? No, screw that because you’re just going to say “fine”, and I now know that you are not fine.
Here goes some advice; Listen to you, really listen to your heart, your feelings, your gut, your body. If you stop and really listen to you now, you’ll realise that things haven’t been fine for a while. Actually, things have never really been fine. You’ve had some really good moments and you’ve done well in immersing yourself fully in “Denial Mode”; ignoring your pain, difficult emotions and situations, but it’s not healthy my love, and if you don’t slow down and really listen, you will only get worse. Actually, you may lose your life because of it. Yes, it’s that serious.
I don’t mean to scare you, I just want you to stop and take care of yourself. I wish someone had given me a heads up y’know, and helped me realise that taking care of ourselves and putting us first is not self indulgent; it’s necessary and you should do it. We should all do it.
I’m going to get this out of the way before I try and pretend it didn’t happen…sigh..okay. So, you’ve had a few mental and physical breakdowns between the ages of 18 and 28. You actually think that you’re being dramatic at first, and it’s not until your third & huge breakdown that you really start to pay attention to what’s happening to you. I’m going to ask you to look back now actually; remember that you had a nervous breakdown at 15 too, remember cutting yourself? Yeah, at 28 you finally realise that that was a warning sign…and you were not being dramatic or “seeking attention”. In reality, you didn’t even mention it to anyone, you wrote about it in your diary, which your stepdad took from your room, read and told your mum about you cutting yourself. Remember that? You didn’t want the attention. Actually it was awful to get that attention. I really need you to understand that you are not dramatic my love. It’s not you; it’s not your fault. You really do experience some intense emotional pain. You’re not well.
You experience some intense positive emotions too.
People will call you dramatic. Ignore them.
People will hint that you need to lose weight. Ignore those people too. Don’t go on those crash diets, because that’s exactly what they’ll do; they will crash your health. So eat your heart out girl, if anything you’re quite thin for your height. Have.the.cake!
People will also tell you what to do, how to behave, where to go, how to dress, who to spend time with. Ignore them, ignore them, IGNORE THEM. Do what you fucking feel like doing. Listen to you.
Don’t try to impress or entertain others, you don’t need to; you’re awesome just as you are. You are bubbly, kind, compassionate, considerate, loyal, adventurous, trustworthy, hard working and beautiful. You’re a beautiful person.
It’s odd writing this; I’ll never say that to myself but I think it of you. I really do. I envy you actually, I think you’re perfect now that I look back. You should be oozing with confidence instead of trying to be like others.
Don’t work so hard to please people. Slow down. Calm down. Discover your values, your interests & beliefs and stick by them. You are the most important thing in your world. Try to not put a different mask on for every person you come across, you don’t need to; don’t collect masks. Become you. You are good enough. I promise.
In order to do this though, you need to spend some time with yourself; you need to learn to be alone. You need to learn about you. So stay single for a while, I mean really single. Just let go of toxic relationships. Completely. Walk away; let go of any romantic relationship actually. You have so much fun with your friends, keep doing that but also spend some time alone; immerse yourself fully into a journey of self-discovery & self-acceptance.
Also, try a mindfulness class, a yoga class and go to more festivals.
One last thing… You are now a vegetarian! Can you believe it?! You’ve gone from being a full on meat eater to a vegetarian with ridiculous amounts of love for animals. I guess this goes to show that nothing in life is guaranteed; you believed that you would never be able to give up meat! You were certain of it.
The only thing that is guaranteed in life is that one day we will pass away & on to somewhere new. So try to be patient and enjoy the misadventures, the adventures and be gentle with yourself. You are so precious my girl.
Ah. Okay. I think that’s all I have to say.
Now that I think about it, you are probably going to take this all in; get very emotional; put it all in a “box”; hide it in a dark corner of your mind and forget about it. And you will go on to still do all the things that I did.
And you know what, that’s okay. Don’t undo all of our experiences; it’s made us who we are. You’re on an amazing journey; at 28 you’re being given a second chance and for the first time you’ve been able to take a truly refreshing deep breath. You are learning about emotional intelligence. You’re learning to be alone but not lonely. You’re getting to know you & getting to love you. You’re learning that one of your favourite quotes; “This, too, shall pass”, is ever so true. With time, it will pass. The pain will pass. It has started to pass. Hang in there my girl, don’t give up. You now understand that you will never have everything figured out, and you’re actually okay with this. I think you’re starting to trust the process.
Lastly, I leave you with this; another quote (we love a good quote now!) “The more real you get, the more unreal the world gets” (John Lennon). And that’s just fine!
I can’t wait for our future.
Maybe I’ll write to you again in 10 years time.
For now, tchau Drica. Beijos x”