Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Time-Travelling Postman

Jo (L) and Jenne (R), March 1999

Dear 18-year-old-me,

Don't be alarmed to hear from me. I am your future self, and I have a few pieces of advice. Of course, it's entirely up to you whether you pay any attention, or just assume that I'm some prankster. I don't mind either way, but please read to the end before you make up your mind.

Firstly, I would like you to know how beautiful you are. Yes, I know your face and body have changed shape because of medications; that you have surgical scars, hearing aids, glasses, braces, and sticks, and that your hair has a mind of its own, but you're focusing on the wrong things. You have a beautiful and infectious smile, and your enthusiasm, generosity, kindness and zest for life attracts people to you, and will continue to do so in the future. Continue to smile at people, even when things are hard - it's one of the things that makes you feel good.

I understand that things are hard, physically, but don't let it be burdensome to you. It might be that one day things will be even worse, and I don't want you to regret the things that you didn't do. Take lots of photographs - of yourself, of your friends, of your family, and of the world around you. Even take photographs of the bits that you don't currently want to remember. Even the rubbish bits are part of your story, and this story is the only one in which you play a starring role.

Despite all your doubts, you will love and be loved in return. You may not achieve everything that you set out to do, but don't let that stop you from trying. You might just surprise yourself!

Try to find a balance between taking care of your fragile body and living life as fully as possible. Like most people, you'll get it wrong sometimes, but remember that you don't drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there (that's a quote by E. L. Cole). Don't be afraid to ask for help as part of finding that balance. There are no medals for pushing yourself up mountains in a manual wheelchair, and you'll have blisters on your hands for weeks. You might think that getting to the top of the mountain under your own steam is worth a few blisters, but there there will be other times when sharing the workload is the right thing to do.

Don't antagonise your doctors. You'll always be an expert in your own conditions, but you need other experts to work alongside you. That doesn't mean that all doctors will offer good advice, or do the right things in an emergency, but don't give up hope - they're only human. Having advised you not to antagonise your doctors (or nurses, physios, OTs, dieticians, etc.), I still want to encourage you to do your own research, and to become a good advocate for yourself. Don't be afraid to speak up if you have ideas or questions. Good doctors listen to their patients, and there are lots of good doctors out there.

In our society people often define themselves by what they do and what they achieve. I would recommend that you find other ways to define yourself - perhaps by your characteristics and personality traits. Your physical abilities will change over the next few years, but you will still be YOU, and you will be loved for who you are, not what you can do. With that in mind, don't be afraid to tell people what's going on with your health. I doubt you'll listen to this particular piece of advice, but you'll get more visitors in hospital if you tell people you're there!

Finally, I want to tell you again that you're beautiful. Take it on board and allow yourself to feel confident in who you are. Live life as fully as you can, and encourage those around you to do the same.

With much love,

Your future self

PS. Make it a rule never to leave the house without wearing lipstick - it'll make you feel better

Richard and Jo, August 2011

This post was written as part of NHBPM - 30 health posts in 30 days:


  1. Jo

    I'm so happy that your present self got to such an impressive state without the benefit of having received this mail. just imagine what your future incarnation will be when your 18-year old self will have been able to profit from this hard-won wisdom. If only ...

    And, you are right, you are a beautiful person.

  2. Thank you Bill! Your comment made me feel a bit teary-eyed, but in a good way.

    Wouldn't life be easier if we could live in hindsight?! I make so many mistakes that I could really do with someone from the future pointing them out to me *before* I make them!

    Much love to you and Sue!