Lynn Cornelis

When you’re fourteen years old, no one tells you things could go horribly wrong in the future.

On your fifteenth birthday, nobody says – 'Hey, congratulations, your depression might kick in anytime now, this is what we warned you about.'

There’s no guide you can pick up in stores about it, because no one tells you about it. And when you’re sixteen, you don’t just think “Wow, I did a good job of not getting depressed” because you have no idea what depression means, or that it could ever happen to you. You’ve only seen it once or twice in a movie, but hey, you’re happy, right? You’ve got your head up in the clouds and everything is good and even though you aren’t really happy about yourself, you don’t hate yourself. But then you’re almost seventeen and suddenly everything goes wrong, as if your world is crashing.

Then comes the problem: you’ve had your head up in the clouds for so long, that when you fall it’s with your face down in the mud. And it’s depression that hits you and starts whispering in your ears. It crawls from under your bed into your own head and you have no idea how to handle it, because no one warned you about it. So you cry and hurt yourself in the only way depression tells you. Because he is there. He warns you, and he is the only one.  

But girls are not supposed to hurt themselves when they’re sixteen and they are not supposed to use make-up to cover up the scars on their wrist. Boys are not supposed to hide the red lines on their arms while everyone else is showing off their muscles. Nobody is supposed to hurt themselves to cover up the pain inside their head. And still it happens, more times than anyone realizes. More times than I realized.

So what I’m writing now goes out to anyone who’s up at 4 after midnight and has trouble breathing. It goes out to the ones who can’t quite get their breathing right after crying for an hour and staring with hate at themselves in the mirror.

Because I remember.

I remember when my psychologist gave me breathing exercises. I got home that day and tried to control my lungs, but it only turned into me trying to catch my own breath and choking in my tears.

I remember when I should’ve been asleep that instead l was watching the white bed sheet turn red.

I remember wearing a light colored sweater the day after and a bloodstain got up my sleeve, because I didn’t get the bandage right.

I remember wearing that sweater two weeks ago, because it still fits. And the bloodstain is gone, but the memory is not. “Beautiful sweater,” a friend of mine said. And I tried so hard to take the compliment but I got a rush of sadness flowing over me, because how fucked up does someone have to be to wear the same sweater you were bleeding in once?

Maybe I still hold it as a memory of a person I used to be. Maybe I’m just weird. Maybe it means nothing.

I am lucky to be a better person now, but I was unlucky to be a wreck at sixteen. And seventeen. And eighteen.

No one wants to be friends with someone who looks like a trainwreck. And if you are feeling like a trainwreck right now: it’s okay. I’ll be your friend. I know how awful it must be to bleed out your pain with tiny razors that you hide in boxes. And you’re not realizing that you’re not only bleeding out the pain, but you’re also bleeding out every drop of hope, of happiness, of life inside of you. But please, realize it. Losing blood on purpose will drain you out. It will not make the pain go away, but it will cause scars on your body that people will ask questions about when you’re twenty years old. And at that age you’ll smile and say you’re proud that you’ve overcome that, but what a shame that it has ever had to come to that. What a shame that you ever felt so bad you felt the need to hurt yourself.

What a shame that you ever wanted to die.

I can’t remember how many times I wished to die when I was depressed. And one day I hurt myself so bad that I was actually scared to die, but still I kept on hurting. What really happens when you die? Is there a heaven or a hell? What if you don’t believe? What if it’s just darkness? What happens to the ones you love? Or the ones who love you? Wait… does anyone really love you? Oh, wait, yes. Of course. Someone has to love you, right? There’s all kind of questions going through your mind when you’re trying to decide if you want to kill yourself. What a strange sentence to write. Killing yourself. It doesn’t seem right. It’s not comfortable to read about it, it’s not comfortable to write about it, it’s not comfortable to think about it.

Nothing feels comfortable when there’s a voice in your head saying that you should do it. There’s that terrifying feeling that nothing will end the pain, except for dying. Here’s the thing: the pain will end, and you don’t have to kill yourself. And you might be afraid to think about the future because when you’re 18 years old, and while everyone seems to have a kind of plan, you’re still hurting. You don’t really think you have a future. But I promise you that when you’re almost 21 you’ll fall in love with someone and the future will seem so bright. And it’s a shame that your demons can mess it up at any time, but you can fight them. You will always have the strength to fight them.

You know why? Because you are never alone. I mean it. You might be saying to yourself that you feel so much better when you’re alone in your bedroom fighting the tears and the urge to see blood, but I can promise you that there is an alternative. A good alternative.

Don’t listen to your friend who says: “maybe you should try smoking because when I smoke I feel a lot better and I don’t think about the pain as much as I used to.” Because if you believe him and start smoking you’ll want to feel the burns on your body from the lighted cigarette and you’ll start spending all your money and two years later you’ll still be stuck in that goddamn smoking routine and it’s just as bad as an addiction of self harm. Maybe you’ll feel dizzy in your head the first three times but then you’ll want to feel more and it won’t help anymore so you’ll start hurting yourself again in other ways and you’re back to square one. That’s not the right way.

