Sometimes talking about things from our past can be too difficult to put into words, but after having to write a letter for my AP Lang class about the things we carry with us, I kinda started just spewing out random thoughts that to my surprise, turned out pretty inspiring and was even empowering for me so here it goes:
To my friends, family, significant other, and most importantly, myself,
I realize that my toxic and repetitive behavior has not only impacted me but to those around me and I cannot continue to make excuses. And so I am writing this letter because I want you to understand that it’s not you, it’s my burden of having to carry this dark secret on my shoulders.
Having to pretend like I am still not bothered by my mistakes I made years ago and pushing my emotions to the back of my mind so I don’t have to deal with them everytime I’m reminded of the event is not healthy. It is also incredibly exhausting to say the very least. And up until now, I haven’t admitted it because I didn’t know how to cope or talk about it previously. For the most part, I’m able to manage. The weight on my shoulders is painful and quite a burden, but I still always find the strength to get to where I’m going at least. However, recently, my shoulders and back have taken their maximum weight and I can no longer carry this burden with me without feeling the shooting pain down my back and through my chest and I need to take the backpack off because I have no need for it anymore.
I’ve imagined how this conversation would go a thousand times running through my mind. I’ve pictured myself just blurting the words out in moments of need, but I’ve continued to hold myself back again and again. I was afraid of what you might say or think -- I was afraid of hurting you, and more specifically, hurting myself again. But you deserve to know why I was always so distanced with you and why I let it out on you when I couldn’t let it out on myself any longer. I can no longer stand this weight. You deserve to know what’s in this backpack I carry on my weak and tired shoulders.
I carry the weight of disappointment when a potentially memorable moment is ruined for me due to my obsessive anxieties and worries. My anxiety pushes my happiness aside and steals anything remotely enjoyable away from me, and if I want to enjoy life and live comfortably like everyone else around me seemingly is, I have to work extra hard just to maintain some level of homeostasis. Moments of excitement turn into impending doom and panic when my anxiety comes around, sending pain all throughout my body. My mind gets lost between what is rational and real and what is all in my head and I can no longer think clearly. I need to go, I need to run, and I don’t know why, I just know I need to as everyone else looks at me like I’ve lost all of my sanity and I begin to feel alone and crazy. My anxiety stole any potential away from me to know what it feels like to be the average teenager. A test turns into lifelong failure, chest tightness manifests into a heart attack and hours of no reply means they either died or they lost interest and I’m alone with my thoughts once again. Constant feelings of guilt and shame cloud their way into the back of my mind as I refuse to face the root cause, knowing what it all comes down to, but tell myself I’ll deal with it when I’m ready, but after almost three years, it still feels just as scary. This backpack contains of thousands of rocks and bricks piled up over the years that I’ve chosen not to take out, and once I feel ready to take it off and give myself relief for once, something stops me. I think a part of me has come to believe that since this backpack is all I’ve ever known, I’m scared of what it will be like going without it. Rationally, I know carrying all of this weight on my shoulders slows down my journey even further and is only causing me pain, but emotionally, I’m not ready to let go. I’m afraid that once I let go and feel relief, something bad will happen again and all of that relief would have been for nothing. I want to protect myself, and feeling moderately crappy all the time is better than knowing what it’s like to feel free from this weight again only to go through the debilitating pain all over again, leaving me permanently disabled.
And once I think, “this can’t get any worse,” it does. I begin to add more bricks onto my shoulders as I carry the weight of decision. Think about it Ana, think about how much better you would feel if you just came clean, you’ve been carrying this for so long and you can’t withstand all of this weight all by yourself, you’re breaking yourself. I carry the weight of conflicting thoughts that never seem to make sense. I’m doing this for them, I’m protecting them. No Ana, you’re protecting yourself. All of this only leads me to downspiraling further and further down the rabbit hole until it’s nearly impossible to get myself out. I’ve managed to convince myself I’m out, it doesn’t affect me anymore, that I’m fine. But instead of thinking about the situation directly, it affects me in ways that I’m not aware of. I internalize these thoughts and emotions because I don’t know how to get them out or talk about it in a way that won’t be catastrophic. I mean, it’s like ripping the band-aid off, I know I just have to do it, I just want to avoid the pain.
I need you to understand that I wasn’t the one who placed these bricks on my shoulders in the first place. Something else did that for me. And then the rest of the world forced me to continue to carry this weight and if I wanted to take the backpack off, I would have to wait. When does heavy become too heavy to the point where I’m deserving to let go of it? I managed to convince myself that I deserve to carry this weight around because I was the one who allowed it to be placed on my shoulders in the first place.
But at some point, I have to realize that it is my decision to make. I am the one who has full control over my body and what I choose to do with it, and if I want that weight to be lifted off of my shoulders, then I should take the backpack off. I don’t want it, I don’t need it. Even though I can still feel the toll it took on me, the weight is finally lifted off my shoulders. And I’m ready to heal. There was never a right time to take it off. I don’t have to wait until I’m at my breaking point to take it off, because it’s pointless. My body will never be the same because of what I allowed on my shoulders, but I’ve learned that we all carry things with us that we don’t need to be carrying. In fact, once you learn to let go, you go further than you thought you ever would. It becomes easier to move onward. That’s not to say it has no effect on you anymore, because the dull pain is still there and the damage has been done, but our backs never needed to be perfectly straight or in perfect condition in the first place. It’s okay to suffer. It’s okay to heal. It’s okay to carry wounds as long as you’re not the one perpetuating the pain onto yourself.
I am still so young. I still have much more to become. Pain makes one age, but wisdom is the greatest gift of all. The one thing I carry with me to this day is the gift of wisdom and compassion that was given to me through the pain. It humbles you. It teaches you to be compassionate of others because once you go through something so damaging, you wouldn’t wish anything remotely similar upon anyone else. I’ve been granted the gifts of wisdom, insight, awareness and empathy. Things that were once valuable to me then taken away from me and replaced with ugly and shameful things compare nothing to the lessons I learned and traits I’ve possessed overtime that hold so much more value. I don’t regret carrying all of the weight with me, because it would have happened one way or another. I just learned sooner and now I can teach and guide others.
Please know that there was nothing you could do. In fact, I’m grateful that I went through what I did because otherwise I would not know any better. You did everything you could to help me, but what I needed the most was to be honest with myself and I needed to confront this head on alone. There was no possible way you would have been able to help because I wasn’t even helping myself. But I want to thank you for showing me and teaching me that I have the potential and strength to overcome anything I put my mind to. You taught me that I was able to do it on my own and that I’d be okay. You never failed to encourage me and empower me, and I don’t know if I would’ve been able to come this far without you. I’m sorry if I ever hurt you, please know those were never my intentions, and no amount of pain or suffering should ever give the excuse to drag others down along the way, and I hope you can understand and forgive me as I’m slowly beginning to heal and learn to forgive and love myself as I am.