‘LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF’
Looking back on our lives is something we all do, for the bad and the good. For me, although hard, it’s been therapeutic. Quite often, throughout this process, I’ve been able to make sense of difficult periods, and move forward in my life. As my missus always says, “Everything happens for a reason”.
After much encouragement from my better half, I took the decision to undertake a weekly course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for about 6 months, starting in late 2021. As mentioned in my previous blogs, much of my early childhood was spent in therapy, of one kind or another, to try to search for reasons for the obsessive and intrusive thoughts I was experiencing.
During my adulthood, I have had further counselling to try to make sense of my life. It’s my belief that undertaking this kind of ‘treatment’ as an adult is something only you alone can decide. Every course of therapy I have sought has been something I needed, and wanted, to do at the time. To be honest, by the very nature of the activity, these sessions have been extremely soul baring. However, the saying “No pain, no gain” has been very true for me. I’ve come out of the processes with a greater ability to move forward in life.
The following was an exercise I was set by my CBT Counsellor; to write a letter to my younger self, giving advice from my fifty-plus years of life experience. I hope you will find this enlightening and maybe find within it some personal meaning for yourself…
Dear Young Ben
As the much older you (although, to be honest, I’m still a big kid at heart), I thought I’d drop you a line or two about life. What can I tell you about the future? Well, there will be difficult times, of course. That’s something we all learn to deal with in our own unique way. However, from my experience, there are a whole lot of good times to come.
At the moment, your head is totally messed up, with lots of obsessive, negative, thoughts. This isn’t helped by weekly train trips up to Guys Hospital, South East London to see Dr X. She’ll try to help you figure out what’s troubling you. It’s not easy to understand yourself, yet alone tell others how you are feeling. On top of that, Mum is always trying to get you to talk about what’s going on in your head, about the thoughts you experience during those stressful ‘screaming fits’ you regularly have.
It’s understandable that you have massive meltdowns, it’s terrifying having all these paranoid thoughts circulating in your head. It’s a vicious circle, the more you scream the more you think people are watching you. Maybe this is true, it’s certainly not ‘normal’ behaviour, folk are naturally nosey, some more than others.
You won’t be able to see this for a while, but all those weird and obsessive thoughts will become the making of you. Everywhere you’ll see and read things that will reflect that the world doesn’t see you as ‘normal’. I’ll tell you straight, ‘normal’ is shite. It’s boring and goes nowhere. Enjoy being your eccentric self and don’t worry if that leads to a sad existence of gossip for others; these people have no lives of their own to talk about.
Obsession is great, it gives you the focus and ambition needed to achieve many great things in life. All these women you’ll become fixated on, whether in real life or on the telly, deep down you’ll know you will have as much chance of love with them as Palace winning the Champion’s League (that’s very unlikely!). However, they’ll inspire you to push on and be someone that, when they meet you in years to come, they’ll be so impressed and fall madly in love with you. That’s what I kept on telling myself anyway! Now that’s all academic, as I’ve finally found real love with a fantastic ‘Liverpool Girl’ and we’ve been together for over 13 years…so far.
There will always be times when you will doubt and be hard on yourself. What I have slowly learnt over the years is that, often, these situations are far worse in your head than reality. We all make mistakes, it’s human nature, it’s how we deal with them that’s important. At first, you’ll panic and be a ‘stress head’. That’s part of your makeup. However, you are a logical guy (think there’s a song title in there somewhere), and quickly find creative solutions to these obstacles in life. Even if these don’t follow the normal rules, the outcomes will be positive. As the missus always asks me when I’m berating myself for some small thing, like dropping a plate, “Did anyone die?” This helps me to put things into perspective.
You’ll be able to laugh at yourself and the situations you’ll find yourself in. And I’ll tell you, there are some corkers, especially involving stupid amounts of alcohol! You have a great sense of fun and mischief. As you get older, this is something you’ll never grow out of. Quite rightly so, life’s about living, even if you think “how the **** do I get out this one?!”
Anyway, I guess that’s all the advice on life I think is worth knowing. It’s up to you what you take or leave. The choice is yours and never apologies for it!
Take it easy now. I’ll see you in a bar in a few years’ time for a pint, and a catch up on how life is going.”
Love from Older (but very much young at heart) Ben x“
Letter written April 2022, edited February 2023.
It’s been a few months since I first wrote this letter. Rereading it, I feel a sense of pride for putting this together. Sometimes, it’s good to remind yourself what’s important in life and how far you’ve come down its pathway, for the better. Nothing’s ever straightforward, and to be honest, I’d be bored stupid if this were the case. I’m eccentric and proud!
In my next few blogs, I’ll be sharing some creative writing that was published in a Wirral Mind newsletter when I was editor, twenty years ago.
Jarmin Apple, February 2023