(Inspired by the book The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien)
To whom it may (probably does not) concern,
I carry around a lot of things. Some of them weigh more than others. I carry around my backpack with all of my school stuff. I carry my keys with my ID and pepper spray. I carry around my little sister because she’s still co-dependent on other people. I carry around lungs that don’t like to work sometimes and no one knows why. I carry two hearts: one for everyone else in my life, and a tiny heart that is mine and only mine, because it doesn’t like to share or be with others. It doesn’t like to think about itself or love itself as much as the other one loves other people. The other one cares for people day in and day out, asks them how they are doing, but this one is selfish and wallows in its own grief and doesn’t let anything leave. I carry around a brain that doesn’t love itself either; it’s brilliant but it’s self-depreciating and anxious and depressed and I have no clue how to fix it.
But the heaviest things I carry are secrets. I carry secrets that aren’t mine because my conversations with other people are always about them, never about me. I carry my own secrets, too. My anxiety is a secret from most, my depression a secret from all but a select few, and there’s one secret that is known by many, but if my family knew, I don’t know how they would react or what I would do. I carry this secret because I have to; it’s not something I chose. I try to normalize it to myself, but each time I do, someone brings it up and it sounds so weird that i have to poeticize it in my head to make it almost normal again. And it should be normal. Society shouldn’t be so scared of people who are different, and we shouldn’t have to fight for our rights if we’re still human and just as normal as you, but some days I wonder if it would be such a big deal to me if it weren’t as stigmatized as it is right now. I just don’t know how to change my brain, my way of thinking, to tell myself that it is normal, it’s okay, society is the one who’s messed up, not you. I don’t know if I really chose to carry this or I always have been and I just didn’t realize it, or if something in me just changed one day. I don’t know.
Every night before I go to bed, I tell myself that I’m not going to think about it at all the next day, but the next morning it comes up somehow; it’s in my brain when I wake up, or someone says something at school, or about a million other things, but since I started carrying this secret around, I haven’t gone a day without thinking about it. I wish it was normal, and people weren’t turned down from jobs, or glared at on the street, or not allowed to visit their loved ones in the hospital, just because they’re different. If the world was more accepting, maybe i would be writing this letter about something else right now, instead of how generations of people have fought for the right to get married and are still denied that right today, and how much it bothers me that I could be told one day that I can’t marry the woman I love. I wish I could just drop this and not worry about it, but this secret affects me every day, and will probably do so for the rest of my life. Hopefully in a more positive way as time goes on.
This secret that I carry around (that you’ve probably guessed by now) affects my health. I have anxiety because I’m constantly afraid it’s going to be used against me somehow, or that someone who isn’t supposed to know is going to find out. I’m depressed because I want to talk to my mom about this but I can’t because I’m afraid of how she’ll react, and then once I realize that, it will sometimes give me an anxiety attack. It’s a cycle that never ends. It weighs on my mental health, and my emotional health, and sometimes that drains me of my energy and makes me super tired and affects how I go about the rest of my day.
Without this secret of mine though, I’d probably feel stuck for the rest of my life, and really confused, too. I’m sure it would eventually find me again anyways, but some days it feels like I started my midlife crisis at fifteen.