by Bree Chumley
Erin’s note: Bree is my best friend, and someone who I truly admire. I asked her to write a guest post, and she happily obliged. I believe what she wrote below is a true testament to the power of words (especially through zines), and the importance of forming bonds with people.
A close family friend contacted me earlier this week about a client she was working with through the social work center she’s a part of. This client is in the 8th grade and is just about to turn fourteen years old. She’s recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, social anxiety and is showing symptoms of being suicidal. That sounds pretty awful, right? Yeah, it does to me, too. More for a specific reason: those exact same things happened to me at that exact same age. This young girl and I have another thing in common: we wanted to get into zines to deal with our emotional disorders. My family friend sounded distressed for a multitude of reasons, but the main one being that this client reminded her so much of me at that age and even now at twice that age.
So now I’m in this position of being able to talk to myself 13 years ago. To write letters of support and encouragement and send zines that show how I’ve worked through these issues since I was diagnosed as a teenager. It sounded like a dream opportunity at first when my friend called me for advice and a favor of writing this young girl. But it’s now 4 days later and I’m realizing what a huge daunting task this is. I’m literally overcoming the issues I sustained as a young teenager NOW in therapy, as in, the past few months. But now I’m thrown right back into this position of reexamining and rehashing my muddy past all over again. It’s extremely hard to not get wrapped up in self pity and loathing for how I spent a large portion of my life thus far.
And another problem that I’m trying to strategize a solution to… because my emotional and mental disorders were inconsistently treated, I feel that it led to me being extremely vulnerable to heavy drugs, drinking at a young age, and promiscuous unsafe sex. How do I approach a teenager about how ugly it can actually get for you? That there’s a good chance you’ll fall into these patterns too? That they’ll basically wreck your life? Should I use this as a jumping-off point to encourage her to always take care of herself and keep her best interest in mind? I mean really, will reading about this inspire her to listen to what her instincts tell her? Or will she feel it is “okay” to do these things, too? How do I try to inspire her to write it all out and don’t give into the easy fixes? God, I really don’t know.
If there was ever a tangible reward for writing about this shit going on in your life and sharing it with complete strangers… this has got to be it.