Dear Me at 17,
Here you sit, waiting for the biggest race of your life. Your win is inevitable, you think. You have the winning time beat by three seconds, so how could you NOT get the CIF title and take home the glory? Well sadly, your intense fear of failure and the abandonment issues that lie inside of you will steer you to failure.
This is just the beginning. Oh yes, just the beginning of many failures to come. Get used to them.
First, I am going to clue you in on a few good things:
You will go to prom with the most popular boy in school and you will look amazing. His parents will whisper that you are the most beautiful girl in the group of eight people that are going together in your party. The pictures will come out wonderfully and it will seem like every girl in school is jealous because you went to prom with the boy they were in love with since freshman year.
You will be a role model to the younger swimmers of all ages on your club team. Other high school swimmers will hear about you and want to meet you, intimidated but comforted by your humility. You will dominate the pool.
You will become MVP just like a good team captain should. You will cry for 20 private minutes in the shower at the humiliation of the fourth place win at this race, beaten by a younger girl who looks up to you, but then you will get dressed, face your teammates and smile for the pictures because without your points in the other races your team would not have gotten runner-up as a whole in the meet. You should be proud of yourself for letting the other girl have her moment of glory for her second place win, even though she beat you by two seconds and no longer looks at you the same way.
You will coach, lifeguard and teach swim lessons, and you will take pride (as you should) in being that role model and leader. It will all be a double life, however.
You will party often. Not just on the weekends, but before class, during final exams and even after swim practice. You will go to practice hung over. It won’t just be a beer here or there, a joint or cigarette on occasion. It will be lines of cocaine when available, entire bottles of gin, vodka or bourbon. You will drink 24-packs of beer in one night.
You will become bulimic at one point because your coach told you that you were overweight. But honey, you have no fat. None.
The alcohol, the adrenaline, the double life. The failing at school, the intense attitude and the rebellious state of mind will all be signals of your mental illness. Bipolar strikes in subtle ways at first. Your shopping sprees will seem like ignorant financial irresponsibility. Your self-medicating with alcohol will seem normal (a tad extreme albeit) for your age. Your cravings for adrenaline and your inability to stop the racing thoughts in your mind will prevent you from sitting still in class. All this will seem like just another part of your rebellious nature. It will be hard to see.
Popularity is fleeting. Fun does not last. Broken dreams leave scars that never heal. Please seek help.
Caity is type II bipolar, and has struggled to become stabilized through a ridiculous amount of medication, which at first only seemed to worsen her life, but eventually helped. Now she writes and blogs about her recovery emotionally and physically at: http://www.caityslosingit.blogspot.com/