Letter to My 16 Year Old Self

This letter has been a long time coming.  But today I saw you.

Eileen Joy age 16 on a school trip in Japan
Me, at age 16, in Japan, on a school trip. A few weeks before I decided to try and end my life. None of the pictures from this trip look happy. I *try* to look happy, but I think the eyes give it away.

Today I saw you staring at me asking me for help.  My 16 year old self.  The one who thought that life was not worth living.  So, whether I’m ready or not, this is a letter I have to write.  This is a letter to that girl who wanted, who wants, to kill herself, to put at end to the ache, the hurt, the hurt of not being good enough.  I hope I am good enough for you now.

I remember sitting there that night.  I phoned my two best friends and told them what I was going to do.  I can’t recall what they said, they probably tried to tell me not to.  I don’t recall.  I know that it was just before exams.  I was stressed to the max.  I didn’t feel up to the task.  I didn’t feel quite good enough.  I was never quite good enough for anything.  So I believed.  I didn’t believe in my soul, didn’t believe in myself.  All I believed is that I wasn’t worth believing in.  The concept of me being worthless was the most valuable thing in the world to me.  In that moment.  It had been, for weeks.

I looked at my medication.  Back in the day when I took pills to keep my asthma under control.  I took my pills, one at a time, each one being chased down by the next.  I didn’t drink any water.  None at all.  I swallowed, 16 pills, dry.  The doctors wondered how I did it.  I looked at them like they were fucking morons.  One at a time you freaking idiots.  I’m not a moron, don’t treat me like one, I’m not fucking lying to you.  I swallowed them one at a time.  It’s possible to do you know.

16 pills.  I even wrote 16 on my desk pad.  Poetic.  I had a sense of the dramatic.  One for each year of my life.

What would I say to you now, as you sat swallowing, determinedly, one pill after another, sitting listening to whatever music it was.  I can’t even remember it now.

The truth is, even today, I have no magic panacea that will take that pain away.  When the dogs howl and salivate all over your soul and scream to take you into their black dripping maws.  All you can see is the overwhelmingness of the pain, and they beg you to let them consume you, to take you away where you will feel no more pain.

I can tell you that that pain will turn you into the most amazing butterfly, no phoenix.  Butterflies are fragile, touch their wings and their ability to fly is hindered, but the phoenix, the phoenix is strong, powerful, and it’s tears have the power to heal.  You my darling girl will rise from the ashes, from the pain that scorches your body and you will burn brighter than ever.

But even that won’t be enough light to shine in your hole right now.

That hole is a deep one.

So for the moment, I’m going to sit there with you, and hold your hand, and know that I have been there before, and although I am scared to sit here with you, I will fucking sit here with you for as long as it takes, because I’m not going anywhere, and girls like you need women like me to tell them the hole doesn’t last forever, and that we can be amazing, that we are amazing, and that even if you can’t see it now, I can, and you need to hold onto me, even if you can’t hold onto yourself.

4 Responses to Letter to My 16 Year Old Self

  1. Eileen,that was beautifully,painfully and honestly written. I think anyone thinking about ending their life could be saved by this…saved by the hope that the pain might one day subside,that one day they might rise out of the dark ashes,stronger than ever. You are a true survivor,and your story will help others survive.
    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  2. Oh my. In some ways there were points when we were living parallel lives. I took an overdose when I was 16 as well, pain pills, on new years eve, wracked with guilt because I’d kissed a boy my friend liked. I didn’t even like him myself, I was just set to destruct. It was a long culmination, let’s be honest probably starting with the rape story I shared, and although I don’t think I would ever attempt suicide again it helped me, it was a turning point. One of the poignant details that stuck with me (ha, as if I could forget any of it) was sitting in my room the next day too ashamed? to go downstairs because my grandmother was there and knew what I’d done, and REM’s Everybody Hurts came on the radio. I still have to turn it off if I hear it, 17 years later. And the saddest part? My parents never even asked me why I did it.

  3. I want to thank you for sharing such a remarkable story. I am a rape survivor also. I have always tried to find the positives in this terrible tragedy. One great thing we can do is educate others, bring awareness, and help other victims. The part where you spoke of rising through the ashes is so powerful. Because when it first happens a part of you dies, you think that you will never feel whole again but you do. It does not last forever and we can come back stronger then we ever were!

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