After having a conversation with someone, do you ever think about the things you wished you had said to them? Do you ever think about the things you wish they had said to you? I know both are true for me. Now this might seem a bit odd – but do you ever think about things you wish you had told yourself? This is something I think about a lot.
In the past four years, I have had three major depressive episodes, two of which required that I be in hospital for my own safety. The first episode was a completely new – and not the least bit pleasant – experience. However, the next two episodes felt like I was just going down the same road again, and again. When I was recovering from my most recent depressive episode, I started to think of things I wished someone had told me, things that would have helped me get through it. They say hindsight is 20-20, after all.
This got me thinking, how great would it be if I could tell myself exactly what I needed to hear when I was struggling? What if I could plan ahead, and set things in place that would make it easier next time? In a perfect world, I would never have to battle depression again. But chances are, there will be a “next time”. I will likely get struck with another depressive episode during my lifetime. The difference is, this time I will be prepared. Through my own blog, I am writing myself a series of letters. For one thing, these letters make me accountable for every step of my recovery journey. But more importantly, these letters are for me to read and gain strength from whenever I am in a bad place.
I have found these letters to be very helpful so far, and I am writing today to share with you how to go about writing your own letter of hope and support. Let’s get started…
How to Write Yourself a Love Letter
Make absolutely sure that it is LOVING, that you are kind and gentle to yourself. Sure, you may be writing this letter to give yourself the kick-in-the-butt that you have been so badly needing, but you can still do that in a caring way. You want to be your own best friend, your own guardian angel, your own personal cheerleader. Basically, you yourself are going to be exactly what you need. You are going tell yourself what you need to hear. You are going to instruct yourself on what you need to do. You are going to be there for yourself.
Where to start? First, you need to think back to a time when you were most in need of kind, caring support. It may be painful to revisit some of your darkest days, but if these days come back to visit you, you will need to be prepared. Try your best to remember what you needed most in those painful, bleak moments. Was it encouragement? Structure? Guidance? Comfort? Maybe you need a bit of each, but try to start your letter with what has helped you most, or what you have needed most in the past. I’ll give a few examples of each:
This is where you get to be your own personal cheerleader.
- look to the past, remind yourself of a challenge that you have overcome.
- remind yourself of some of your strengths, or positive traits people have noticed about you.
This is where you set in place some plans for yourself; where you take charge and actively work towards feeling better.
- make a deal with yourself, that if you get something done (even if it’s getting out of bed and dressed) you get a reward.
- you may want to set in place a schedule for days when you feel like doing nothing, and feel even worse for having done nothing.
- if a schedule seems too rigid, try listing a few activities that you will be able to do, and maybe even enjoy!
This is where you get to be your own Guardian Angel, the voice of hope when things seem bleak.
- think of some on-point advice that you have been given, if you believe it will help with future troubles.
- think back to some life lessons you have learned, and consider how they can help you in the future.
This is what you need most of all, to be your own best friend and support system.
- find a way to acknowledge and accept how poorly you may be feeling.
- list some comfort items – it may be a snack, a book, a playlist, or something material like a sweater or stuffed animal.
- write out some quotes or sayings that can bring you comfort and hope when you’re faced with mental health issues.
These are only a few categories – let them be a starting place and feel free to think up some more that will fit your personal experience. There is almost no wrong way to write yourself a love letter. I say “almost” because there is one thing to be concerned about – you have to make sure that the instructions you give yourself are helpful and not harmful. Please, be kind to yourself, even when your mind may be telling you to do otherwise.
I hope I have provided you with effective tips on how to start off a love letter to yourself. The rest of it is in your hands – and I am sure you’ll do just fine. When you’re happy with your letter, keep it somewhere you can easily find it. Maybe you will save it on your phone, or tuck it in your wallet. The most important thing is for it to be there for you, allowing you to be there for yourself, when you need it most.
- Colleen, MyDearColleen