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  • Laura Ryder

The Weekly Catharsis: A letter to someone

Writing a letter to someone is so cathartic, getting what's in your head out and allowing you to make sense of it, perhaps see it from a different angle or maybe letting you put down the load and move forward without it. Writing a letter to yourself is another interesting idea. What would you say?

Dear younger me,

You're going to be just fine. In time, you're going to realise that the not good enough/should be better bit you're carrying around is nonsense. You're grand, just as you are. Connecting with that is the key bit. My dad used a phrase once, in a conversation about something else that I have long since forgotten. The gist of it was that if you're holding a hammer everything looks like a nail. You're doing that in another way.

You're basically going looking for evidence to back up your belief that you're not good enough. 

Changing to believing that you are in fact good enough sounds simple, but it will take a lot of therapy sessions, an uncountable number of tears, a lot of wandering through your own mind. When you come out the other side, you'll be looking at things from a different perspective, you'll have put down the hammer if you will. So maybe don't put all of that off for so long, because the rest of your life is waiting x

Dear Mam,

This is one of the hardest letters I think I will ever write. What makes it possible to write, is the knowledge that I will never send it. At the same time, for once I am going to try hard not to hold back.

Guilt is the main emotion I feel now. My thoughts are clouded and maybe everything else is too. When strong feelings threaten to emerge when I think of you, very quickly an almost iron curtain, separates them from me, or I travel on my thought train safely removed from everything …………. Because the truth is ……………………. I see you. I see how hard you tried and continue to try. I wonder how many lonely nights have you endured, praying, wishing, wanting it to go away. How long have you convinced yourself that it was not a problem? How many of your needs have gone unmet or unrecognised throughout your life.

My heart broke over and over when you did not notice or ignored my tears and despair. I felt no choice but to hide so much from you.

You frequently spoke about “good” and “bad copers” as I tried valiantly not to fall into the latter category or at least appear not to. I felt shame when you idolised your relationship with your family where “never a cross word was spoken” nor were you ever annoyed by any of them. You rely on me to meet lots of your needs, this I am fine with, but you guilt me into behaving like a parental figure to your son “you’ll have to stay until he is finished exams”, “will you say something” because you lack support.


I find it impossible to distinguish between heartbreak/ sadness and anger sometimes because of you.

I am angry that you make me feel like all my worth is tied up into how helpful I am.

How little I ask for, how I keep the peace. This anger is laced with self- loathing and I suppose sorrow that has left me with a wound I am not sure will ever fully heal. I’m pretty sure my shadows would reveal a deep fear of being unloved or unlovable. These days I am trying to keep them in front of me not behind, although I often still feel their cold grip on my shoulder.

I am angry that you thought you were bearing the load and that no one else would be affected. It also makes me so sad that you felt you had to. Your silence did not absolve anyone else of the burden, which I really believe was your hope. I had to try and make my own sense of what was going on. I am furious that shame and secrecy meant I could not talk to anyone, especially you. It was too much for a teenager.


I am trying to make peace as Brené Brown says, with the fact that “you are not in the arena”. I am still probably only waiting to get in myself. It is terrifying. I have been in a different arena before this called “disconnection” and it was a different type of hell. Sometimes the seats get very hot in there too, that’s when I knew I had to get out. Mostly though, the air was foggy, I felt numb, whether there was one or 1 million people, I felt alone.

I see the sacrifices you made and how you really only wanted the best always for me.

You are kind and probably the most self- less person I have ever met, but it has been disastrous for me trying to replicate that. I have been overwhelmed, distressed and burnt out trying to give but never have to receive. I have felt guilty when I have avoided people because I just could not take on any more. Deep down I believe that I can count on no one but myself, but offer myself as a constant shoulder to many. This caused me quite a few difficulties to say the least.


I cannot fix, heal or save anyone else. I have the right to feel what I feel. I can be angry and show it. I can say no. I can also do hard things. I matter too. Not everyone will like me.

Implementing these words will be my life’s challenge and I think the only way I can stay close to you.

Dear Dad,

Another tough one, although there is a slight detachment, distance or disconnection I feel when writing to you.

Seamus Heaney talks about “old bridges breaking between you and me, never fear, we may let the scaffold fall, confident that we have built our wall”.

This poem is a very tough but beautiful read for me. It is bittersweet. At least now it makes sense.

Sadness envelopes me as realisation dawns, we never built those walls. I view you as scaffolding that I am often responsible for keeping upright. I don’t find you dependable or someone I can ever rely on. 

I find it so difficult to talk about how I feel, because your voice was always louder. I have been trying so long not be like you, I often wonder who I really am. I feel like you took so much away from me without ever meaning to. I find it really difficult to acknowledge what I have lost, or was never given, lean into those experiences or lack of them, and at the same time have compassion, forgive, accept your humanity and flaws. Guilt often gets in the way of the former for me and anger the latter.


In so many ways you were great, generous to a fault, funny, playful when you could. You have instilled a very strong work ethic in me. But you know so little about me and I worry so much about you. You have never fully explored your own story and this I can fully understand and see with compassion. Tragically, I think pain from our own stories often leaks into the lives of those around us and they too can become victims. Often, I try desperately to help you get some relief from your pain but I am too often pouring from an empty cup. Therefore, I will try and do the only thing I really can and face my own story. “When we deny the story, it defines us, when we own the story, we can write a brave new ending” Brene Brown. This I hope will be my gift to you.

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