Dear (almost) eight-year-old Lauren,
So, you want to be a writer, eh? That’s a pretty cool typewriter. It once belonged to Mom. When she was in university. You’re in university now, and trust me, we only use computers.
I know you guys have a computer too, though. Windows 95, right? I’m guessing you’re using that typewriter instead of the computer because Dad is using the computer right now. He’s probably writing another paper for his Master’s Degree, yeah?
Well I have some news for you – Dad is going to take ten years to finish that degree. I know, I know. It sounds pretty rough. So many years where you’ll have to beg him just to use the computer for a few minutes so you can feed your starving neopets.
But Dad took it slow so he could still spend tons of time with you, and so that he could still work full time. So, please, try not to complain too much.
Anyway, you’re eight years old now. In my last letter, I mentioned something pretty serious. I mentioned that when you turn eight years old, you’ll develop a life-changing phobia of vomiting. I guess it’s time to talk to you about that now.
At this point, I don’t think it’s happened to you yet. But it will. In March 2000, you’ll be almost eight years old. Not quite – you’re still two months away. In March 2000, you’ll catch the stomach flu from your best friend. It will last an entire week.
And then you’ll get better. You’ll be okay. But then…you’ll catch the stomach flu again. Right after you get over it, you’ll be sick for another week. And that second bout really does it for you. You’ll become terrified of vomiting. You’ll stop eating altogether.
You’ll basically stop eating for five years straight.
I know, you probably can’t imagine that happening to you. And not eating, well, that doesn’t even sound too bad, right? But it is bad, because your body really, really needs food. Doctors will tell Mom that you’re borderline “failure to thrive.” You won’t think it’s serious, but it is.
Every time your stomach hurts, you’ll have a panic attack. And…yeah…your stomach will hurt every single day from then until now. I know, that part still kind of sucks.
You won’t notice, but Mom will be so stressed out that she’ll lose weight. And you know Mom, she’s already super skinny.
I hate to tell you this, but you’ll never be the same after March 2000. You’ll be afraid to go to restaurants, you’ll be afraid to go to your friend’s birthday parties, you’ll be afraid to go on vacations, you’ll even be afraid to eat Mom’s cooking.
You’ll also be ashamed. You’ll never tell your friends why you can’t sleepover at their houses, or why you had to leave school early for the third time that week, or why you aren’t growing anymore. Yeah, you’re going to stunt your own growth.
Dad will try to get you to eat. He’ll tell you that if you don’t eat, you’ll never grow. He’ll tell you that you’ll be short forever. He was right, but it doesn’t really matter. That’s not the part that matters. Your mental health matters a lot more than your 4’11” frame.
You’re going to go through this all, and it will be the scariest thing ever. It’ll be scary for you, and for Mom, and for Dad, and for all the relatives that know what’s going on.
But, here I am, talking to you, so…you obviously make it through. You know what I did two weeks ago? I stayed over at my in-laws place for an entire week (Yeah, I’m married now), ate out at three different restaurants, and went to school even though my stomach was killing me – with zero panic attacks!
I’m telling you this because I want you to know the best part. As hard as the next few years are going to be, I have good news.
You know how you wanted to be a writer? Well eventually, you’ll go to university for writing. And you’ll take this really awesome class that lets you publish a book. You’ll publish a collection of fourteen short stories. And those short stories will all be about your anxiety and your emetophobia (your phobia of vomiting).
By 22, you’ll be a published author.
That’s not even the best part, though. The best part is that dozens of people you don’t even know will tell you how much your book helped them or someone else in their life. They’ll tell you that it helped them understand their own anxiety, they’ll tell you that YOUR book helped them work on their own mental health issues. Your struggles will help other people.
I know that you’re eight right now, and you probably don’t even care. But your anxiety and your emetophobia and all the crap you’re going to go through from now until then will not break you. Trust me. You’ll be okay.