This morning, as I was reading a blog post by a person in my mental health community on instagram and leaving a comment, I was re-directed to my own profile on the blog website… a blog website I haven’t used in almost ten years and had almost completely forgotten about.
And my old blog from when I was 25 and living in Stockholm was still there; my last blog entry simply stated that I was getting my own website domain and would continue blogging there.
I thought I removed the blog altogether, but there it was. My 25-year-old self’s intro and one of my first iPhone selfies as profile picture: in my uneven, short, dyed hair and lip ring, looking emo as hell.
For a moment I considered taking a trip down memory lane and reading all of my old blog posts… At the age of twenty-five, I was just figuring out my film career ambitions, having just graduated from film school, was about to end a very toxic friendship and just about to begin the long and arduous process of getting diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Instead of time-travelling back to that time, I decided to write my 25-year-old self a letter from the future:
You don’t know me, and this is going to seem freaky. But I know you. In fact, I used to be you. And I mean that literally, not in a “I used to be where you are now, I know how you feel”-kind of way. No, I literally used to be you. I am you in the future. I know, not exactly what you were expecting and hoping for… But hear me out.
You know that line, from that book? That you quote all the time, because it’s such a brilliant line and because Stephen Fry paraphrased it in his auto-biography? The opening line from the novel “The Go-Between” that you then tracked down and bought, but never ended up reading?
The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
Well, I am here to tell you about your future and, although I am literally living in a foreign country right now, and the body that I inhabit now would probably feel foreign to you as well, it’s not all that different from what you know. In many ways, you’ve been here before.
I’m beginning to realise, we’ll always return to this place; No matter how many times we get lost in the forest, we’ll always find our way back to the path. You might think that sounds comforting. And in a way it is. You just need to figure out a way for you to remember it in those periods of your life when you’re struggling through the underbrush. So far, I haven’t quite managed. So far, it’s Groundhog Day, constantly forgetting and re-remember this song. But maybe you’ll do better.
Keep reading that autobiography by Stephen Fry and when you get that inkling in your gut and that voice in your head tells you some of the things you read feel familiar, listen. You’re about to get some answers soon.
That doesn’t mean things will immediately get easier, unfortunately. Things will get worse for a while, then they’ll get better. Then they’ll get worse again, even worse than they’ve ever been before. Even worse than twelve, and seventeen, and twenty-one. You’ll find yourself strapped to a rollercoaster in the dark and you’ll be scared; you won’t be alone, but you’ll feel like you are.
That feeling is valid, just like the feeling that you’re an awful, evil, ugly bitch, and the feeling that life is nothing but meaningless pain and darkness, and the feeling that’s how it’s always going to be and things will never get better again, and the feeling that you’re a horrible burden on the people still in your life… Those are all valid feelings, but try and remember that that’s all they are. They are not facts.
Keep reading Stephen Fry, watch his documentary “The Secret Life of The Manic Depressive” and finish the screening process with the mental health team — I know it doesn’t seem like they know what they’re doing, and they probably don’t, but stick with the process anyway — and do your own research into Bipolar Affective Disorder; get a healthy routine; get yourself to the gym; remember to sleep; read novels that you enjoy just for the sake of reading, like Harry Potter and Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy; don’t beat yourself up too much for spending all your savings on that motorcycle that you don’t know how to drive yet; sign up for driving lessons; when people put you down and it makes you feel worthless and that you can’t do something, do the thing; don’t be afraid to move on from some people when the time comes; don’t be afraid to let new people close; and when things are bad, know that it’s okay to pause until you’re strong enough to climb back up. Know that the feeling that you’re never going to be strong enough, is just a feeling. Know that you are always going to be strong enough, you are always going to get back on your feet and you are always going to find your way back to the path and, finally, know that the time you spend lost is never wasted. It’s part of the journey.
Then (before diagnosis)
Soon thereafter (diagnosed)
Now (diagnosed for 8 years)