You Have Never Been a Ghost

Mar 1, 2024 | 2024 Spring - Letters to Myself

By Alice Edgar

To my 18-year-old self: 

You have never been drunk. I am looking through your old Pinterest account and you have a “pin” that says something about greeting death drunk and in love. You have never been in love. However, you have greeted death—many times. 

Let me introduce myself. I am you, at age 31. I am writing from the future. I am someone who has literally been you. I have seen through your eyes. I have been in your body and mind. I am going to try to warn you of a few things. 

Buckle up, buttercup.

In one year, at age 19, you will wish you were dead.

In two years, at age 20, you will wish you were more dead. That is the year that, on your birthday, you will realize you have hit another decade and that your depression has no end in sight. You will work at a fast-food restaurant for two weeks before you quit, because you couldn’t flip hamburgers fast enough. You will drive miles around Connecticut and western Massachusetts that summer in search of love in the dark. You will see a therapist and almost walk out on her and will be told to not come back if you do so. You will return to your seat and listen to her words. 

You will get better. 

You will get better because you meet a wonderful woman. This is the summer you turn 20. Your mother is a ghost in the house you must reside in. She will haunt you, and you will break. You will go to live with the wonderful woman for two weeks that summer. She will save you. 

In three years, you are 21. You have your first drink. You get drunk for the first time—but you’re not getting drunk to erase the pain, not yet. The woman who saved you the previous summer commits suicide, and you are left alone to consider that. The woman who saved you the previous summer commits suicide, and it is a beautiful August day, blazing in its heat. 

You will do research later. You will learn that people who have bipolar disorder on average live 13 years fewer than those in the general population. You will do a quick calculation and discover that this woman died 50 years too soon. You will learn about the suicide attempts, the suicide rates of bipolar disorder. Later, you, too, will be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. You will get a tattoo in honor of the woman—the exact same one she had. It will serve as a reminder that you are not a statistic. It will serve as a reminder that depression cannot win, that you have made a permanent promise to live.  

In five years, you will meet a horrible man whom you date for three years. This is your 20s, and this was supposed to be your years to grow into yourself—but you were robbed of that. I want you to understand that men can be horrible and that you can be at the epicenter of that horror. They are worse than ghosts. They are worse than ghosts because they are very much alive, and they are very much out for blood. 

In 10 years, there will be a pandemic. You will be unemployed, alone, and drunk most of the time. The drinking is to erase the pain of being alone. This will be your life’s work: finding a way to not feel so alone. During the pandemic, you will also turn to writing. You will start to make a name for yourself. You will become someone who writes, and will be somewhat known, and that will be enough. 

Right now, you are in a mental hospital. Your ghost mother refuses to visit you. Your uncle, her brother, visits you. He presents you with three classic works of literature that you will never forget. He says, “These are for the boredom.” For some reason, he gets it. He will be dead in five years. You need to appreciate him, now. 

In the mental hospital, you feel like a phantom. You have let down your entire family. You have no friends—you haven’t yet met the woman who will save you. You walk the hallways and feel like a disease. I want you to know that you are not a disease—you are not your disease. You are just who you are, and that is enough. It must be. 

Perhaps there is a lot of death in your future. I need you to know that your death is not one of those deaths. You, at age 31, are still very much alive. You are not a ghost. You are not a phantom, or a disease, or a statistic. 

In 13 years, you will be married, enjoying a day by the ocean in San Francisco, eating oysters with your husband, and you will be pleasantly drunk, but not too much so. It will be a good day. You will still be someone who suffers, but not all the time, and those are my parting words. 

Much love from the future,


Alice Edgar received her BA in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She has previously been published in three publications. She resides in Northern California with her husband and their corgi, Ernest Hemingway.

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