A Letter to my Younger Self
by Sonia Moloney, See Change Ambassador
Shame was the one thing that held me back from recovery; the need to hide my mental health struggle, the need to push everyone who cared about me away – my parents, my friends, my classmates. There was a day I will always remember when I was really struggling with my anxiety. It hit me like a wall. Anxiety had got its hooks into me. I was plagued with panic attacks. I had so many negative thoughts running through my head – that I wasn’t good enough to pass college was just one of many negative thoughts. But I just couldn’t deal with people knowing what was going on in my head. I couldn’t have anyone thinking I couldn’t cope with life/college. I believed any hint of weakness and I would be written off. So I walked past a group of friends just hoping that nobody asked if I was ok. And as I left the classroom, I closed the door behind me and nobody did.
Until a friend walked up to me and simply asked “Hi Sonia, how are you?” And the flood gates opened. I could not stop crying. In the moment I felt a huge wave of shame leave me. Because much to my surprise, that friend knew actually how I felt she knew I was at breaking point. And there was barely a word spoken between us. I remember thinking: here’s someone who hasn’t labelled me crazy or run away from me. There was compassion and acceptance. She didn’t try to fix me or situation; she was just present, letting me know she was there for me. And that held so much power for me; knowing this was ok to let out.
I want to write this next part a bit differently. It is addressed to my younger self but it is for everyone who has or is struggling with shame.
Dear younger self,
Please please hear me out. I know you’re ashamed of the fact that you are struggling, you’re
afraid of the judgement, the fear of what others will think. The fear of letting everyone around
you down. But this is so far from the truth.
You are not weak for admitting that you are struggling, and there is
no shame in saying “you know what, I’m not ok – I feel crap.” There are so many people who
want to help. So many people who won’t judge you because the reality is nobody should
judge you and none of this is your fault.
Please show yourself some of the kindness and compassion that you are so desperately deserving of.
As cliché as this sounds, your brain is lying to you You have nothing to be ashamed of. You’re
struggling right now and one the bravest thing you can do for yourself is to be open and honest.
Find someone you trust and this shame cloud hanging over you will fade. I know it’s not easy. It’s
one of the hardest things to do to open up looking for help: being vulnerable, scared to be
judged, and afraid of being misunderstood.
I promise it’s the first step to help yourself reach your full potential. To reach those goals you
never knew where even possible in recovery. You make that jump to ask that lad out, you go on
that trip, or you simply walk home after work with the relief that you’re still here after battling
through all the bad moments and see how good life can be. There is nothing more bitter sweet
than knowing how much you struggled, but getting to see the brighter side of life that you worked
so hard to get to. You receive the help you so deserve to be the best possible you .
None of that is possible without the support of people around us. Education is key to helping
people with mental health difficulties. It is so difficult to open up to people because of shame
and judgement. If someone opens up to you about their mental health struggle please please
listen without judgement.
In short, show yourself some self compassion and kindness. You deserve to have your voice heard
If you are having a tough time at the moment and need to reach out for support, please contact any of the following