At 21 years old, I am the oldest I ever have been and the youngest I have ever felt.
At 21 years old, I am standing on a ledge.
At 21 years old, I see my life stretch before me and for the first time, I can’t see where I am headed.
So at 21 years old, I turn back and try to face what is behind me
With love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
Because she is looking at me, watching me go forward.
She is 11 months old, experiencing trauma her brain will remember forever.
She is 5, crying because of anxieties she does not have the capacity to explain.
She is 11, trying to live in a world where girls who look like her are not praised or celebrated.
She is 14, understanding what it means to truly belong for the first time.
She is 15, leaving the place she grew up and called home.
She is 18, feeling utterly alone.
She is 20, seeing her anxieties manifest themselves in new ways she never thought possible.
And as I look, I feel like there is so much I could despise her for.
For all her mistakes, shortcomings and faults.
For everything she did not know how to handle.
There are nights I lie awake regretting the things that she has done.
There are nights I lie there feeling the weight of her mistakes press in on me until I can’t breathe.
There are nights I lie dreading what is to come because of how little I feel I am prepared for anything and it’s her fault, her fault, my fault.
But I am looking back at her and I see her for who she is.
I see, quite plainly, a girl.
A girl who did not know any better.
A girl who had to learn as she went along.
And she needs all the compassion I can give her.
So I tell her now
That I am so grateful that she brought me here
How lonely I would have been if she hadn’t been there to guide me.
Because I’ve learned that even in the times we feel most alone
We have ourselves.
And we are always enough.
So much of my experience with mental health has been learning to forgive myself for everything I have done and everything I have not, no matter how hard it is or how long it takes me. I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life and there are times that anxiety has made it so difficult for me to like or love myself. I felt like I constantly needed others, I was scared to do a lot for myself and I felt like I would never be enough. However, going to therapy, doing a lot of self-reflection and trying to do things that made me feel comfortable in my own skin, have made a world of difference. I see mental health as something I will work on for the rest of my life. I will never be done, but it is comforting to recognize how far I have come. I hope you can do the same.