Dear Teen Me from author Emily Murdoch (IF YOU FIND ME)

Dear Teen mE,

I know how big your brave is …

I know how big your brave is …

You’re not one to beat around the bush, and you never will be. So I’ll tell it to you straight:

By nineteen, you’ll be dead. No gestures for you, my intense one. When you do something, you do it all the way. You take no prisoners … except for yourself.

You’ll be dead for less than a minute, arresting in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, as they’ll later tell you. Usually, dead is dead. Permanent. No do-overs. No second chances.

However, you’ll be one of the lucky ones. Stomach pumped. Wrists bandaged. The problem is, you won’t feel lucky. You’ll wake up in the hospital two days later, nothing changed; still hurting, anorexic, angry and now ashamed … with no one to turn to … with no hope.

You’ll decide you just need to starve harder. At the least, it’ll numb the truth.

But that’s the funny thing about the truth: it never goes away. Real is real. You can play with it all you want, but it’ll keep coming back like Piggy (your future terrier) with a tennis ball in his mouth.

You’ll think you know perfectly well how to go it alone. Prefer it, even. After all, it’s what you know. Forsaking the rules. Making up your own. You’ll think you have the words – don’t writers have the words? – and the words have failed you. But sometimes pain is wordless, before it implodes. Sometimes the jagged tears, the glass-shattering screams can’t be curled into letters and sentences and paragraphs and journal entries … at least, not at first.

Sometimes the words swim a few years ahead of a person, and your precious, most important stroke is to keep yourself and your hopes afloat.

Sure, you’ll be that girl for awhile. Anorexia Girl. Suicide Girl, infamously wheeled unconscious from her dorm room, the stuff of urban legends and horror movies and dead poets.

What you’re really saying is, you’re SICK of the SECRETS. Your heart and your mind are ticking, BOOM. Starving won’t work, but you’ll give it your everything. Silence won’t work, but you’ll cling to it beyond reasoning.

And that beautiful boy who finds you, one of your closest friends? You’ll forever wish you could take it back, save him from that experience, and you’ll take that to your death, your truest regret. Springing the door lock with his meal card in hopes of borrowing one of your textbooks …

And there you were.

I want to lie to you … how badly I want to lie. Tell you everything fluffs back into its pluckiest size, but I can’t. I’m you and I know what you hate. It’s how it all started. That hunger for the truth.

Grown-up Emily. (Photo by J. Anderson.)

Grown-up Emily. (Photo by J. Anderson.)

That hunger denied.

Your pain, your ways, the old days may never be fully cured or rehabilitated or whatever word fits, as if everything in life has fully defined endings, middles and beginnings.

But you will live a life worth all of it. You will one day tell yourself, I’d do it all over again, and you’ll mean it. Your life will season into reason, unfurled between roots and stars. Words for yourself and words for others, because silence is the loneliest planet at best, and but a temporary place to rest …

Because life’s messy, because that’s what makes it strong. You can cry and not melt. You can hurt and still laugh in the middle of the worst. Monster and pet, life bites as often as it nuzzles, roars as often as it purrs.

But this life is yours.

And remember one thing, if you remember anything at all: when it seems like no one is listening, add one word to that sentence — yet.

One day, I promise you, someone will listen, and it’ll make all the difference.

But first you have to live to tell.

And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?”

— Brave,  Sara Bareilles

With scrappy fondness,

You and mE, babe.

Author’s Note: Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary pain. Things can and do get better. If you’re contemplating taking your life, why not take a chance on someone, instead? Call a hotline, talk to a trusted adult, consult a therapist? You need to find the words for your pain and not stop until you’re heard.

Most of all, you’re not alone. *You are not alone*. Life can be rough. There’s no shame in that. Reach out. Take a chance on someone.

Take a chance on yourself.

Suicide Hotline and information:

For eating disorder resources:

St. Martin's Griffin, March 2013.

St. Martin’s Griffin, March 2013.

Emily Murdoch lives in the Arizona desert with her husband and adopted dogs, spending her days operating a sanctuary for slaughter-rescued horses and burros. At night, she writes furiously by candlelight, capturing the ideas inspired by the day. IF YOU FIND ME is Murdoch’s first published novel.

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