Dear Fifteen-Year-Old Rachel,
Believe it or not, you will be in college in 2017. I know this is a year later than you hoped, but a lot has happened. You have survived a lot. In some ways, it is a miracle you are here at all.
Autoimmune diseases flip your world upside down. One day you are the aspiring valedictorian and the next you are a high school dropout. It is going to take forever to get answers about why you can no longer function, and you never thought you would wish to be dead. I know how agonizingly frustrating that is. You will get answers eventually. Your family is so determined to figure this out for you. The countless appointments, tests, and emergency room trips will get old, but they will help you in the end.
It will be a few years before you get any sort of real results, but your life will begin to improve in the meantime.
There is no shame in taking medications and seeing a therapist. (And bouncing from therapist to therapist to find one you “click” with is a good thing to do. You will not hurt anyone’s feelings.) Taking care of your mental health is no different than taking care of your physical health.
When you finally get a formal diagnosis, you will learn that there is no cure for what you have. In fact, there are not many treatments for it at all. It feels great to put a name to the monster, but ultimately what good does it do to know what it is called without knowing what type of ammunition kills it? However, this does not deter you for one moment. You have a future to live, and a new boy came into your life at the most unexpected time. Who knows where that will go?
The unknown is a terrifying thing. I know. Unfortunately, Nineteen-Year-Old you still has no clue what sort of career to have. That is okay though. There are a lot of people at Saint Vincent College – yes, I know you did not want to go to another Catholic school, but you will get over it – who are more than happy to help. You have already crossed some potential majors off your list. That is quite a feat considering how indecisive you know I am.
I want you to know that you are so much stronger than you ever imagined, and so many people love you. It will feel like the whole universe is against you sometimes. Other times it will not feel like anything at all. Life gets better though. I promise. You are a better person because of what you will go through. And that new boy? He is strolling beside you on campus at SVC more than two years later.
Take care of yourself.