Dear 20

As I am writing this I am sitting on a train travelling from one country to the next, on what is my 21st birthday. A milestone for some, a normal day for others but for me it’s a time of reflection.

Before I turned 20 I made a little goal for myself. To start off a new decade of my time on earth in another country and set a precedent for the years to follow - to celebrate each passing birthday in a country other than my own.

But a trauma ripped apart my life and turned everything, my mind body and soul, upside down and inside out. My little goal wasnt achieved. In the midst of a mental health crisis it was probably the best thing at the time. But I felt like a failure. The one thing I wanted, to restart my life in some way, I couldn’t do. Having spent my money through self medicating and distraction, I couldn’t afford it even if I wanted to. I remember spending my first night in my second decade feeling devastated. As time was passing me by I was still the broken carcass I had been for the 4 months prior. Nothing had changed. Except the fact that I had finally crumbled and succumbed to the depths of a mental breakdown, consistently walking a tightrope between life and death – with the latter seeming the most attractive option. I had lost everything. There was nothing left. Except for the pain that haunted me day and night. Not even being able to escape the horrors in my dreams. It was exhausting. I felt bitter towards the universe for letting time pass whilst I was stuck. How dare you continue to let the clock tick can’t you see I’m in agony?! What about all my hopes and dreams?! Why me?! These are questions I will never get the answers to nor will I receive the apologies I deserve.

However, as I crawled through my 20th year there were little sparkles of light which meant I didn’t give up. Each day I survived, it was difficult to do so – but I did. A Phoenix started to emerge from the ashes of the person I once knew. I find it funny when people say ‘you're still the same person’ after a traumatic life event. I know I most certainly am not. The person I am now is different to the person I was before. So much so I have detached myself from her almost completely. She was wonderful, kind and innocent. She knew life could be cruel but she didn’t know how cruel. And then one day she found out. She deserved better. The suffering she went through makes me feel sick to my stomach. Brutally murdered without any reason why. If I'm going to fight for anything in life – I am going to fight for her. Who I am now is different, it would be unjust to her to even put us in the same category. She was so much more. We have the same name, same voice, same face. But we are not the same. She was strong but I am stronger. I am a warrior with scars that still bleed. But even with my seeping wounds I still walk from one day to the next. My circle is small but it is precious, consisting of those who ride out the waves with me even though they don't fully understand how deep the water is. The ones who love me unashamedly, unconditionally and tell me so often – because if you don’t tell someone how are they expected to know?

As I start off my journey as a 21 year old, I can’t help but feel excited at what this year may hold. I’m aware it won’t be smooth sailing. But I’ve walked through the depths of hell and come out at the other side with a smile on my face. I am undefeated and I am fierce. I don't intend to keep quiet. I will scream from the rooftops. Because I have no reason to keep silent anymore.

To a quote a film that I love so ‘you have no power over me’.

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