Love Letters To Me

At eight years old I was the most pretentious person my parents knew

I spouted Shakespeare with ease and wrote secret love letters to myself

When I was nine I forgot that the love letters existed and glued a mask onto my face

My favorite red pen was broken and flushed down the toilet and the sound did not hurt me, it haunted me - the clas of red with the water like the tears I could not shed and the blood on my arms

That summer I watched the move Speak based on the book by Laurie Halse Anderson and I wept for a best friend I had lost due to my inability to hold on to anything without pushing it away

I remember giving myself pep talks in the restroom and hitting the walls because a phone call was equivalent to the earth shaking and my ribcage would shatter if it continued to restrict my breathing like that

My best friend who had gone through what the protagonist had. who had suffered at that monster's hands, deserved more than me: I couldn't even answer her phone call

That mask that I wore was becoming heavier than my book bag and I debated taking it off

But I was scared - admitting I had failed her, admitting that I was scared, admitting that I had failed my parents, admitting that I held myself like a statue - I camouflaged the mask with bangs

At thirteen years old I was the saddest person I knew

My tongue dripped excessively bitter and encrusted words of cynicism and nihilism and tears

I broke down at fourteen in front of my parents: I hadn't cried in years

And what a lie it is: "you feel better after you've cried," you don't feel better after you cried you felt worse - I felt worse

I stuffed towels and pillows and blankets down my throat, anything to stop me screaming; do you know what it's like to be unfamiliar with your own pain? I forgot I could even breathe

And when I finally found that pen - a black one now - the words were dark, dripping with monsters and cuts, token whispers and shooting stars, I was breathing in my bubble but gasping for air in yours

I'm seventeen, I'm stressed one hundred and one percent of the time, and I have filled out two and half journals with poetry

I count the stars when my anxiety clouds my eyes and lips are cracking from the words that I have spit out with coal fire too hot to burn out but dim ennough to ignore

I can't pinprick the moment I held a notebook and decided to exchange my sobs for words and tears for ink but I can remember the first time I woke up from a panic attack and scrambled to write out a poem

I remember shaking in bed and in the restroom and in the corner and on the floor

I remember being haunted by mistakes and memories and monsters with my face

The medicine helps - the world spins but with enough acrobatic skills I have learned to stay standing

Validation helps - knowing I'm not alone comforts my thick thighs, fumbling limbs, and partially meaningful smiles

But poetry was my mother's prayer for a guardian angel

It was my father's eyes rolling toward the ceiling  begging for my grandfather's arms to hold me

The symbol my younger sister needed to see that you can fall and you can still learn to fly

And after all these years I found the love letters

- under my bed with my now ripped mask -

And can you guess the most importnat advice eight year old me had to say?

Don't forget to breathe Shakespeare. buy red ink, and cry when you finally don't let go

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