Dear Teen Me from author Elisabeth Staab (KING OF DARKNESS)

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Dear 13,

I know, you think you want to die right now.

You want to throw up. You want to shut out the world. You don’t ever even want to look at yourself in the mirror again. Ever. I dig it. You’re mad as hell, and you’re really, really effing confused.

One second you were curled up in your favorite comfy chair at your favorite library reading a stack of your favorite romance novels sporting windblown heroes on horses…and then next you were being attacked at knifepoint in the bathroom. All of those favorites were ripped away, just like that. Twenty years later you will still hate to go into a public library. Sorry ‘bout that.

There aren’t any words, are there? You want a “why,” and I can’t ever give you one.

But it gets easier, I swear to you.

I need you to remember something important: remember when that man held a knife to your throat and told you that if you didn’t cooperate he would kill you? No, I know it’s hard, but you have to remember. That moment in time will be your ticket out of insanity. Whenever it looks like life sucks too much to keep going, remember it. When the rubber met the road and your lizard brain kicked in, you chose to survive.

Keep choosing that.

Someday, I swear, it really will get easier to make it through the day. Sure, there will be bumps and stupid mistakes in-between then and now. There will be a lot of those. A lot of pain, and panic attacks and hits to your self-esteem. This will not, I’m sorry to say, be the last painful thing you have to go through in life. But that crap about “that which does not kill you?” Well, turns out that you’re a pretty tough cookie, even when you feel like you’re not.

And you know what? Someday you’ll be treating yourself to a pedicure and the woman doing your nails will reveal to you that she’s a rape survivor twice over. You’ll give her the name and number of a local counselor who specializes in sexual assault, and tell her to read the book After Silence by Nancy Venable Raine because it helped you so much. She’ll cry and hug you because you’ve let her know that someone understands and she’s not alone in the world after all. You’ll help a champion athlete have the courage to admit to a room full of people that her rape history is the reason why she struggles with overeating.

Your friend Leslie*? That guy on the bus who will reveal to you that his boyfriend abuses him?  You talk too much sometimes girl, but you can also be a really good listener, and those people are going to need that from you. You’ll be able to relate to what they say because you’ve been there.

And remember that stack of romance novels you were reading the day you were attacked? You’re swearing right now you’ll never read another one, because you’re feeling really confused about what just happened to you and how it compares with what you were reading about in those books. Sex seems like sort of an evil, awful, invasion and you just got punished for thinking someday you might enjoy it. That’s a whole other ball of string, and that one will take years to untangle. That, too, will get easier. Yes, really.

Romance novels will be your friend again someday. Because someday, you’re going to fall in love with vampires. So in love you start writing about them. And romance novels are exactly what you want to write, because after all of the ugliness you’ve seen in the world, you want a place where the happy ending is guaranteed.

Life isn’t going to make sense every day, but slowly you’ll feel like there’s a place you belong, and a thing you’re supposed to be doing. For someone who’s so flipping enraged at the world right now, you will not believe how much you’re going to enjoy giving fictional creatures a happy ever after.

One foot in front of the other, kiddo.

Elisabeth Staab lives in Northern Virginia with her hero and soul mate. She has been a telemarketer, a web page editor, a software developer, a reader for the blind, a technical trainer, a coffee shop barista, a tutor, a homemaker, a government project manager, a graphic designer, and a professional ebayer. Finally, she’s landed on being a writer – which is what her high school guidance counselor originally suggested anyway.

Elisabeth believes that all kinds of safe, sane, and consensual love should be celebrated–but she loves the fantasy-filled realm of paranormal romance the best. Her first novel, King of Darkness, is available now from Sourcebooks Casablanca. Find out more at

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