So much has happened in the last 12 months, there are days where I just wish I could go back and give myself a bit of advice about what’s to come…
Hey 27 year old Chris,
Right now you think things are alright. You think that for the first time in as long as you can remember things are going right. Being able to talk about your depression publicly for the first time was a huge step and you felt like a huge weight was taken off you. The last few months you’ve had a few great holidays and weekends away. You don’t know it yet, but later this year you’ll sit at the finish of the Yorkshire Marathon after your best ever race and start to imagine how things might turn out.
The problem is, life doesn’t always work out the way you dreamed. You already know that by now. Your health issues, your disability, your dreams that have fallen by the wayside are all testament to that. And yet you keep dreaming. Because you’re only human.
The next year is going to be tougher than you ever imagined. The toughest you’ve experienced in 27 years on this earth. Your health is going to take another downwards spiral and all those dreams you had will be forgotten, whilst you spend months in pain (I can’t tell you if the pain improves…). A song will come along and tear your heart apart time and time again as it reminds you of what you’re missing with your twin. You’ll spend months blaming yourself for a situation you could have done nothing about. You’ll regret ever talking about your depression as you get crushed time and time again by the heartless comments from people who think you need to ‘get on with it’.
And yet, you’ll have some of the best races and opportunities you’ve ever had, including getting to retain your Great Run title in no less than the Olympic Stadium! You’ll conquer a huge fear in going abroad completely independently in your wheelchair (which is all the more impressive considering the circumstances in which it happens). You’ll create some new friends for life and have some incredible evenings sharing your love of music with them. And you wait till you seen the lineup for next year’s C2C – it’s going to be the best weekend of your life (just make sure you get that Bluebird Cafe ticket…)
So knowing all that, here’s my tips for getting through it all (and they’re tips I reckon we can all live by)…
You can’t hold yourself responsible for the decisions other people make. You can’t always make everything else better. For a while, you won’t get that. Day after day you’ll ask yourself ‘what if?’. You’ll blame yourself for other people’s difficulties. But you can’t know everything. You can’t fix everything. The sooner you can stop blaming yourself, the less painful it is. Everyone will tell you there’s nothing you could have done. You won’t believe them but they’re right.
Be willing to talk and share your feelings when your heart is breaking. The beauty of music is that it says things you simply can’t find the words to say. You’ll find it a great tool when blogging. Take the next step and use it to have difficult conversations, to explain how your heart is pulled apart. Otherwise it will eat away at you until it causes you more pain than you can imagine. You think you’re being strong. You think by the time you’re in your late 20’s these things shouldn’t upset you anymore, that even your family will think you’re crazy. They don’t. And once you’ve had a good cry you’ll feel a lot better for being able to share.
As people hurt you with comments that you know aren’t right you’ll become ever more insular and independent. After all, you can show everybody you’re doing fine, that you don’t need support. Time and again people will ask if you’re OK and you’ll just say yes. You’ll make sure your social networks paint a picture of someone who’s enjoying life and getting on with things. And yet by not talking to anyone you put yourself in a situation where you cause yourself to break down as soon as you roll through your own front door on a far too regular basis. You’ll make yourself feel far, far worse. Likelihood is that those people asking if you’re OK do actually care. They want to know, to support you. If you talk to them it might help. You might not find things so hard. Hey – you might not even have to write yourself this! Remember, you’re not invincible. However much you’d like to be.
In the midst of all the battles with your health you are going to go through some pretty tough patches. You’ll think it’s the end of the world. You’ll feel like things will never get better. I can’t tell you right now what the ‘everything is better’ feels like because I’m not there. But I’ll tell you what I have found. Hold onto the good times. In spite of all the challenges, all the struggles, and all the pain, you’ve had some pretty awesome moments this year. Hold on to those moments. Those videos of Brad Paisley singing ‘Today’ at C2C, Bailey Bryan on the popup (you don’t even know her name yet!) and Cassadee Pope in the Bluebird – keep them on your phone (sorry to ruin the lineup announcement for you by the way!) You’re going to go back to those videos time and time again. You’re going to watch them literally hundreds of times on your bad days. But they’re a reminder that life does have it’s positives. It might not always feel that way but you have some brilliant moments. Hold onto them.
Oh, and keep dreaming. No one should ever stop dreaming. No, not every dream comes true. But having dreams will always push you forward. It will always move you on. And better to be hurt by not reaching your dreams, then to not aspire to anything in the first place.
See you in the mirror,
28 year old Chris
PS. The concept of writing a ‘letter to me’ is not one I can take credit for. But then you know that, because even at 27 you loved Brad Paisley. Remember as Brad says in his song “You got so much going for you, going right”…