Dear 5-year-old Shivani,
Turns out being 23 is nothing like the movies you watched. I know you’re wearing Amma’s old dupatta as a saree with your English textbook in your hands, wandering about the house pretending to be a 20 something year old, just eagerly waiting to grow up and start living your dreams. But guess what, I crashed.
The feeling was profound. I was squirming with pain from within, tears in my eyes, I wasn’t able to understand what to do. Everybody around me was worried, they all worry so much it affects the way they function. I had forgotten how to be myself; it was a recent realisation. I had forgotten how to do all the things I once loved, and to a particular extent how to weave my words cleverly. It hurt so much. I hugged myself and broke into tears, I hugged myself as tight as I could, and put my head on the pillow. For hours I stared at the ceiling, I wasn’t sure how I was to be brave when all I could ever feel was this severe ache within. The therapist called it mild depression. Never guessed it right, you, such a bubbly happy cheerful kid would grow up to be in this state, rolling on the carpet, dying everyday a little bit because of this pain within.
I’m sorry I made all those horrible mistakes, I’m sorry I hated myself and let myself be treated so badly by so many people. I’m not exactly where you thought I’d be when I’m 23. I have kept our word, and been kind and loving as much as I can, but the world is much more cruel than what we anticipated. I let everything around me kill the happiness your baby eyes twinkled with once. It is very hard to fight with those you loved once, to beg them to treat you right. I’m sorry for all those times I cut myself, because my anxiety was getting out of hands, and for all those times I stood on top of the terrace with pills and blades in my hands. I have failed in keeping my mind, body and soul safe. You deserve better.
I could barely get out of bed, the moment I got up, I felt dizzy, weak and exhausted. So, I went back to sleep again, and I slept the whole day. It felt as though I skipped out on having to be awake and fighting myself, to muster the strength to get through the day, I just wanted to not be in this state. Nightmares after nightmares flowed in the moment I fell asleep, but staying awake would mean having to deal with extreme thoughts and pain. Those brief moments I stared hard at the ceiling, the few seconds right before I fell asleep but I wasn’t much awake felt like a purgatory. For years this has just been a part of me, how come I never realised the way it grew onto become most of me?
I know you wanted to be something better by the time you grew up, but I’m trying my best. It gets really exhausting you know sometimes? I have gained nothing that would make you proud, but I’ve held on strong and I still am. I want you to know that I finally started loving the body I was born in. You’re too young to start wanting to be more like those dainty girls with longer hair and thinner bodies. We’re not like that. Let’s just love as much as we can and be kind, and die a happy soft old woman.
You’re a happy kid, and as much as I would love to grow back into being you, we have to fix some things. Although at this point in time I’m just tired, tired of all this fight with myself, I’ll go on to become someone you’d be proud of. I’m sorry I let you down, but I’ll try not to anymore. And as much as I don’t like the world we live in; it’s said being alive is a great feeling. You’d know, I was once full of life.
With much love,
Your 23 year old self