Dear Michelle Hodkin,
I know it’s an atypical subject for a letter: death. When we think of death, we think of all the possible ways to avoid it. Death is feared greatly by many and considered our most inevitable enemy. For me however, death was a friend, a home, and a solution.
Depression is something that is unexplainable and something that you won’t understand unless you experience it. Every day you wake up and feel a heavy load on your shoulders. The mind is completely dark, and it feels like the tunnel is never-ending. You feel empty, sad, ugly, and ashamed, all at once. Everything is completely hopeless and helpless; and at this point, you no longer have the will to live. Depression is, in the most accurate words, living in a body that fights to survive with a mind that tries to die.
Living like this for three years made me feel insane and vulnerable. I knew all along that I wasn’t alone, that there were people all around the world who felt just like me; but I never had time to sit down and take that in. Reading your book The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer made me aware of this. I connected with Mara so much because we both felt misunderstood and mistreated. We both felt horrible emotions that no one at any age should be exposed to. It felt like I suddenly forgot how to swim, and I felt that burning sensation in my lungs every passing hour. Like Mara, I was oblivious to the fact that one day I would no longer feel this familiar sorrow, that one day I would no longer have to go to bed wishing my life would end. The thought of this mesmerized me, and it became a laughing matter for both of us because how could something so usual and common, such as depression, leave our sides so easily.
I was 13 when I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. When I found out, it felt like someone had ripped the skin off my chest. It didn’t surprise me, but it did hurt me mentally and physically. Seeing the look on my mom’s face was the worst thing I’ve ever had to deal with. Nothing can compare to that look of guiltiness and agony. Knowing that my mother probably blamed herself for all this made me stronger. I was determined not to let my pain show for her sake. Mara felt the same with her mother. She couldn’t stand looking at her mother worrying so much about her health. Mara was phenomenal at being stable with her emotions and staying courageous. Because of all these traits, I immensely admire her. Her characteristics are and always will be a perfect example to follow.
Displaying these emotions in public has never really been accepted by society. If I were to go up to my friends to talk about how I was feeling, their response would be to get over it. Hearing these responses made me angry and annoyed at everyone because no one would ever say “It’s just cancer, get over it.” Depression and anxiety to them meant nothing, while it can be just as terrible as any other disease. The fact that people didn’t think twice about how serious mental issues were completely disgusted me. Mara and I were both so tired of people who didn’t understand us. Doctors and psychologists became useless, and their words meant as little as our lives. I like to think of it as we both found comfort in each other – Mara and I. We were the only ones who had mutual sympathy and who were always there at any given time of the day. Your book taught me that hard times do indeed reveal good friends: the friendship that Mara and I have today.
Having depression and anxiety disorders are some things that have shaped me into who I am today. I always feared that these factors would hold me back from being the person whom I dreamed of becoming, but they made me exactly who I wanted to be. I’m now tough and have thick skin just like Mara. Looking back now, I have learned so many lessons. I know that I should never take anything for granted because someone might be praying for exactly that. I took my happiness for granted, and I never imagined going through what I did. Ironically enough, it was me who was praying for that happiness. You have taught me that it’s perfectly fine to be broken and to feel lost sometimes. You directed the idea that it’s ok to be insane and misunderstood by the world to me. Most importantly, you have shown me that I should never lose hope, and that I’m never alone no matter what I’m going through.
However, I don’t just want to thank you for creating your book and giving me the opportunity to become friends with Mara, but also because I know you understand me. While reading The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, I could tell you knew. You knew what it felt like to be shunned by everyone because of your mental issues. You knew what it was like having no one to turn to and feeling like the walls were closing in. You made an amazing character but all through your own feelings. I admire that you weren’t scared to bring this character to life and give it these emotions. For all this, thank you, because for once I feel like people understand me – you and Mara.