Jess Gibson: A Letter to…..

Jess’s letter to her past and present selves explores how she has grown and changed emotionally to reach a more content and positive phase in her life.  Trigger warning: References to suicide and self-harm

Dear Jess,

You’re confused, about a lot of things. I’m not sure you even know you’re so confused because you haven’t quite turned inward yet, to do the introspection, to find out more about your vast and varying emotional landscape. You’re a bit all over the place to be honest – but that’s ok. It’s more than ok actually. Your teenage years are meant to be a bit messed up, a bit like you’re on the moon trying to navigate walking without gravity. The only thing I wish for you is that I really hope you can learn to look after yourself, to not internalize all of the distressing situations and ongoing injustice surrounding you in this world right now. I guess that might be a lot to ask though, from somebody so gentle and sensitive. You can’t help that you’re an emotional creature, always taking in everything about the world with meaning, like some sort of empathic sponge. You know, your sensitivity is actually a gift? You probably won’t learn to know that this is a superpower until you’re older; even when you’re almost 30 you will not have fully harnessed this power to connect with people and be sensitive to each individual’s needs. I guess the reason it takes so long to see this is because it’s super intense and tiring to be feeling so much of everything all of the time. You are engulfed in the emotional fog so it’s hard to see past that to you. “If only you could see how others see you”, that’s what people will say later on in life. I know it feels exhausting and like you’re in a constant battle with yourself right now and with those around you too, but this will only be until you learn how to regulate your emotions and cope with distress. You can’t control other people’s reactions to things, but you can take control of yours.

I also want to say this… I’m sorry that you had to experience psychosis without medical help or lots of loved ones around you. And I’m sorry you feel so worthless sometimes that you hurt yourself or think about taking your own life. I’m sorry you think that you’re a burden and that people are better off without you. I’m sorry that you think you’re the reason for your pain and that nobody can help you – this isn’t true. Pain is a natural part of life and everybody experiences pain, it means you’re alive. Also, there will be people and things that definitely do help, but you should know that nothing could ever fully take the pain in life away, because it’s supposed to be there. When you feel this way, it’s good to remind yourself that yes, this is painful but it is natural and I can definitely cope. The biggest thing I’ve learnt so far is that you have the power to help yourself. Believe in that.

It’s weird shifting from writing to my past self to writing now, in the present. I don’t really know what to say. I guess that’s the beauty of hindsight and learning from experience, we have all these memories and stories logged in our minds that we can reflect upon and make decisions in the now, today, when they’re not actually happening anymore! Trying to be reflective in the present moment and making a decision on the spot, I find, is not as easy as reflecting on the past though. To be honest, I’m not sure I feel much different to the feeling that I’m walking on the moon sometimes still! A lot has definitely changed though, both internal and external and I forget how much life does continue to change as we go on. I’m at a point in life where I am able to volunteer as a Creative Content Producer for Sheffield Flourish, which I enjoy because I get to write expressive stories like this and share them with people. I am managing to sustain meaningful relationships with people – though I often feel the urge to flee and run away to a new place because I’m unfamiliar with long-term commitment. I am even performing my own creative work to audiences and looking to go on tour (surreal even saying that). Creative work is something I thought would never happen again when I was ill. I mean, I didn’t think I would even make it to the next day or the next meal when I was really poorly, so you could forget about getting on a stage in front of people, or writing and sharing it with people! That was a silly fantasy that I was stupid enough to entertain. Yet here I am, working towards my artistic goals with the support of friends, family and mental health workers.

It is really weird writing like this now. It feels like I’m boasting or bragging or something but I think I’m actually just realising that I’m doing alright. Things are not perfect by any means, I don’t suppose they ever will be. I feel I can get perfect moments, like small flecks of glitter on a large roll of deep blue paper, just like the stars on a clear night. But I’m still an emotional whirlwind that can make a mountain out of a molehill in 0 to 90 seconds flat. I think I just manage things better now and I work really hard on educating myself and practising all the skills I have learnt through therapy and self-help. It feels good to know I have some control now; it used to feel like I had none. I feel better about myself now most days and though the dark days are still very much a part of my experience, I try to remind myself that this is my life, nobody else’s and that is unique. Nobody else can or will EVER live this. When you take in to account all the factors that have led to me being here right now, including the place I was born (not in a war-zone, for example) and the body I was born in (not being born with a fatal disease, for example) and all the other millions of things to consider, then the actual chances of me sitting and writing this now are something like 1 in 4 hundred trillion. To think about that now makes it hard to believe that I’m not supposed to be here. To be clear, I’m not tricking myself right now. This is not supposed to impose a feeling of guilt about existing with a constant sense of melancholy or anything, like I’m being ungrateful if I’m not constantly prancing about or posting how absolutely fabulous my life is on social media. I’m just trying to put into perspective that this melancholic me might actually serve a purpose in this world. That having different, unique experiences and sharing them with others is what makes this life so full and so rich. Maybe my life is important enough just because it’s mine. It’s not anybody else’s and that’s kind of special.

Future me, keep going. Always remember that life will throw you curve balls, lemons, mountains and molehills. Remember that you’ve dealt with curve balls, lemons, mountains and molehills before – plenty! You’ve swung hard with your bat and hit back, only for the ball to fly past a couple of metres and have everyone laugh at you – but that’s ok. It’s not a disaster, you did your best and people are dicks sometimes. You’ve made so much lemonade you could give Fentimans a run for their money and you’ve been on treks from the lowest of valleys to the peaks of the highest mountains, with the most stunning of views you couldn’t imagine. This is your life and nobody else’s. You have so much power to change and life will always constantly be changing with you because change is the only constant. So embrace it, be a part of it and roll with it. And for god’s sake, stop being so hard on yourself and try to leave those molehills as they are.

Lots of love xx

1 Comment

  • Jo Eckersley

    This line is beautiful ‘you’ve been on treks from the lowest of valleys to the peaks of the highest mountains, with the most stunning of views you couldn’t imagine’. Thank you for sharing.

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