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Last night, we received this letter from a girl who took part in a workshop before Christmas. If you have ever struggled you need to read it….

Girl, Sad, Chair, Sit, Thoughtful, Anime, View, Figure

Dear Tammy, or any other beautiful soul that is reading this;

Hi! I’m ***, and I’m fourteen, and back in about October or November of 2016 you came to my school and did a talk with my third year group. Ever since I’ve really wanted to write to you and tell you my story, because I’d never been affected by any sort of presentation at all. (Let me be honest with you here, I wasn’t sure I could stomach another anti bullying presentation as though I appreciate our staff’s futile attempts at being relatable they had made our issues sound like something out of an American high school movie, and frankly the presentations became a joke we all used as excuses to get out of class.) But I couldn’t write, because I have capital A for Anxiety and also we have this thing called the junior cert which didn’t exactly help with A and also made my free time (that wasn’t spent procrastinating or crying) very short. But I write this at around 11 o clock at night, which is when I make most of my questionable decisions and this seems to be the unfortunate time that I get into the writing mood. Right now I’m on the last end of my midterm break (finished the pres, WOOP) and after a lot of deliberating I decided to just scrap my whole plan of what I was going to tell you and write ‘from the heart!!!1!!!1’ and tell you my story so far. (Before we begin, I apologise for my sarcasm and lack of summarising. On with the show.)

I’ve always known I was a daydreamer and a home bird, and all my life the compliments I’ve gotten are usually about creativity or ‘wow ***, you are so quirky!’ But I didn’t really mind, because I was a fairly obnoxiously confident child who never stopped talking and singing and I was acutely aware that I was not a popular kid, but I had three best friends and that was all I ever wanted. I liked familiarity, I liked security, and whenever things went particularly bad it was ok because I was ten and ‘if I go to sleep, when I wake up things will be better in the morning.’ However, everything started to head rapidly downhill when I was twelve and decided to start a new chapter and go to a new school where I knew nobody at all and nobody knew me. I spent most of first year hiding in the toilets or behind pillars in the quad because I was so terrified people were staring at me. I’d had a group of friends I knew I could sit with and be completely myself, and here I felt way too young and odd and while I wanted to run around the hockey pitch my peers wanted to greet everybody else from their primary school and talk about boys. This is when my Anxiety started, because I would feel sick to the stomach going to school everyday as all I wanted was to be back where I knew people and I hated anyone new and basically wanted to be a baby koala and attach myself to the new friends I made and say ‘don’t leaaaaave.’ Panic attacks were a nice addition to this which meant I was terrified of my own head and began to think I was actually going insane. Ordinary things became a nightmare, like every single Friday morning in this particular maths classroom I was bunched up in the corner at the front and they would happen, and I would shuffle into my seat and try not to cry and hope to God that today might be easier and nobody would make eye contact with me or try to talk to me.

I quickly realised my friends at home weren’t as loyal as I’d thought, as they made me feel like it was wrong to be me, to be honest, to not be interested into dating and to have never gone to disco. (Still haven’t my dudes and I am ok) It was mentioned nearly everyday about how much I ate, how nerdy I was, and some comments made weren’t exactly mean but made me feel like I was a burden and just wrong wrong wrong. Several occasions led to them doing things without me and I spent Halloween in my hallway playing with kinetic sand in my costume while I listened to them shrieking outside. I forgave them. Mistake one. Then we decided to head into town one day and they left me stranded until my Mom got into Who-Do-You -Think- You- Are -Upsetting- My -Child mode and tracked them down. However they left me stranded again after 30 minutes and caught a ride home so I stood in the rain and appreciated the pathetic fallacy and came to the conclusion that our relationship was toxic and I really needed to cut ties. This took me quite a while as I’d known these girls since I was 5 and we live 2 minutes from each other, I didn’t believe I could survive without them and I kept putting the blame on myself. But I did it eventually, thanks to my amazing best friends who I can talk to about anything, I am 100% myself around and who got me through all of my crap and I could not ask for better people to be in my life. I am truly honoured to have known them. It has been 4 months since I have spoken or seen the girls, and I know I made the right decision to cut them out. Why? I disappeared out of their lives with a single text, and though I live five houses away from them, not one has shown up to ask me why. I do not want them to. I have survived without them and my self confidence has boosted in every way, and besides, they’ve been good inspiration for a lot of angry poems. Sometimes holding on is the worst you can do and letting go becomes a necessity.

