Dear 17-Year-old Hannah,
So you made it to 44! Woo hoo! The good news is that boy you were obsessing over, who tortured you throughout high school (and tried to in college), he’s totally gone! In fact, you met your now husband just a few months after graduating high school. And guess what? He’s everything you never knew you could have back then.
Seventeen…yeah that was a REALLY tough time for you. You had your first (yes, there will be a second, but this letter isn’t about that) real breakdown on Halloween night 1992, and you stopped going to school for a while.
Don’t despair! Even though the timing was terrible, with applying to college and all, not only did you go back to school but you also applied to a bunch of colleges and got into every single one that you applied to! And the one you chose is where you met that awesome guy you married and are still, 26 years later, married to!
But starting Halloween night 1992, you began to suffer from terrible panic attacks and became terrified to leave the house. You also developed a bit of an eating disorder too. Before I tell you how those things turned out, I think you need to hear something else:
There is something I need to tell you about that bad boy. He was worse than you thought: that he called you slut, whore, and bitch in the hallways of school, that he and his friends would prank call you over and over saying similarly nasty things, that he would sometimes push you against the lockers or have someone slam into you at school, that he would humiliate you over and over by saying he wanted to be with you and then in front of other people ignore you or put you down. That he described some intimate moments in detail to other people so that it would get back to you and embarrass you. That wasn’t “just a boy being a boy” as some of the adults in your life told you. That wasn’t all because the truth was he couldn’t handle his feelings for you as many adult people told you. No, it was because he was sick. There was something wrong with him. And though you carried shame and embarrassment over how he treated you, you need to know that his behavior towards you wasn’t your fault. You didn’t cause him to be that way.
The world has changed since 1992 and women are calling out the terrible behavior of men and boys and people are listening. So hang in there. Things do get better.
You also need to know that seventeen-year-old Hannah was strong, and you eventually ended it with that terrible boy. You did call him out on all of his bad behavior and eventually were able to stand up for yourself and put an end to it. You walked away. You moved on.
That’s because you were very strong.
Here is the other thing you need to know, that eating disorder is gone completely. You worked hard at recovery and were able to figure out that the source was anxiety.
Unfortunately, your struggles with anxiety didn’t go away. In fact you would re-encounter it pretty intensely in your late thirties and early forties, but you know how you pulled through? By remembering how seventeen-year-old Hannah survived, grew, and got through it. You pulled out your old diaries and some of those favorite self-help books—like The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, that one you carried around all the time? You still have it. Complete with seventeen-year-old Hannah’s notes in it!
Final note: you are strong, stronger than you are able to see but know this: 44 year old Hannah sees your strength and draws from it every day.
The letter above is part of an ongoing weekly series featuring letters from authors to their teen selves. If you're a published author who'd like to participate in this series, we'd love to have you. Just click here and let us know you're interested.
About The Author: Often referred to as “the teenage whisperer,” Hannah R. Goodman’s twenty-year career working with teenagers includes the titles teacher, tutor, coach, and, more recently, mental health counselor. Hannah has written essays about mental health for various online publications. Her work has appeared on MindBodyGreen, OC87 Recovery Diaries, Zencare.co, and The Mighty. Though she has previously earned the title author with her first three books, those were all were self-published. This time around, publisher Black Rose Writing released her novel Till It Stops Beating in July, 2018. DigiTerra (an imprint of Black Rose Writing) released the boxed set of the first three Maddie books (The Maddie Chronicles: Books 1-3) in December 2018. Literary Titan’s review praised Till It Stops Beating for “tackling a difficult issue like anxiety and making a story that was funny and sweet without making light of the issue.” Hannah is a graduate of Pine Manor College's Solstice Program in Creative Writing where she earned an MFA in Writing For Young People. She resides in Bristol, RI with her husband, two daughters, and two cats—Woody and Zoe.