Dear Me: A Letter to my Sixteen-Year-Old Self

by Phil Hill
mental movement magazine

Phil,

Do you remember when you had to fill in your yearbook recently and they asked you “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”, but you left it blank because you really didn’t know what your future held? Well, I’m here to tell you. I may not know what you’ll be doing as you hit 30, where you’ll be in the world at 45, or if you’ll make it as far as 80, but what I can tell you is what you’re doing at 26 and how life’s treated you throughout the last 10 years.

For a start, you’re actually called Phil now and not just as a nickname. You changed your name legally in 2014. Mum and Dad weren’t best pleased, but would you expect them to be? You know what they’re like! You even got the date you changed it tattooed on you!

In fact, you have four tattoos… And a nose ring… And it’s fair to say your hair’s changed a bit! I’m not going to tell you what it looks like now as it might give you a heart attack but put it this way – it’s not halfway down your bum anymore! However, the boyish clothes are still as present as ever.

As for your job you currently work at Nando’s – yeah, I didn’t see that coming either! You’re a host – you greet people, sit them, make conversation. I know what you’re thinking – how can someone as shy and introverted as you be the face of a restaurant? But don’t panic. Believe it or not, you’re actually pretty confident now. I know. You’re as shocked as I am.

The last ten years have been tough, and I’ll be honest; you do still suffer from your mental health. But one thing I can promise you is that you’re in a MUCH better place than you are right now and life really DOES get better… How? Well, you somehow found the courage to open up to a counsellor when you were 18 and doing that changed your life. Actually, my one piece of advice to you from the last ten years would simply be to talk to someone. I know you don’t want to right now, but trust me, keeping everything inside isn’t helping you.

You’ve actually had therapy on and off for the last eight years and although you may find this hard to believe, you open up to almost everyone now; friends, colleagues, the 650 people who follow you on Instagram – I know it’s not 10,000 but I’m working on it! Oh right, of course, Instagram – it’s a social media platform where share pictures and videos. You use yours to talk candidly about what it’s like living with mental health issues in the hope that it will help others.

On that note, you’re still not that open with Mum and Dad and you probably never will be, but you did have to ‘fess up about your mental state when they caught you in the bathroom one day violently throwing up after you suddenly stopped taking your antidepressants – DO NOT SUDDENLY STOP TAKING YOUR ANTIDEPRESSANTS.

But there’s one more thing. You know how you think of yourself as a tomboy? Wellllll. I’m not really sure how to say this so I’m just going to spit it out. You’re not a girl anymore. No, I don’t mean you’re a woman, I mean you don’t identify as female anymore.

Gender is something you’ll learn loads more about as you get older but at the moment you’re confusing it with your sex and that’s why you think you’re a girl. But actually there are loads of genders out there; you just don’t identify as any one of them. I know that might sound a bit confusing, but it will all make sense in the summer of 2018. Just promise me you won’t worry about it in the meantime though; it’s not something for you to fear.

I’m not going to tell you everything that’s happened throughout the last decade; I mean there has to be some element of surprise! But what I can say is that you’re actually proud of yourself these days. I know you struggle to feel like that now and think the only people worthy of pride are those who are the world’s best at something, but that’s just not true. So please, stop trying to push down that feeling any time it starts to emerge. As a version of yourself that’s now older (and therefore wiser), listen to me when I say that being proud of yourself isn’t arrogant and if you continue to reject that feeling it’s something you’ll go onto regret…

Look, kid, there are parts of you that have remained the same and maybe always will – you’re still opinionated, you still don’t read enough and you’re still a stress head at times! But equally, you’ve grown a lot in the last ten years and have flourished in more ways than you could ever imagine.

Hang in there, OK? You’re on your way to greatness…

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