Also, don’t fall in love with the ones who claim to be broken as well. Don’t count on the ones who claim to always be there for you, when you can see the darkness in their eyes.

Don’t kiss strangers at parties who ask you to come to the bathroom in five minutes: you’ll feel used and even more empty.

Don’t try to save someone because you’ll end up drowning yourself in their problems. When you are falling apart, you need to realize that you are not strong enough for two persons. You cannot help a half when you’re not even close to feeling whole. It’s a harsh thing to say, but it is the truth. I learned that the hard way. And I am still learning on how to love someone and not lose myself in the process, but I am getting there.

Here’s a tip for you: never try to hold yourself back. Accept any kind of love that’s given to you. Smile at people in the supermarket. Include yourself when people ask you who you love, because it won’t seem as if you’re full of yourself but it’ll seem like you are independent and strong and self aware. Being self aware is the greatest gift.

Love, love, love. Love as if the world was ending.

Forgive yourself for the mistakes you made and all the bad thought in your head, and forgive others no matter how hard they hurt you. You don’t have to be friends with them anymore, but from forgiveness comes acceptance and from acceptance comes happiness.

Don’t kiss boys or girls after sharing a bottle of vodka because true love never happens when the only truth is the drunkenness. Instead, kiss that person you’ve been dating for a while and your body has tried to push away. Kiss them, because they might turn out to be the one.

You might not believe anything I am saying right now, but if I showed you my scars, would you believe what I’ve been through? If I showed you my left arm, my right arm, my shoulder, my legs? Would you see the loss of blood right before your eyes? Would you see the emptiness in the white marks a razor has left? Or would you close your eyes and whisper: “What an awful thing to do”, even though I already know how awful it was?

Because I was there. It was me. I was hurting myself when I was sixteen, when I was seventeen, when I was goddamn eighteen years old and officially an adult.

I wasn’t that little girl I used to be at fourteen anymore. I was an adult from a small country in Europe and I was falling apart and somewhere along the way I lost every part of myself, but now I am twenty years old and I am whole again.

The last past years I’ve been a trainwreck, I’ve been a mess, I’ve been a lost girl… right now, I am just a girl who is happy to live, and who is still writing letters to her old self.

I wish I knew all the things I knew today, but I didn’t.

So if you need to know what I needed to know when I was 16: this one goes out to you. We are all learning, and we all need a little push in the right direction, and we will all get there in time. Patience is a great thing that I wish I had when I was younger; but even though I bled every night month after month, I am still standing on both feet. And I am still learning to love the parts of myself that I used to hate, and I know that on my upcoming 21st birthday I’ll be surrounded by the people I love and the people who love me and everything will be great.

It will be the most beautiful birthday I have ever had. It won’t be with balloons and a birthday cake that spells out my age, because I don’t want that. I won’t be with a crown and a banner and I don’t even need to hear the happy birthday song I’ve been hearing every year.

It will be beautiful because I will have an amazing boy standing next to me, who has kissed almost every scar on my body and who has whispered “I love you” in my ear which made all the hairs on my arms stand up. And he kissed my cheek even though there was salt on it from my tears, and he held my hand even thought it was trembling, and he touched my heart in a way that no one else has ever done before.

On my birthday, he will hold my hand and he will say “I love you” again and he will mean it like I mean it, and he will smile and I will kiss him and I’ll feel chills running down my spine, because I really do love him. And when I was 19 years old and recovering from all the hate depression has taught me, I never thought that I’d love someone in this way. I never thought an eight-letter sentence would mean so much to me when it was coming from the right person.

I never thought every inch of my body was loveable, until I met him.

Before my birthday I’ll celebrate New Year’s Eve and I’ll have all my friends around me, who I know are real. Friends I showed my scars to, who I’ve told my story to, who I’ve shed my tears with. Friends who accepted the broken parts of myself that I was still trying to fix and maybe I lost a lot of good friends along the way of becoming who I am today, but I’ve made the perfect new ones. The ones who I know I’ll still be friends with when I graduate and looking for a job. The ones I know who will still be there for me when I call them at 3 in the morning with a cracked voice searching for help.

Before New Year’s Eve, I’ll celebrate the most important day of them all: the day that I’ll be clean from self harm for 2 years. And next year, I’ll celebrate my 3 year recovery. And one day, I’ll celebrate my 10 year recovery.

And when I’m 50 years old it’ll all seem so far away, but I’ll still be celebrating it. Maybe all the scars on my body will still be visible, I don’t know: I’ve caused scars on my arms since I was 16 and I can still see them. Maybe most of the scars will be gone, but I know they will never disappear.

It’ll just be a reminder, that I was once a surgeon of my own body and I tried to ruin it in a horrible way, but I got out of it. I got out because of my friends, because of the hope, because of the love.

I got out because of me, because I know how strong I am for getting out.

For talking about it. For not hiding myself. For being proud.

That is who I am: proud.

And that is what I’ll always be.

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