These are the lessons I’ve learned after nearly twenty-one years of the fight:

i. Do not write poems about boys. Text is permanent, and their flesh is not. Their toothy grins are not. The curve of their throat, and the smooth skin underneath their navel- it does not stay. No matter how hard you beg.

ii. Do not take your self-hatred out on your body. The big gashes and the tiny gashes where you parted your skin like the sea- they will always be there. They will serve the only purpose they ever really had, which is to remind you of the nights you wish you could forget. There is no beauty in the breakdown.

iii. Do not allow yourself to be hypnotized by the wisps of smoke curling past lips that you’ve kissed in your stupid, stupid, stupid drunken stupor. The burn of it is not worth years of medication. And the pills are only pretty on the tongues of those who need them. Not you. Never you.

iv. Do not give yourself away. Regardless of what he whispers in your ear while his weight and the weight of it all, really, is pushing the air out of your lungs. He will not hold your hand or kiss your forehead or draw your eyes once he has had his fill. Bet on it.

v. Surrender is not an option. The white flag has been obliterated. You will be okay after all.