Hi readers! I wanted to share a piece of writing I wrote for UVIC’s on the Verge writing contest last year on resilience. My hope is that by sharing my mental health experiences, you – the reader, will feel a little less alone. Thanks for reading!
I was 13 years old when I decided that the world is a terrible, awful, extremely sucky place. The angst of adolescence and my newfound mental health issues had placed a chip on my shoulder. It’s not a phase, mom, I thought as I predictably dyed my hair crazy colors and cried in my bed listening to Panic! At the Disco.
Although it was indeed just a phase (sorry mom), 13 year old me was right about one thing – life doesn’t get any easier. That angsty, anxiety ridden tween still grumbles and groans every once in a while. She was especially whiny this past year; the year which I have lovingly christened “The One When My Childhood Ended”.
2020 seemed to be the year that fate decided it was finally time to cash in on all the karma debt I had accumulated throughout my life. If a pandemic wasn’t bad enough, I was also dealing with my first heartbreak. Nobody is ever going to love you again! 13 year old me would scream in my head, having a meltdown with cheap mascara running down her face. 19 year old me knew better and found someone who loved her more than she had ever been loved before.
Next up, I was tasked with living alone for the first time during a global pandemic, in which I would not be able to hang out with my friends or hug my immuno-compromised brother. You’re abandoned and so alone, nobody cares about you, 13 year old me would whimper when the uneasiness accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic would hit. 19 year old me knew better and worked on loving herself and connecting with friends and family in new ways.
Then life threw a huge curveball at me. My parents decided to sell my childhood home. At this point, 13 year old me began to make some good points. Life will never be as good as it was when you lived here, she would cry. You’ll never be able to go back, she screamed. Everything good in your life is ending! She would cry and scream – then cry – and scream once more for good measure. She felt as though she was being banished and would never return again. But 19 year old me knew better. She knew that that whimpering little girl was just scared and uncertain in the face of change. She reminded her of everything we had been through, and how powerful we really were and suddenly, the little girl wasn’t so scared anymore. Suddenly, she was 13 and carefree and inspired and incredulous in the face of change, and she held the hand of her friend who was 19 and independent and strong and a woman. Together we were resilient.
There is a bittersweetness that accompanies the knowledge that I can truly never go back to my childhood. Although those days now exist only in memory, the child within me still lives and breathes. I continue to care for her. When she begins to tremble and tug at my sleeves, I know it’s time to squeeze her fragile hands in mine, reminding her of our courage. The 13 year old will always be there, nagging away, but now she is comforted and loved. She is no longer a burden, but a bittersweet reminder of the past and of the little girl in me who is fearful but brave, frail but tenacious, and vulnerable but resilient. 19 year old me likes to pipe in now to remind us of the beauty and power that accompanies coming of age. Everything good in your life is just beginning! she chimes in when adulthood feels like too much. 20 year old me kisses her forehead and cherishes her optimism. I was 20 when I realized that the world is a beautiful, magical, fascinating place.
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