Welcome to the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge brought together by WEGO Health – a social network for all health activists. Again, I am participating in the annual Writer’s Month Challenge in which I will be writing about my health activism and health condition based upon prompts given.
Today’s prompt reads as follows:
Dear 16-year-old-me….Write a letter to yourself at age 16. What would you tell yourself? What would you make your younger self aware of?
This particular post is one which is both extremely personal and difficult to write. Life for me was extremely difficult for me when I was 16 – I didn’t really have any friends, I was experiencing depression and anxiety as well as living with symptoms of the neurological condition even though it was undiagnosed at that time. As you can imagine was not a very happy time for me at all. Now, I look back at that time in my life, I realise how much I have learnt about myself and life in general since then and furthermore how far I have come since that difficult and dark period in my life. And, so there are so many lessons that I would share to my 16 year-old self, given the chance. Here is a letter that I have written to my younger self.
You may not believe this but this letter is from you but a you from the future. Yes, that is right, as I am writing this I am actually 28 years of age and the year is 2014. I am actually writing this letter just less than two weeks before going on a cruise around the Mediterranean – yes, that’s right – I (and the future you!) will finally get to experience the beauty and history of Italy; a place which I remember you have always wanted to visit. So, that is one lesson that I would like to share with you – that although you may not realise it now, and despite how life is difficult for you right now, there are still many good things that are and will happen during our lifetime. That even what may seem completely impossible right now, because of the way you are feeling and the severity of the dizziness that I know you are experiencing, the impossible is still within your grasp. The trip may not be easy, and will at times be extremely difficult but I promise it will be so worth it.
I know you are going through a very painful and difficult time in your life, having formally been diagnosed with depression, and having to start taking antidepressants a couple of days before your sweet sixteen. Writing this, I remember how sick they made me feel for the first couple of weeks, only being able to eat very little before I felt full. I also remember the incredible loneliness I felt back then, especially during school, having no friends and walking around in a daze, trying to pass the time until lessons started back after lunch. But I want to reassure you and let you know that things will get better and there is so much more in life for you to enjoy and experience.
I also wanted to share a secret with you – the dizziness that you are experiencing? It’s not in your head, and you are certainly not imagining it as some doctors have led you to believe. Because of the rules of letting me write this letter to you, I am not allowed to tell you what is wrong, but there is an explanation for it. So, please don’t listen when the doctor’s keep telling you that the dizziness is psychological and a result of an anxiety disorder. Advocate and fight for yourself and your health instead of being timid and compliant like we are, as well as putting doctors on some sort of pedestal because they have had professional training and “they know what they are talking about”. One thing that I have learnt through years of navigating the medical field is that doctors are not always right; they are not infallible and they make mistakes. Listen to that voice inside your head that knows that something is wrong and don’t give up on finding answers to the reason behind the dizziness. Please keep fighting for answers. And don’t give up and lose hope that the answers will never come, because they do – it might take some years in the future but they do come. Trust me.
I cannot say it isn’t going to be easy, or that it’s going to get better and you are going to live a full and normal life, but I believe that you are stronger than you think you are…and you can handle a lot more than you think you can…
And the loneliness you feel – it will go away, you are going to find people who will accept you for who you are, friends that are going to support you in times of need. I remember at sixteen being teased and ridiculed for who you are– just remember that no-one has a right to make you feel that you need to apologise for who you are. Don’t be ashamed to be yourself… You will find people who love you for exactly who you are and make you feel important and valued. It won’t happen overnight but those people are there waiting to find a wonderful friend like you are.
Before I forget – the heaviness and stiffness that you feel in your legs? The feelings that have been with you, since you can remember? Well, those feelings, they aren’t normal and isn’t something that everyone experiences…Maybe mention this at your next doctor’s appointment.
And good luck for your GCSE exams in a couple of months – not that you need it, you are going to do just great. You probably won’t believe it, but you will. Stop doubting yourself. Next stop will be your A-Levels, and then who know maybe even to University 😉
Take care of yourself and cherish this letter – keep it as a reminder for hope and the knowledge that life will get better and that everything is going to be OK.
Rhiann (aged 28)