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When suffering with a mental illness, it is easy to slip back into periods of darkness. Sometimes they creep up on you and pounce when you least expect it. On the other hand, sometimes those storms of anguish and pain are expected, and, despite your efforts, you fall back into times that you'd rather leave well and truly behind you. Sometimes those relapses are easier to cut through, like a spider’s web that momentarily traps you. Other times, it’s not quite as easy, and you spend ages tending to wounds, nurturing and caring for them until they begin to heal.
We don't have a choice.
Or do we?
It can't be helped, regardless of your best efforts. We get sucked in by the darkness, into a void of hopelessness and, well, nothing. Sometimes we wobble on the precipice. It can be hard whilst in those pits to ever imagine a way out. When they come upon us so frequently or out of the blue, what can we really do?
One of the best ways of coping with this, I have found, is to write yourself a letter. Now, I know a letter cannot cure whatever illness plagues you. Nor can it break those bonds or release their hold on you. What it can do, however, is soothe the pain caused by those heavy restraints by acting like a beacon in the darkness, a lighthouse when you're lost at sea. You don't believe me?
Try it. What's the worst that can happen?
Words really do work wonders. And words of wisdom from your past self, coming out of a place of hope, a place of recovery, a period of peace and serenity, can often have more of an impact than the voices of others at the time you're suffering. Others can tell us that we are going to be okay, and we appreciate it. When we don’t believe in ourselves, it’s important to know that others do. But, what adds the edge to that confidence, is the voice of our own being, who knows us better than the entire world put together, who knows and understands, because we have been through it.
When you're in a good place mentally, spiritually, physically or emotionally, write about it. The words, coming directly from you, will serve as a reminder that the storm does pass. You know it does, because you've experienced it. You’ve survived through it. You’ve thrived after it. The waves didn’t keep you down, although the sensation of drowning was so prominent, so real. Whether it's true or not during the time in which you’re enduring a long night doesn't matter. As long as it serves to offer you hope, then it's fulfilling its purpose.
Write about how good it is to feel again. Write about how good the rain feels on your skin, no longer numb to the sensation of touch. Write about a song that you love, then, when you need it most, read the letter whilst listening to that one track. Write about the stars, or the sunrise. Write about how you feel, and put in every single detail, so that, when you can't feel as vividly anymore, the description brings those memories into being. Write what makes you feel good, and what will serve as a reminder for when you need it more than ever. Write about the taste of food, or spending time with friends and loved ones. Write about your favourite book, and what makes it your favourite novel to escape into.
Writing a letter to your future self when you need it most provides a lifeline, and anchor that surpasses time. It’s a thread to the past and the future. It might only be a small gesture, but treasure it, and don't let go.