During this I came across a textpost of a girl named Dodie Clark, who was talking about how nice girls were and her bisexuality. (Just recently I started watching Dodie and realised it was her who put the idea into my head when I had no idea who she was and now she’s my idol and all this time I’d never known. The power of coincidences, my friend.) And then I realised as I daydreamed along with her and said ‘ahhh girls are so nice’ that I’d very much like to kiss one and that sent me into a spiral of denial. I was convinced I was making it up, that this was a normal thing every girl did and that I couldn’t possibly know because I was young and going insane anyway. Here’s the thing, I thought gay was a bad word, and when it took me this long,( I am fifteen next month and I was twelve then) to actually sort through my feelings and realise that I don’t have to fit a gay stereotype. I didn’t want to be ‘one of them.’ I developed feelings for someone I called my best friend and just hated myself more and more because I cared for them so much that I was willing to smother my own feelings to prevent them from worry. But one day I told them and yes, I got crushed, but I am still on good terms with them. I don’t blame them for their answer, they were so kind and considerate and I appreciated their honestly wholeheartedly. It wasn’t the right thing anyways because they had a lot of shit going on, and today they seem like a different person to me. I was mostly upset because of how they had changed and how they acted and dressed to hide the side of them I’d seen, but they are their own person who I will always care for and if they are happy in who they are, then I wish them all the luck. But I was still so disgusted with myself. I didn’t want to go to hell like they said I would. I couldn’t tell a soul about this dirty secret because I was unnatural. I began to hate my religion and myself and at one point I became so confused I wasn’t sure I’d ever want to live anymore. I had such highs and lows that I felt like I was on a rollercoaster and though I knew life would be hard I didn’t seem to be enjoying it at all as I was constantly fearing the bad or struggling through it in the dark. I ended up refusing to do my religion homework because it made me feel physically sick (don’t do this kids, your teacher may be more competent than mine was but just don’t ok) and decided I was doomed to a life of misery, loneliness, and I would die and live in a state of nothingness. As appealing as that sounds… It upsets me a lot today to read back on old diary entries and remember how I felt because it was society’s influence that made me feel all of these things, when I could’ve accepted not being labelled and having the freedom to be fluid. I thought I had to have everything figured out and that I had to be a certain type.

On top of this, I began having these things that my mom thought were ‘adrenaline rushes’, which happened every day. I would be sitting there fine, and sub consciously know I was where I was but I’d daydream, and when I came back my brain felt like it had been tricked and I’d forgotten I was there. (Confusing, yeah.) This caused me to feel like I was numb and processing everything a second slower, that I had actually died and there was no way out of this. (I had also began to have frequent questions about the meaning of life and what happens when you die. I was an utter mess.) After the third one at my piano lesson, my Mom took me to a doctor despite my protests and I had two years of utter hell for an Official Anxious Person. It went something like this.

\\****’s Colourful Doctor History//

Blood tests, Mom VS therapist 1, panic! at the MRI (where’s the disco), therapist 2, fun with electroids and wax (little metal thingies they stick on your head to track brain activity that achieve the most fabulous Draco Malfoy hair thanks to wax), ‘hey it’s your doctor and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you though lol so let’s book a two day hospital visit during Easter’, ‘hey it’s your doctor sorry we cancelled that and forgot to ring you back for two months lol but come back in August a week before school and you’ll be sorted girl’, 48 hours stuck in a bed listening to screaming babies and blood pressure tests and oh no are you having a panic attack don’t do that, ‘hey it’s your doctor again so I had an idea that we could superglue the electroids to your head so you get to go to the hairdressers twice and have you mom scrape it off your scalp but you definitely don’t have epilepsy remember we shone those lights in your eyes lol k bye’, ‘hey sorry I made you come out of school for your results I don’t actually have them lol come back in two months’, ‘hey so you actually do have epilepsy my bad so take this tablet everyday and guess what you get to start them the day before your school tour did I mention the side affects make you seem really high wow good times k bye.’

It turns out I have a form of epilepsy in that I don’t get triggered by light, I’ve been having absent seizures since I was about 4 years old and never realised, and I’d actually been hiding full epileptic seizures for 10 years and they had made me have very very intense emotion and a high sense of dread.

