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  • Lindsay S. Wheeler

A Letter to Those I've Hurt

Dear You,

If you feel like this might be directed at you, you’re probably right. I’m sorry for the way mental illness can make a person ugly, and that mine brought out the worst in us both. I’m sorry it’s too late to show you the more beautiful chapter. I’m sorry for the time you spent worrying and wondering, and that your confusion inevitably faded into resentment. I’m sorry for what you did give up in your steadfast attempt to not give up on me. I wish I could give it back.

I’m sorry that sometimes my words only surface appropriately when I write, and that talking isn’t always so easy. I’m sorry that when I became better at talking, you were already gone. I’m sorry for the number of times I say I’m sorry every day. I’ve been told that I say it too much and I hope it doesn’t detract from what little you see in me or prevent you from moving on. Either way, you deserve a formal apology.

I’m sorry for the time I missed your party and all of the other times I wasn’t there. I know I said yes at first, but fear prevailed. I didn’t have something better to do like it may have seemed. I had a series of intimate dates with my bathroom floor and always cried while I texted you to say I wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t think I could tell you what was really going on. I’m sorry I wasn’t much fun when we went out a few weeks later; that it didn’t take long for mania to spit me out into a vacant shell. I’m sorry that the absinthe made it worse and for the times you had to hide it in your drawer.

Dear family,

I’m sorry, I was MIA in high school and that I lied repeatedly about who I was. The shame I carried was nearly impossible. I'm sorry I never let you get to know me. I’m sorry for the time we got in our worst fight and I forgot it was your birthday until you sobbed out a broken “happy birthday to me.” It still wrecks me on the inside every time I think about it.

Dear college friends,

I’m sorry that I didn’t even try, or that when I tried I still ended up locking myself in my room. It is still one of my biggest regrets. I’m sorry I called you when I was lonely and disappeared when I wasn’t, and for the time I kissed you and didn’t text you back. I know it was your first kiss and that you needed me. I’m sorry.

Dear hometown friends,

I’m sorry I hid my pain with an air of arrogance; that I made dumb choices hoping it would rouse something - anything - within me. Some of you stuck by me even though doing so was both fruitless and thankless. Thank you to those who hung in there long enough to find out who I actually am. I want you to know that I did try to explain back then. I’ve learned that to be vulnerable and candid is better for us both than to hide behind the wall slowly raised by silence.

Dear collective You,

I’m sorry that I didn’t just fuck up one time but that I was a hurricane of baggage with no blue sky after. I never knew how to be happy back then and I’m sorry it took me so long to be the person I wanted to be for us both. I’ll always be sorry that I robbed you of your dignity in the process.

I’m sorry I never trusted that you’d accept all of me; that I carried so much guilt that it drove a wedge between us. I’m sorry I took you for granted until you gave up trying, and that I went completely dark as you fought every obvious reason to do so. I’m sorry that my fear of what you’d think made me abandon you before you had a chance to prove me wrong; that I had such little faith in your capacity to be as unconditional as you probably would’ve been.

I’m sorry that for a long time it appeared I only cared for myself. It was easier to hide than it was to explain. I’m sorry that for years I was an actor who hid behind a sad façade; that I never let you see past the very surface. I’m sorry for the promises I didn’t keep and that I never came through even when I most wanted to. I never make a promise I can’t keep now, and I wish you were still around to see it.

I’m sorry I couldn’t look you in the eye and say “no” when I needed to; that when I said “yes” it wouldn’t turn out well for either of us. I’m still learning to say no, but I am proud of the progress I’ve made.

I’m sorry I only allowed you to see the light when most of my life was lived in the dark. I’ve learned that my darker shades are a part of me that my friends can love, just as they do my lighter ones. I’m sorry that when I knew you I was still years from being able to be the friend I am now. I’ve learned that despite it being a very real factor in how we act, mental illness is no excuse for mistreating others. I’m sorry this apology is far too late.

I want you to know I always cared.

With regret,


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