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Dear me,

Hey there, it’s me. Seven years later.

I know it seems a bit odd, writing a letter to my 13-year-old self, now that I’m 20 and “all grown up”.

I’m writing now because I vividly remember the confusion when we were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder back when we were 13, starting secondary school and clueless about the life ahead of us.

It was even worse during stressful periods like the exams, like how many of the O-level and A-level students are going through right now.

Well, at least our diagnosis gave us an answer to many questions we had: For instance, why we were so sad all the time; why we constantly felt something bad was going to happen; and why we struggled to sleep at night.

We aren’t alone in these feelings, you know. A lot more teenagers are seeking help for their mental health struggles. And about one in three youth in Singapore has reported internalising mental health symptoms such as sadness, anxiety and loneliness, according to a recent national study.

I’m sorry, I’m not writing to tell you that we have been cured. However, over these past seven years, we have discovered a lot about ourselves.

And I thought that I would like to share these with you — seeing which I wish that someone had told me such things when we were struggling in those early days.

1. Progress isn’t linear

Progress isn't linear
Image source: Yen

There are three categories of feelings that you will experience — the highs, the lows and what I like to call “the grey”.

There will be days where you feel on top of the world. You feel like you can ace that test, chat with strangers, go out and socialise for hours.

Then there are days when even the idea of getting out of bed for school gives you so much anxiety that you’d rather dive back under the covers and get an MC for school.

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Those are the extreme ends of the spectrum. The grey is when you feel as though you’re floating in space, not knowing or feeling anything.

I hope that by reading this, you would know when you are having your lows or your grey areas, you do not feel like you’re starting all over again or that your progress has gone to waste.

It’s normal for the progress to be rocky, but take the downs with the ups and realise that it will only get better from here.

2. You’re not defined by your diagnosis

You’re not defined by your diagnosis
Image source: Troops on print

It may be a part of you, but not all of you.

Your diagnosis does not have the power to weigh you down from what you want to achieve in your life — unless you give it the power over you.

Oftentimes we forget that we have control over our circumstances, not the other way around.

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Having a mental illness holds us back from doing a lot of things. But I hope that by reading this, you do not let it take over the life you want to live.

So go out, talk to a friend, get that outfit you always wanted. Do whatever you want to do. Be whoever you want to be. Be brave and never let it get in your way.

3. Not everyone will understand

Not everyone will understand
Image source: @annastrophe

When people are unaware or they don’t understand something, their initial reaction is to poke fun at it.

I remember you crying when people called us names while we were having a panic attack; I remember the photos of you that were cruelly uploaded online to make fun of you in such a vulnerable state; I remember the laughter directed towards us as we felt our body slowly grow numb.

Things like that will hurt you and make you never want to trust anyone ever again.

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I hope that by reading this, I can reassure you that one day, people will understand you better. Perhaps not now, but as you get older, you will find kind people who will try to understand and be there for you.

It is not your job to educate others on your mental health, nor to make them understand you, especially when you were just as confused as they were about your personal growth journey.

Even now at 20, there’s a lot we have yet to discover about ourselves.

I still can’t help but be afraid sometimes of what life has in store for us.

But I’m writing here to tell you that you will be okay. I’m writing here to tell me that I will be okay.

No matter what, we will be okay, and it’s okay to not feel okay at times.

You are all sorts of things you don’t even know yet. You got this.

With much love,


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