Dear 19 year old Ji-Youn,
It’s only been two years since your first suicide attempt, but I wanted to reach out to you. Every January, the memories will come back, and every January, I will think of you walking into the pitch-black ocean, bare feet against the cold pebbles, eyes glazed over but still full of determination.
I feel your anger. I feel your disappointment and your exhaustion. I can still feel it so heavily and I understand. The world is such a chaotic place with so much hatred, crime, and violence and I see that you feel too small to do anything about it. You’ve been trying, I know. But the people continue to ignore you. They don’t understand the urgency of the situation, the importance of their responsibilities. They don’t understand that their lack of action can kill people.
But it is not your burden to carry all of their responsibilities. You cannot save the world. Just as you couldn’t have saved the 15-year old boy from killing himself, you cannot save the world. I am sorry.
The next little while will be tough. Your friend will drag you out of the ocean water and you will kick and scream, “please let me do something for myself, for once.” And you’ll realize that once you manage to attempt suicide once, you’ve opened up a new realm of possibilities. Nothing can hold you back anymore. And you will try to kill yourself again, not once, but four more times. I am sorry.
You will learn a lot of things that will make you hate your mental illness. Welcome to the school of hard knocks. You will learn loneliness, shame, and guilt - these emotions will shake you at the core until you start to lose sight of reality. You will lose best friends and experience traumatic fights with your mom. You will feel like the greatest fuckup, and crying will become a daily routine for a while.
You’ll try to move forward, making adjustments and life transitions. But it will feel exhausting. Falling and failing over and over again will make you feel so exhausted, you’ll want to sink into the ground and rest. But realize this (and you will). Falling down and getting back up again is more strength than never having fallen. Remember to breathe. Remember to hold on.
You are loved. You are so loved that at the times when you don’t want to live anymore, your friends and family will keep you alive. They will feed you, wipe your tears and tuck you into bed. When you lose sight of the goodness in this world, grasp onto the love around you. It’s everywhere.
The next two years will be brutal. You’ll experience things that you only thought existed in horror movies - visual hallucinations, death threats, and inception dreams that trap you. But you will also experience love, friendship, and miracles. You will start a community that validates your emotions and experiences, and your story will impact many others. Right now, you feel like your activism has no impact. Well in a little over a year, a stranger will message you and prove you wrong. She will remind you that you have made an impact. That you have brought together community. And you will sob the happiest of tears - of relief and gratitude.
You will come across obstacles and fears you never knew existed. And you will overcome them. I still deal with shame now, but it doesn’t paralyze me the way it used to. You will be powerful, and empowering. You will be a source of love, of inspiration, and of leadership. You will meet so many wonderful people who love you and touch the lives of many who admire you.
Right now, your mental illness feels like a boulder chained to your ankle, dragging you down. But one day, in two years, that boulder will become a pet rock and it will become a friend. You’ll learn to walk this pet rock, and sometimes it will tug on you and annoy you, but most of the time, the two of you will walk along, happy, in friendship.
Thank you for being so courageous and vulnerable. I’m sorry that you will be going through some tough times, but you’ll make it through. I know it. The world knows it. I love you.