Bipolar Disorder Will Not Win: A Letter to My Teenage Self

This week, I wanted to share a letter I wrote with the hopes that it inspires some of the readers here at LQTU. Sending you all so much love, hope, and positivity as you work to overcome your own struggles. Whatever they may be, please know that I believe in you!

The illustration features the author, Sam, seated in a restaurant booth with a younger version of himself.

Illustration by Jessica Krcmarik

Dear Sam,

You’re not going to believe this, but you’re my hero.

“Who, me?” you’re wondering. “What did I do?”

You saved my life.

It may not feel like you did much of anything, but you are the reason that I’m here — me, Sam, six years from now.

When you made the brave choice to continue living, despite everything in your body begging for you to give in, you gave me a chance.

The chance to become a writer, to live in California with my amazing partner, to make a difference in this world through my activism, to live a life I am both proud of and happy to be living.

I can’t thank you enough for that chance.

I don’t know if you realized it at the time, but each time you asked for help, each time you forgave yourself and treated yourself compassionately, each time you chose to let a wound heal instead of inflicting another, each time you showed up to therapy when you felt like you had nothing to say — you were giving me and so many others a chance.

You gave 17-year-old-you the chance to graduate from high school.

You gave 19-year-old-you the chance to meet the love of your life.

You gave 20-year-old-you the chance to transition.

You gave 22-year-old-you the chance to graduate college.

You gave 23-year-old-you the opportunity to get a master’s degree, to move across the country to the San Francisco Bay, to travel to Europe, to mend your relationship with your parents, and most importantly, to find happiness.

There were times when we were both convinced that bipolar disorder would swallow us whole, leaving nothing but our broken bones behind. It’s a frightening disorder. It can make us feel like we have lost control, like there is a terrible darkness inside of us, pushing us forward like a puppeteer as we act out our worst nightmares.

Sometimes it seems like the darkness is all we will ever know and all we have ever been.

I remember that feeling, even now, years later. I remember what it was like to feel like my blood was composed of shadows, pumped in and out of my heart, consuming every last spark, every urge to live.

But when you made the choice to keep going, you gave every future you the chance to become something great, to experience something beautiful, to learn something new. You gave every future you the chance to fall in love, to fall out of love, to meet new people and travel to new places, to help someone in need and inspire someone to do the same.

That is an amazing gift. In fact, it’s the greatest gift anyone has ever given me.

You didn’t know what the future held, but you were willing to give it another try. And I want to tell you that your strength and courage is the reason why I am here today. I’m alive. You gave me that chance.

You gave us that chance.

I can’t promise that the darkness will go away forever. I can’t promise that it will never come back.

The thing about darkness is that it cannot destroy. It’s just the absence of light, the hiding of what was once visible to us. Shadows do not destroy the things that they encompass — they mask them. And Sam, when it feels like your strength is gone, when your ability to love and your will to live are nowhere to be found, please remember that underneath the darkness those things still breathe, still thrash, still live.

Bipolar disorder cannot take your courage away from you, because that courage is a part of who you are.

That courage is what gave rise to me — your older self, the one that still lives to this day, despite every perilous suicide attempt, every painful wound, every relentless depression. I am still alive because you had the audacity to live, and the will to survive.

I know you spent years wondering if your life mattered. And it does, to a lot of people, many of whom you haven’t even met yet. But if that’s difficult to imagine (I know that it is), there’s only one person that you need to remember: You. Your life will always matter to me — the future you, the one that needs you to keep going, the one that desperately wants to be a part of this life, the one that has so much living yet to do.

I’m here, on the other side, living proof that happiness isn’t a fleeting daydream but rather, your future and my present; happiness is a warm light that extends as far as the eye can see, and you deserve to see it.

It can feel as if the walls are closing all around you, and that there is nothing left to hold onto. But there is a future you that needs you to stay alive. There’s a future you that’s writing a book. There’s a future you that’s falling deeply in love. There’s a future you that’s laying in bed, happy to be alive. There’s a future you that’s eating the best damn pizza he’s ever had in a cafe in Italy (no, really, we visit Italy).

There’s a future you that inspires people — real, living people — to keep going.

And Sam, there’s a future you that needs me, too. If I’ve learned anything from you, it’s that I have to push forward — not because I’m certain that things will get better, but because there’s a future me that deserves to see this through.

If I could, I would travel back in time, and we would have coffee together. We would sit, you and I, so I could thank you properly for everything you’ve done for me. For seeing the crisis counselor, even though you were afraid to trust her; for throwing away the razors, even when the urge to hurt yourself was so raw and so real; for not listening to the voices, even when they kept you awake all night; for taking those mood stabilizers, even though medication scared you; for crying when you needed to, even when you were afraid of seeming weak; for getting up each day, even when your body was so, so heavy.

Most of all, I would thank you for being here, and for choosing to endure this pain so I could have the chance to live.

With Gratitude,

The Future You

P.S. Yes, “he.” You’re transgender — but don’t worry, you’ll figure that out with time.

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3 thoughts on “Bipolar Disorder Will Not Win: A Letter to My Teenage Self

  1. joelsax47 says:

    I wish I could have given myself some advice — like ignore the putdowns of my parents and my brother and get on meds as soon as you can. Now I have to forget that bizarre past and live as if I have something to live for.

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