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My dearest friend,

All I want to do is fix this situation, help you and make it all better. If only I could find the right words, but there are no words that will conjure up pure magic. There’s no place for what limited physical prowess I possess. There’s nothing I want more than to help you, but there’s nothing I can do.

I wish I may, I wish I might… It doesn’t work either, does it? No, but it was worth a try.

It’s a powerless feeling, and I, for one, hate it so much. If only there was something I could do or say. If only you knew how much you were loved and needed. Do you know that you deserve better? Do you realize how special you are? I don’t know if you do, and damn, if you could hear these words then maybe, maybe…

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There’s a weight on your shoulders pushing you down. Wait, are those shackles around your ankles? No wonder you feel like you’re being pulled underwater, drowning, gasping for air. The elements are conspiring against you. They’ve joined forces to make this fight so much harder.

You’re still in it, though, and your courage is admirable. You get dragged down, but you don’t give up. Thrashing, clawing, grasping for a safety line. You bring your head above the water and gulp in the fresh air. Down you go again but up you come. Over and over, you resurface despite all odds and all the impediments.

Do you know how remarkable that is? Do you know how strong you are? So many people would’ve given up by now, but not you. You keep fighting, trying, and showing up. You’re still here, and that makes you exceptional.

It might not feel like it. In fact, I can almost guarantee that you read those words with a shake of your head and a scoffing huff. Did you roll your eyes? Did you sigh wearily? I’m betting there’s an argument sitting on the tip of your tongue just waiting to get out.

Me? Strong, courageous, remarkable, exceptional? No, not a chance. I’m average at best, but I’m never at my best. I’m weak, sad, pathetic and completely unremarkable. I’m a burden, a leach, and a first-class loser. No, no, I’m not what, who you think I am.

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Was I close? Did you want to say something like that? Well, of course you did because I’d say it too if I was you. I have been you. We are one and the same because some battles are universally fought. Perhaps, and this is just a thought, I’m uniquely qualified to write these words.

Who better to see how special you are than someone who feels the same way and struggles with mental illness? It’s easier to look outwards and admire someone else’s strength than inwards at our own. We can’t see how strong we are, at least I can’t.

But I see you! Don’t for a second think that no one notices. I see you fighting for your life, fighting to hold on. You’re battling demons inside and out. They keep coming, but you hold your ground with a strength and bravery that’s unparalleled. Despite the desire, you never give up, and I see that too.

Don’t get me wrong, please. As much as I admire your fortitude, there’s one truth that remains. You shouldn’t have to fight this battle at all. Has anyone told you that before? It doesn’t matter what you did in a past life or this one. All of your mistakes and regrets? None it makes this okay.

Those nights you spend beating yourself up for being weak? The list you’ve created of all the dumb things you’ve done? You don’t deserve this. It isn’t your fault. Do you hear me? Do you believe me?

Or are you shaking your head again?

You deserve to be loved and respected. You deserve a hand to hold and an ear to listen. Whoever told you that you didn’t? Screw ’em. 

I’ve made a list, you know. There are plenty of things that I’ve said and done that I wish I could take back. I’ve hurt people, and yes, I apologized, but what if it wasn’t enough? What if this is my punishment? Karmic retribution, is that what it’s called? Comeuppance. What goes around comes around. Payback’s a b…

Then again, sometimes bad things happen to decent people. We may not be the best of our species, but we’ve tried our best. We’ve taken steps to correct our mistakes. We’ve apologized when it was needed. We aren’t perfect— who is, right?— but nothing, I repeat, nothing warrants this kind of punishment.

We don’t deserve this pain. We aren’t destined to suffer in our own personal hells. I can’t for a second believe that Karma, God, or The Great and Power It would be so cruel. So— and I’m repeating myself— you don’t deserve this.

Is that a comforting thought, or does it make it worse? Shit just happens. Nope, that’s not giving me the warm and comfy vibes. If it was something we did, then maybe there would be something we could do to make it right. Go outside, spin in a circle ten times and spit into the northern wind.

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Look at that, I’m trying to fix this with magic and superstition. I said at the beginning that it wouldn’t help. Then again, it doesn’t hurt to try. Did it work? Do you feel better? A little dizzy and dehydrated. Damn, I was hopeful for a second, but we’re back where we started.

There’s nothing I can say or do that will make a difference. I can’t kiss it and make it better. There’s not a cauldron big enough or a potion strong enough. Even if all the stars in the sky started to fall, there’s no amount of wishing that will make a difference.

And damn it, my friend, that sucks. I know it does. Are you tired? Are you fed up? Do you want to let the waves crash over your head as you let the forces of nature win this war?

Yeah, I get that because I’ve been there. Tired, lonely, unable to see a way out. Drowning would be easier and, it would bring some peace. I’ve been tempted. I’ve even stopped fighting and let myself slowly sink. I’ve held up a white flag and said, “You win! I give up.”

Then someone reached out their hand, and I held on to them for a while. They couldn’t pull me up or fight the forces for me. What did they do? They held me and told me I was stronger than I thought I was. They reminded me that I was loved and needed. They swam with me in the deep end because they’ve also had to fight the forces.

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I can’t say this often enough, and for anyone who needs it, you don’t get tired of hearing it. There’s power in the simple knowledge that you aren’t alone. When your head is underwater? Open your eyes, and you’ll see other people all around you. Some are drowning, and others are holding out their hands.

You aren’t alone.

It’s not much, I know, but somedays it’s all we have. Sometimes it’s the only thing we can say. And sometimes, the hardest thing to do is shut up, sit down, and listen. I know that we want this to end for each other, but all we can offer is a hand to hold and an ear to listen.

Let it out, don’t hold it, I promise you’ll breathe a little easier. No, it’s not a magic cure, but it helps. Find someone who knows how to listen without trying to fix the problem. Be the person who’ll sit in the discomfort without trying to make it all better. 

It’s not easy being on either side of this equation. Putting your struggles into words feels like you’re trying to slurp molasses through a toothpick. Sitting there, biting your lip and resisting the urge to say the “right thing” feels like a mound of fire ants are crawling up your legs. It’s not natural, and it doesn’t feel right, but you deserve to be heard, seen, and loved.

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That’s what this is all about. An intimate act of love that can be more powerful than anything physical. Do you know what I mean? Has anyone ever done this for you, or have you ever done it for someone else? Have you both sat in the uncomfortable space? The burning chill of vulnerability that heats you up and cools you down in a way that makes very little sense, but if you’ve felt it, you know. 

I’ve sat in that space as someone who needed a hand to hold and someone who offered a hand. I’m so grateful to the people who joined me because it was an incredibly selfless act of love and companionship. Even when I didn’t think I deserved it, they proved me wrong.

If you don’t think you deserve it? Let someone prove you wrong because you are wrong. You deserve to be loved and respected. You deserve a hand to hold and an ear to listen. Whoever told you that you didn’t? Screw ’em. They didn’t know what they were talking about. 

Take these words as a love letter of sorts. It’s not the typical romance novel. It’s a proclamation of worth, need, and desire. You are worthy and needed. There are many of us out here who want you to know that you’re not alone. 

We want to offer our hands for you to hold so you can rest up and live to fight another day.

With love and hope,

A fellow mental health warrior.

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