\\Fin// (thank god)

Today I still struggle with Anxiety, I’m still a little confused of where I am on the sexuality scale and I do have epilepsy. But I am so, so much healthier. I realised that Anxiety is not a thing that goes away. I can’t sleep it away, and I will have panic attacks and I will have triggers. But one day it clicked with me that maybe all these celebrities you hear about with Anxiety still have to deal with the symptoms, that they don’t disappear with one technique or inspiring quote, they have just learned to accept it is a part of them. Anxiety is a part of me, and it took me ages to realise that I’m not crazy, that I will live a fufilling life and that Anxiety is just the scared twelve year old me who wants to keep me safe. Anxiety isn’t my enemy, my fear of it was. Anxiety sucks, but by acknowledging it and knowing it is there, I can make it seem a little more trivial. Like ‘hi there lil A, I know you think this classroom is dangerous but the worst that happens is I faint or puke, and that’s ok. Everyone has those days, even Hannah Montana.

We’re going to concentrate on the teacher and then after we’ll have a nice Wispa Dad packed us for lunch. Good job, you’re calming, I know you’re scared, and that’s ok, but we’re all scared. Somebody else is scared right now, and no, they are not laughing at you. We’re not 100% perfect, but that’s ok. Ok?’ Sometimes this doesn’t work and panic attacks come on, but you take a break (which is what I find the hardest to do) and you say ‘well that’s gone to shit’ and you grit your teeth and know you’ve done this before because we are a warrior and a team and it’s ok not to be ok sometimes. I’m not making Anxiety out to be great, because it isn’t at all, it makes sure I think through everything, but it also keeps me motivated to beat it and I’m more empathetic with people. I am confused on the sexuality scale and I’ve now developed another wonderfully unfortunate crush on a girl which no doubt will end in chaos but it’s ok because each time I get closer and closer to who I’m meant to be with and it’s all a learning curve that makes me stronger. I thought I had to know what I was and I was too young to think about this, but I don’t think sexuality is ever a certain thing and I am the exception to every rule lol. I love love. I’m a hopeless romantic but hell, I love loving people. I’m still confused because I call myself bi as I have only ever crushed on celebrity boys, but in real life only girls. So I’m letting myself experiment, which is the best advice I can give to any other confused people out there. We’ll get there in the end. One day being gay won’t be a bad word. One day it’ll just be another shocking fact in a history book. I also still have epilepsy which is being kept under control by my tablet. I don’t get any side effects and though I still have very mild seizures that last only a few seconds before I can throw them off they only happen under extreme stress or tiredness and I have control over them. I’m not afraid of going outside anymore. 🙂 I have a small group of best friends who I love with all of my weird heart and would trust with my life, and I can talk to people a lot better, despite my continuous shyness around teachers.

One day I’ll put my hand up and volunteer, one day I won’t be afraid to talk to new people, and one day I won’t have to count my steps as I walk into school to calm my breaths. My school is pretty great now that I’ve lifted my head out of my book to look at reality, and the teachers and people are so friendly and relatable and when disaster strikes it only brings us closer. I made the best decision of my life choosing to leave and go here. As for my hate of religion, I somehow am getting As in it (the trick is to get into the mindset of Donald Trump and write a very passionate essay about prayer, try it, it works) because I have unattached my feelings from it. I came to the conclusion that maybe there isn’t a god, but I believe in a universe. That the people I love that have died are there somehow, that there is capital S for Something out there and the coincidences that happen in my life are things I can control but can ask for help with if I need guidance. It was a personal choice and I can’t be talked out of it, which I believe is the heart and soul of religion. It has to be something you truly believe, and I believe I’m not alone. It was coincidence that I sat next to my best friend at the book bar, hiding from our classmates. It was coincidence that my name was picked out of a hat to get into my new school. It was a coincidence I discovered bisexuality, that Tammy walked into my school to talk to me. That my parents met. Everything is coincidence really and I think it all happens for a reason.

So my point is that I am not nearly done with this thing called Life, and I am not perfect and even as an adult I will still be confused and learning. I have battles, I have secrets, but I have the best people in the world to help me. I’ll find love, I’ll eventually publish a book, I’ll become a teacher and inspire more kids like teachers have done to me. I am so determined to make a difference after all I’ve done to get here that I won’t ever let Life beat me. My life is a zig zag graph and is ok. It’s about as straight as my sexuality. I am ****, (or I prefer the more pretentious title of the girl with the words) and I kinda like that, even if I don’t feel so real all the time. My advice is to stop daydreaming sometime and face your reality, and if you don’t like what you see, it is not forever and you can change it. Existing is an achievement and for that I’m proud of me. Thanks for giving me an outlet to tell you that. If my writing was coherent and can help someone, it’s ok for you to share if you want.  (Sorry for making it so long.) Basically, if it’ll make a positive difference to one person then go for it. That person can always be yourself, too.