A letter to my 18 year old self

Dear 18 year old me...

I know things seem a bit uncertain for you.  I understand the pain behind that smile.  I know your 98lb body is struggling to keep up with your active lifestyle, and you're wondering how much you'll need to eat at your graduation party to avoid the questions and the stares.

I remember the feelings of hunger--both physical and mental.  Hunger for more, hunger for less.  I remember the incessant need for control, where it felt like there was none.  The darkness, the depression, the anxiety, and the shame.  I remember it ALL, and trust me when I tell you it'll stay with you for always.  

But, 18 year old girl, have faith, because those memories are what you'll go back to, over and over, whenever things get tough.  All those feelings, all those dark times, where you felt alone in your own mind, will fuel you and strengthen you in ways you cannot imagine. By spending time in the darkness, really learning to love yourself through it all, DESPITE it all, you'll be better suited for life in the light!  You might feel you don't deserve it, but child, you do!  You will have EARNED it!

You have some wonderful years ahead of you!  You'll graduate with a degree in Journalism, making your family incredibly proud.  You'll marry your best friend and  have two wonderful children--daughters--who have your fire and your fight.  Your family will become your team, your everything, and you'll weave together with every military PCS move and every deployment, because you have a special gift--you will learn not to just endure, but to thrive in spite of it all, BECAUSE of it all.

Your bipolar depression will test you, as will your eating disorder.  When you become pregnant, you'll love your unborn daughter so much you'll force yourself to eat more than you're comfortable with--healthy nutrient dense foods--because her safety will become more important than you own.  You'll get pregnant again right away (sorry, it happens) and will go even deeper into a pit of eating, this time out of stress, and comfort.  You'll gain more weight than your frame comfortably handles, and it'll knock you out for a bit mentally.

It's hard...  it's so so difficult.  Motherhood is a huge change, and an even larger challenge!!  But you'll remember your own childhood, which was filled with love and laughter, and you'll smile at the end of even the MOST challenging of days.

You'll lose the weight.  You'll learn to love health.  And, dear girl, you'll use your struggles to help others, which is the most important reason to remember where you are right now!  Promise yourself you'll turn the shame into tools for sharing, and that you won't shy away from using your story--all of your story--to connect with others feeling the same way.  There is beauty in that connection, and strength in togetherness.  Your struggle is your message, and you'll learn how to wield that message as your truth, your LIGHT.

18 year old girl, you are beautiful.  You are amazing!  You have so much to give to the world around you!  YES, it may take you longer than it should to realize that, but you've already learned the most important lesson of all--to SMILE and ENJOY life even when there's pain, even when there's hopelessness.  Keep living, keep writing, keep sharing <3.  You'll be a force to be reckoned with, and a pillar of strength for your family, as long as you keep your head towards the light and breathe deep when you feel weak.

You've got this, girl <3.  You've so got this :).

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