To thirteen year old me,
You’ve just turned thirteen and you’ve stopped sleeping. Let me tell you, kid, this is the start of a very long road, you’ve got five years of illness ahead of you, so buckle up. You’ll have a sleeping disorder for two years, no sedatives will knock you out and box sets will become your best friend. The night can be a lonely place but you’ll get through it, you’ll be awake to see the sun rise, so trust that at the end of the darkness there is always light. Just as you start sleeping properly again you’re going to get hit by chronic pain. You’ll be in hospital six times within two months and the doctors won’t know what causes it; they work it out eventually, keep going. You’ll be loaded up to your eyes on painkillers and experience treatments so agonising you can’t even comprehend the pain and the pain will still be there, but you’ve got to carry on. While this is going on, you’re going to lose the most monumental man you’ve ever known and the pain of it will break you to the point where you feel like you can’t go on, but you will. Just as things start getting better, something else will hit you – this will happen a fair few times and you’ll question whether things will ever be okay again – listen to Mum, she’s right when she says ‘things can’t keep going wrong forever’ – you won’t believe her now but you will, and it’ll get you through. There’ll be days where you feel so unwell you’ll literally question whether you’ll survive, but here you are, at twenty – still standing.
Because here’s the thing, kid – you haven’t met some of the most important people in your life yet. Some of the people in your life right now are there to stay, and some of the people who are supposed to be there for you won’t, but that’s okay because the great ones more than make up for those losses. Your Mum, Mike, Nana Kath and Papa Ron will inspire you more than you can imagine – you’ll mould yourself on these four incredible family members and you’ll be so thankful that you did. You are so, very blessed to have them in your life; they’ll fight for you, and with you, more than you can ever imagine. You inherited the feistiness of the Campbells but you’ll learn from the patience of your Mum and Mike. These four will continue to fill your life with all the love anyone could ever need, so much so that it’ll spill out to your friends and they’ll become part of the family too.
Let’s start with the girls. Leila will make you laugh so much you can’t breathe (she already does but this never stops), you’ll dance in supermarket aisles together in the middle of the night and pretend to be youtubers to guys in bars – the funny thing is that they’ll believe you, and it’s bloody hilarious. She will be there with you through absolutely every single thing life throws at you. You’ll gain a second family with her family and you’ll know what it is to say you’re not hungry in an Egyptian household, her dad will go through every food in the cupboard asking if you want it – it’s because he cares. Alice is your wild one, don’t even get me started on all the highs and party nights you’re going to have together, but she’ll stand with you through your darkest time too and tell you that you look like shit, because that’s what friends do. The two of you will keep each other going through some of your shittiest times. You’ve grown up with Bethany so far and you’ll continue to do that. You’ll be so amazed with her strength, you’ll stand together as you always have – despite how she used to always blame her childhood pranks on you.
Then, there’s the boys. Firstly, there’s Hugh – you were never really pals in primary school but he’ll end up being one of your closest friends, always there for a ranting chat and a rational comeback to your anxious ways. In a couple of months, you’re going to meet Oliver – his mind will blow you away and his humour will keep you laughing for years, he’s in your life to stay and you can always rely on him to reassure you. Then, there’s your two brothers – Billy and Sam. You’ll meet Billy at your 17th birthday, you’ll stay in touch with him and he’ll become one of your best friends – he’ll always be there to party, so much so he’ll reach ‘number one party pal’ status, but he’ll be there to hug you when you’re crying too. You’ll meet Sam that year as well, you’ll completely take the piss out of him for looking like he’s walked out of 5 Seconds of Summer. Don’t worry, he doesn’t wear a bandana forever. Sam and you are twins born four days apart. These two boys will drive you up the wall, you’ll go through shitty arguments but at the end of the day, you can’t stay mad at them – they’re just too bloody lovely and they both have hearts of pure gold. Some of your best memories will be with them.
You also haven’t experienced some of the best memories of my life so far. You haven’t seen the beauty of Jamaica or felt the pace of New York. You haven’t been swimming in the sea in the middle of the night after a bonfire beach party. You haven’t danced all night only to come crawling back home at 6 in the morning. You haven’t sung songs in Dublin pubs with everyone throwing their arms around each other. You haven’t seen your Mum marry Mike and watch her be the happiest you’ve ever seen her. You haven’t met all the wonderful people at Headway who will inspire you more than words can say. You haven’t been in the two relationships I’ve had so far – these will bring you so much joy and sadness, but you’ll gain great memories. You haven’t been to Glasgow and heard a whole arena sing along to Coldplay while the sun is setting. You haven’t been on the best date of your life where you’ll laugh so much your ribs will hurt and the guy will literally start an improv session with the couple on the next table. You haven’t felt the pure joy of driving through the countryside on a sunny day, blasting out U2, with the windows down. Right now, you’re 13 and you’re only just scratching life’s surface. Now, I’m 20, I’ve had so many bloody incredible memories and I’m still only just getting started.
So, what I’m trying to say to you is, kid – you’re going to feel so ill that you won’t believe you’ll ever be okay again, but you’ve got to keep going, because you have so many fucking incredible things to come.
If all you can do is crawl, start crawling – but carry on.
Stacks of love,
Twenty year old you x