Dear 21 Year-Old Me,

You’re going to want to know the why’s, but I’m telling you right now rules of thumb are more powerful than long explanations. Here are 10 rules of thumb.

1. You make decisions with your emotions.

The sooner you internalize this fact the sooner your mental illnesses will start to recede.

And by the way, on top of the fact that you make decisions with your emotions, emotions themselves are more contagious than any virus. Which is the primary reason behind rule number 2.

2. Do not take sides in other people’s conflicts.

Your biggest regrets will be that you took sides in other people’s conflicts. And you will learn nothing from these experiences other than that you should have stayed out of it.

Remember that everyone acts differently under conditions of conflict. YOU act differently under conditions of conflict. You don’t really know what happened. And because emotions are so contagious, when you take sides you are just channeling someone else’s anger. And you don’t even know where it really comes from.

3. Show up.

No matter how bad you feel, when one of your friends has a performance, an event, or anything else that they want you to come to, show up. They will never forget it, and it will literally save your life when your depression becomes life-threatening.

4. When you know something is wrong in your gut, do not let anyone manipulate you into doing it anyway.

Your rationality, which is your strongest asset when battling the paranoia and hallucinations that come with your mental illnesses, can be turned against you. Just because you cannot rationally come up with a reason why an action is wrong, if you feel in your gut it is wrong, then it is wrong! You will find out the reason in time.

5. It’s better to be kind than it is to be right.

6. You will overcome your mental illnesses only after you’ve achieved basic financial stability.

You don’t care about status or material possessions, and that’s great. But money can still buy stability, which you emotionally need more than you want to admit.

7. You don’t just need new friends–you need entirely different social circles.

Never let yourself become isolated.

8. Celebrate small victories.

And speaking of winning and losing…

9. When you spot people who are deeply resentful, genuinely abusive, keep your interactions with them trivial.

You will know who they are because they can’t handle “losing”. Losing an argument, losing a competitive event, losing at a conflict. The moment you realize someone can’t handle losing, never share anything with them that actually matters. Keep your friendship with them on the absolute surface. Just kind of nod your head and agree with them. Don’t argue, no matter how wrong they are.

It’s not always good to be authentic, honest or kind.

When you meet people who can’t let go of losses or failures, and who always blame others, keep your distance.

10. If you want to say no, that’s a good enough reason to say no.

And if you want to leave, that’s a good enough reason to leave.

And I lied, there were 11 things:

11. If you are resentful, it proves that you are doing the wrong thing.

I put this last for a reason. You will not want to believe this.

You will want to believe that your resentment proves you were right. It’s the opposite. Anger in the moment is fine, but when you hold on to resentment and rage it’s because you feel that you “lost”. And what’s worse is that you are defining “losing” as not being able to control outcomes or people. The fact that you are trying to control outcomes or people in the first place proves that you are already deeply on the wrong track.

Still, never hide your anger from yourself. Use it to figure out where you are going wrong. The anger is just the symptom, not the sickness.

When you clear out the poison from your conflicts, you will see clearly the right way forward in almost every situation.

Take care of yourself,

Your older self.