This is actually the second time I’ve written to you, but a small typo meant that the first letter ended up being typed to some random bloke called Brian—not that what follows will come as much of a surprise, seeing as most of it is your doing…
Since I was about 11, more than forty years ago now, you’ve tried so hard to force negative thoughts into my head, to make me question myself, doubt myself, and even hate myself from time to time. You’ve made me think I was a failure … in fact you made me believe I was a failure; that whatever I did, or tried to do, something would go wrong, because that was all I knew, all I was able to deal with; all I deserved.
And you were (and, in fairness, still are) bloody good at it. You can make it seem like my head is being gripped, and squeezed, until all that is left is an overwhelming need to cry. It’s a horrible feeling … when I know the tears are coming, and I can’t do anything to stop them.
I will try and hide (sometimes literally), so that no one will see what you’ve done. But you’ve learned to make it happen when it’s almost impossible to hide. Other people have therefore had a glimpse the person behind the mask; they have seen what you can do. I wish they hadn’t; only those I love (and who love me) should know the “real” me; but if you thought it would strengthen your hold, you were badly mistaken.
As you know dysthymia is more commonly known as “persistent depressive disorder nowadays”—and I reckon 42 years or so counts as “persistent”, don’t you? But however close and however often you’ve come to breaking me throughout all those years, you’ve never managed it.
True, I have draining recurrent dreams; I wake up every single morning feeling flat, and dreading the hours ahead; I still get anxiety and panic attacks; and there are still some dark days along the way. But I can deal with the dreams; I’ve accepted how I feel when I wake up; I know I can cope with whatever most days bring; and panic attacks now only frighten me for a couple of seconds…
You’re not winning anymore, so I understand why you tried to involve other people, but look at how things have worked out. Instead of being laughed at, I’ve been supported. Instead of turning away, people have listened … people even want to listen, want to understand. Better still, I’ve found out I’m not alone; I’m not the only one who has dark thoughts and tough days.
People can actually gain strength through sharing their stories. I am certainly getting stronger … but you already knew that didn’t you?!
I’ve been lucky enough to meet some remarkable and inspiring people over these past few years; I’ve had some amazing, unforgettable experiences, and done things I never thought I would—or more importantly could.
And it’s all because of you!
You’ve tried so hard to weaken me, to overwhelm me; but in the end, all you’ve done is help me find the strength to fight. I might never beat you, but do you know what? I’m not sure I want to.
That might sound ridiculous, but by trying to control my emotions and attempting to shape and define me, you actually push me to be a better person. You push me to do the best I possibly can for those I love; you push me to fight; and you push me to show others that it’s possible to fight … to talk … and to ask for help.
I accept I will always doubt myself, I will always fear failure, and I know there will be days when I won’t be able to stop the tears from flowing—even if I don’t fully understand why. Most days will still be a struggle, but you must know by now that I’m not going to give in.
If I told you I was going to close by saying just two words to you, you’d probably have a guess at the second one being “off”—and you would (once again) be mistaken…
I simply want to say “thank you”.