Dear 16 year old Elizabeth,
You made it! By made it, I mean, you survived your teenage years! I know right now it looks like a vast, dark and empty void, but things really do get better. Well, they get worse… a lot worse, but then they get better again! In fact, you are going to be so, so happy- more than you ever imagined. I just wanted to write to you today to give you some advice from 22 year old you and before you ask, no, we haven’t gone grey yet.
Let’s take a step back in time…
When they ask you in school “where do you see yourself in 5 years?”, you said you will be graduated from University with a degree in Physical Geography and in a great job that lets you travel the world and see lots of volcanoes and shit. The reality is that you go to Uni, change course twice, drop out and then have a huge mental breakdown because you don’t know what to do with your life. Guess what? NOBODY KNOWS. Seriously, nobody has a clue what they are doing. Those people you thought had their shit together…they don’t. None of us do. We are all clumsily dancing our way through this beautiful thing called life and winging it every step of the way. I know people over 50 who are still trying to figure it all out, so stop panicking and just enjoy each day as it comes. Go for new opportunities and adventures with fierce determination and courage and continue not caring what other people think of you, because it is one of your best qualities.
The truth is, we never really know what our life path will be. It is so rare to actually have a mapped out plan. Although everything seems to go tits up, it actually pushes you in to where your supposed to be. You end up getting a really lovely job in a school working with children with special educational needs and you even start a degree part time. If I told you that you were doing a medical/science degree right now, you wouldn’t believe me. But you are, and you’re really fucking good at it. You have a brain in your head and when you have the confidence and belief in yourself, it can do amazing things. And by the way, your taste in partners will improve and not all people suck, your future boyfriend is extremely good looking, kind, intelligent and he sings and plays guitar. You are welcome. We also have a cat. Told you life get’s better!
Having a mental illness when you are young is really hard. You have depression, anxiety and an eating disorder right now (and a serious underlying medical condition that you wont find out about until you are 20- SURPRISE, you really didn’t see that one coming!), so it is no wonder that you feel shit. God, I wish I could go back and shake some sense in to you. The moment you went to the doctor about your mental health issues and got help, everything changed. I wish you would just speak to someone now, because you would save yourself a few years of heartache. Not everybody is out to get you and equally, you shouldn’t be so trusting. Once you get help, your mind starts clearing and suddenly, things start falling in to place and making sense. Sure, you get anxious sometimes. Some days are better than others, but you are not the same girl you are right now. You become a woman who can think for herself, make her own decisions and find her own happiness.
The people that hurt you (I am talking about him) face their comeuppance. It turns out they are a massive coward, just like you suspected. That is normally the case for bad people. They are just deeply troubled, sad individuals and your hate and fear turns to pity and strength.
Where are you now?
Eventually, you form new friendships, say goodbye to old ones as you drift apart in natural due course and end up finding the most amazing best friends a girl could ask for. You gain an entire new family of incredible people on top of your existing one through your partner and you become surrounded by all these people who love and care about you, some of whom were always there; you just didn’t see it at the time.
Oh, I should probably clarify about that medical condition. So, you know how you have this awful back pain, horrifically painful periods, lack of appetite (and not just because of the ED) and constant need to pee? And how your stomach never goes flat despite hours of exercise and dieting? Doctors will tell you for years that it is IBS, but they got it wrong. It was a borderline ovarian tumour. You will have to face your fears of operations and being put to sleep in the future, because you are going to have a major one. But don’t worry, you get better and all the bad stuff is removed. You also end up with a super flat stomach afterwards! This health scare actually ends up making you realise how much you love life and how blessed you are. You realise how loved you are and you realise the passion you have about science and finding a cure and treatment for cancer and mental illnesses.
Also, do you know how when you were 15, you became super obsessed with veganism and everyone shut you down and took the piss out of you. You are vegan now and it is the most incredible thing you ever did for your mind, body and the animals. Veganism has now grown rapidly and has become very recognised by scientists and the general public. You still get the occasional idiot who is like “But bacon, merhhh”, but actually, people are very positive about it now for the most part! Tesco even makes VEGAN READY MEALS?!?! It’s happening, it’s becoming a movement and you were right.
What should you take from this?
Overall, you did a pretty good job at being a teenager for the most part. You got through it with your dignity some what in tact and came out of the other side. I don’t envy you, other than the fact you have no financial obligations (cherish you debt free days). Despite it all, and despite all of my advice… maybe you shouldn’t change a thing. Everything you did led you to where you are today. You are so happy, so calm and so content with life. Life is supposed to be the crazy, weird, messy thing that it is. It would have been great if you stuck up for yourself more, put your foot down and said what you really wanted to say, but that time will come eventually. You’re doing a pretty good job actually and everything is going to be just wonderful.