Remember that time you tried to top yourself by hiding under the covers? That was hilarious. I remember you tugging at the edges of the blanket and praying, without a shred of scientific evidence, that the lack of oxygen would be enough to kill you. You sat under there for something like fifteen minutes before you gave up and went to make a sandwich. But while you were under there, choking a little on your pillow because you never washed your sheets, I remember you thought someone was watching. Someone who understood your suffering. Someone who understood you.
Kid, that was me. And I've got two words for you: man up. Life can get a whole lot harder than this. Before too much longer, it's going to. And by the time you get to my age, you're going to be glad.
Why were you hiding under there, anyway? It must have been important, because I've completely forgotten. Maybe you were fighting with your parents. Maybe they were threatening to do it on your bed. You hate them now, but it might surprise you to learn that your family will never again be this stable. Your mother will leave your stepfather for a man she met on a play-by-email Dungeons & Dragons game, carrying out her courtship with him right there in the tavern until the dungeon master, plainly frustrated, asks them to keep roleplay and cybersex separate. You'll handle this better than you expected, though your stepfather will be gutted. It was his D&D game.
Eventually, your mother will leave you too, picking up sticks and moving to England in order to be closer to the man she loves, who lives in America. You'll live alone in the family home for half a year, subsisting mainly on packet pasta and hash browns, until your stepfather remembers you exist and kicks you out. At this point, you'll have to learn to beg money from the government. You'll drift from friend's flat to friend's couch to friend's floor before being taken in by university housing as an emergency case on the fast track to becoming a basket case. Then, before you've even got your posters up on the walls, your mother will return with your new father-figure in tow. He'll stay for a few months, leave on the pretext of looking after his own daughter, then return to shack up with some woman with a sex dungeon in her basement.
Those government handouts will start to look really good.
Boys will happen. Later on, men will happen. You'll fall in and out of love, in and out of infatuation and, on one occasion, fall right out of the bed because the sex is just that boring. The love of your life will fade away, to be replaced by a second love of your life, a whole series of loves of your life, possibly accompanied by some sort of colour-coded chart. Because parents are here to help with the subtle polka of seduction, your mother will conclude that meeting one of your new boyfriends is the perfect opportunity to seek feedback on her new silver-topped riding crops. You'll be promiscuous—though in hindsight, not nearly promiscuous enough. However, you will have the pleasure of asking your eighth sexual partner out on the 8/8/2008, and telling him over a glass of wine and the Olympic opening ceremony that he is your "lucky shag".
So it's not all bad. But most of it is. Because, just as a truck cannot run over a cheese sandwich without leaving an indent, your rollercoaster childhood has not left you without scars. You won't even notice them at first. A shudder at the thought of doing your hair. A twitch when someone drops a pen. But over time, those twitches and shudders will grow and combine until finally, like a sad woman with a Tim Tam, the anxiety will swallow you whole.
Some days you will be too scared to leave the house. Those will be the good days. Those little shakes and heartaches will cost you degrees, jobs and lovers. And, just as you're finally diagnosed, with a cheeky mixture of bipolar and borderline personality disorder, a strange, debilitating fatigue will set in. Simple tasks will seem exhausting. You'll stay in bed for days at a time, even if you don't want to. After two years of an interminable medical limbo, you'll be diagnosed yet again, this time with severe fibromyalgia.
You're going to have to learn to love those big pill boxes. You'll also have to learn to live with a body that is trying to eat you up from the inside like a pickle. Your life will begin to revolve around your illnesses, except on those rare occasions when it revolves around the illnesses of others. Not long before your initial diagnosis, your immediate ex will take sixty pills and show up half-dead at your front door; the ensuing confrontations with police, paramedics and your new boyfriend will form perhaps your strangest ever second date. Six months later, you will be prescribed the same pills he took.
All this will have ramifications for your career. You'll never be a famous opera singer, for one. To be honest, you should probably start assuming now that you'll never be a famous anything. Your biggest triumphs in six years of tertiary music education will be a) getting a letter from a psychologist to the effect that attending a certain lecturer's classes is damaging to your mental health, b) singing a song you wrote about farts to an audience of over two hundred people, and c) meeting someone who once met John Cage. You'll throw yourself heart and stomach into your degree, but as your health drops like the level on a grandma's gin bottle you'll find the cattiness, the competition, the absent professors and the abusive directors exhausting. Eventually, a dark bird out of the shining flock, you'll leave music entirely behind.
I'm not going to tell you what you're going to be doing when you get to my age. I don't know why I'm telling you any of this at all. You're still under the blankets, clinging to a scientifically preposterous method of suicide. Even if I could shout through time and half a dozen pillows, you wouldn't listen. But I will say this: I'm sorry. For everything you've been through. For everything you have coming. The next ten years are going to be a little like plastic surgery, because they're going to hurt like hell. But unlike plastic surgery, they stand a chance of changing you.
If you're ready to kick off the covers and man up.