Dear 15 year old me,
Where to start, there’s so much I want to tell you. Your Selective Mutism is at its worst right now; you’re worried things are only going to get worse and if anything will ever get better. You try your best to get through each day but it never seems good enough for those around you who just seem to get at you all the time and try to tell you to try harder. They think they know best but really they have no clue what you’re going through and your anxiety is too high for you to give them even the slightest of all insight. You watch everyone at school chatter away all day long whilst your lips remain tight shut, desperate to just utter one word, but no matter how hard you try nothing ever comes out. You don’t understand why; you’ve never understood why. You wake up every single day hoping that today will be the day that you just grow out of whatever’s happening to you; that’s what CAMHS told you when you were 7 anyway. You’re wondering if that’s ever going to happen and your patience is running thin. You’re tired of spending all of your time in your bedroom on your laptop, but it’s the only place you feel normal, where you can communicate with others your age. You want to go outside, to have friends to go out with on the weekends but it’s just all too scary for you and you feel trapped. You’re just fed up and you’re worried it’s too late for anything to ever change. Well, I want to tell you how silly you are for thinking that! You’re 15 for goodness sake, you’re still practically a baby; of course it’s not too late. School is harder than ever for you and you’re worried about leaving school without any GCSE’s whatsoever, I want to tell you that you needn’t worry about that, you need to take all the time in the world to get yourself better, your mental health should be your top priority now; not school. You will get your GCSE’s when you finish college at 18 and things will be better than they have ever been when you’re 18. But you don’t want to wait 3 years for it to get better? You’re desperate for it to get better now? Trust me, I know, but the wait will be totally worth it. You will soon find out why it is you’ve found it difficult to talk all of these years and trust me, it is something that can be treated. But you’ve always known that. You’ve never given up hope that you will someday talk just like everyone else; it’s what’s kept you going all of these years. You love how the internet has helped you to feel somewhat normal and allows you to communicate with others your age? Well, you’re going to love the internet even more when it helps you to find out exactly what you’re going through. You don’t think what you have is called Selective Mutism; you think you’ve been given the wrong diagnosis because you know you are not choosing to be this way. You know that you try so hard to talk every single day but nothing comes out. What you have is called Selective Mutism, it just has a stupid name. And you know how you’ve felt so alone all of these years? Well, you’re going to meet some amazing people who are going through exactly the same things as you. They are going to help you so much, especially when you have a bad day and feel like no one around you understands because they will understand. You’ll become really good friends with some of them and you’ll even someday meet up with some of them. Do you want to know something else? When you meet up with them, you will chatter away to them! You don’t believe me? Just you wait and see! I know you often feel like giving up, but you are strong, you get through anything life throws at you. Nothing ever defeats you, it might knock you down for a bit, but you always get back up and carry on. You don’t realise the strength that you have inside of you. Life only throws these things at you because it knows that you can deal with it. You’re so worried that when you get your CAMHS appointment that they won’t be able to help you and that they’ll just give up on you. I completely understand you, you’ve been let down so many times in the past and even had CAMHS fail you once before, I understand why you’re so frightened it’s going to be another letdown. I promise you it will be different this time. They’re going to tell you that they’re not going to give up on you and they’ll really mean that! I promise! I know that seems like a miracle to you right now, but I promise you that it really is going to happen! Things aren’t good at all for you right now, but I promise you that once you get through this worst bit, it will be so much better from then on. A year from now, after seeing a Psychologist for a few months who will help you learn to relax, you are going to meet an absolutely amazing lady who is going to change your life for the better. It seems like a miracle, right? Well that’s what I thought too when she got us to talk to her in just a few therapy sessions! Now you’re really thinking I’m talking rubbish don’t you? I bet you’re thinking, what has she been drinking?! You’re going to love her! You’ll have such a laugh with her and she will feel like more of a friend than just a therapist. She’ll even get you to go into the café in the hospital where you will order your own food for the very first time and I don’t mean just a note that you will show, I mean that you will actually ask for it yourself. See I told she was a miracle worker! She’ll even help you to tell the bus driver where you want to go and you will be able to say goodbye to those dreaded 12 journey bus tickets! I know that you get frustrated about having to use those instead of being able to tell the bus driver where you want to go, well you’re only just over a year away from being able to do that. But how will you do that on a busy bus? The hospital bus will be pretty empty, so at first it will only be on the way back from CAMHS that you’ll be able to do it, but as you get better you’ll be able to ask even if it’s really full and even if there’s a big queue behind you. Now you really think I’ve gone mad, don’t you? You’re going to go to college and from the first day onwards, you will talk to everyone using a whiteboard. You will go into college that very first day and try your hardest to talk and you will come home feeling very frustrated about that, but I want you to know that when that does happen, it doesn’t matter, try not to beat yourself up about it; you will do it when you’re ready. You will meet some amazing new friends and you will text some of them constantly after college and on the weekends. You will even meet up with them regularly on the weekends and walk into town with them after college. You won’t be able to talk to them right away, but one day guess what? You will talk to them. I don’t mean that you’ll talk to them when they come to your house like you used to be able to do when you were little; I mean you’ll be able to talk to them in college without a care in the world about who’s around! You’re going to have the teenage life you’ve always dreamed you had. Remember when you were in year 7 when you had to do silent reading in the library? Remember everyone in your tutor group would play bogies and you would feel so much frustration about not being able to join in? You’ve always found that game absolutely hilarious but you’ve never been able to join in before. Well, guess what? When you’re at college you’re going to get sent out of the class for playing bogies with one of your friends! You really think I’m talking complete nonsense now, don’t you? The thought of that seems like a dream come true to you. But I promise you it will happen. You’re even going to stand up at the front of the class at the start of your 2nd year of college and read out a paragraph. You’re going to sit back down in your seat after that and smile about how far you have come. You’re lucky you know? I know it seems silly to say because having Selective Mutism isn’t something to feel lucky about, but most people will just take being able to talk for granted. But not you. You will get such a high with every word you say, even when you’re my age – 22! You appreciate your voice in ways that others will never understand. For most girls their dreams are to become rich, famous, to marry their favourite singer, but not you. Your dreams have always been to be able to talk and show everyone who you really are. You get very frustrated that your SM hides away who you really are; all you want to do is express who you really are rather than having people think that you’re someone who you are not. Well, that dream is going to come true, just you wait and see! You’re lucky because unlike many others, you’re someone who’ll get to see all their biggest dreams come true. I just want you to keep going and keep trying, which I know you will do any way. You are so brave for everything that you put up with everyday. Life seems to throw the worst at you every day, but you continue to get up every single day and continue to fight. You’re a fighter, you always have been; you wouldn’t have been able to get through all you have if you weren’t. And you are very courageous, even though many people may not realise it, but a quote you should hear is this, “courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow.” This quote could’ve been written for you. I know you don’t think very highly of yourself. Our Selective Mutism causes you to have a low self-esteem so you probably won’t believe any of the nice things I am saying about you. I still need you to hear them anyway because you aren’t told any of this enough. You are fighting a battle every single day and no one knows just how hard it is for you. But I know there are two words that you need to hear, “I understand.” Many people have said this to you, but I want you to hear it from me because I need you to hear it from someone who genuinely does understand. I understand your struggles and I understand the strength it takes to just get out of bed every day, even if you don’t go out that day; you’re still getting up and continuing to fight and for that, I think you are very courageous. There are not many people that could get up and deal with the things that you deal with every day. Just keep fighting, one day it will all pay off and great things will come to you. I promise you that.
Love, 22 year old you.