Mental Health

Part 2: What would I say to my 14 year old self if I could?

I talk a lot about feeling like I am frozen in time. I feel like my emotions are sometimes that of an adolescent girl. Sure, I feel like I am an adult, there is no doubt about that. But, when it comes to feeling alone, abandoned and emotional, I feel like a young teenager. I talk about this at length in Part 1 of this series.

In a lot of ways, I live with regrets (check out the full post here). I live with regrets of not even realizing that my life could have a been a lot better and I could have done a lot more from the ages of 12-25. It replays in my head with phrases like “If only I knew that medication would have made me feel better..maybe I wouldn’t have done XYZ.” I know it is unhealthy to talk to myself this way and I have got to give myself more grace..but it is hard. It is hard to think that I wasted so many years of my life just going through the motions, not really thinking about what kind of life I wanted to create.

What would I say to my 14 year old self if I could?

Despite everything, you will turn out pretty great.

I can say with certainty that most people in my life in adolescence would have thought I would have either been addicted to drugs or not able to manage my own adult life. I think what makes me angry about this is that with all the adults surrounding me, nobody asked “what’s wrong?” or “would XYZ be helpful?”

The thing is, you will turn out great regardless. You turn out to be brave, fearless, outspoken and helpful. You grow to be an authentic and raw voice using all the former circumstances that you despised. Hang in there, you are just hibernating and soon you will blossom.

You are important and special.

Sure, we tell other people this all the time right? I tell my daughter daily that she is special. Not just because I think so, but because she just is. It is a challenge to think of ourselves as important or special, especially as women. We are brought up to minimize our accomplishments, our personalities, our..everything.

You will learn to embrace your talents and maximize your potential. You will know that other people think you are special, but it is the most important thing to also feel this within yourself. Lean in to what feels natural to you, challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone and understand that dark feelings will pass.

Life only gets better as you get older.

As I am reading this, I realize that it might not be true for everyone. A lot of my trauma and significant mental health problems happened while I was about 12-15 and less significant, though still hard through my 20s. This may be the opposite for a lot of people and I do recognize that. For me though, I have been comforted by life getting better and better as I get older. I am not sure if this is that my brain is now fully developed, I have more coping skills (to include being properly medicated) or just plain old realizing that “this too will pass.” Maybe a combination of all three. I don’t even remember dreaming about the future when I was really young, I am not sure if I thought about it at all. When I was in the grips of depression in middle school, I wasn’t thinking about how high school would be better or when I am out of the house. I didn’t have these forward thinking thoughts. Now, I do and it is really helpful.

One day, you will see that life gets better as you age. You grow to be more accepting of yourself and able to be fully present in life. You will still think about the past but you are able to see if for what it really was. In the future, you aren’t filled with blame or guilt. You are able to move on and live in the present which is really lacking in your adolescent world. In the future, you get to have your own family, shape the way your household runs, choose your career, and make a whole lot of other choices that seem to really make other people upset but make you really happy. In the future, you are honestly pretty fucking happy.

What do I wish I would have done for myself?

I wish that I would have opened up to a trusted adult. 

This is easier said than done. I feel an element of confidence and ease with talking about emotions and experiences, though I don’t know if I would have back then. It is easy to try to copy and paste how you feel now into the past, but it doesn’t always work like that. Though, I still wish that I would have found a teacher, therapist, mentor or friend’s parent to talk to about what all was going on. Instead, I continued hanging out with the same people my age who really just aided in a bunch of unhealthy behaviors. This isn’t blame, this is just adolescent facts.

I wish that I would have asked to get on medication.

Sure, I tried medication when I was about 15/16 but I didn’t like it and exploring other options didn’t happen. I hold some responsibility in this as I feel like I should have been able to recognize that it would have been helpful for me to get on an antidepressant at a very early age (probably 13, I’d say). I talk a lot about how Pristiq has changed my life, while it didn’t exist back then (it is only about 8 years old) I wish that a psychiatrist would have prescribed something even remotely helpful.

I wish that I built my self worth.

My therapist and I discuss this frequently. The only messages that I was getting about my self worth was from boys and men. “You are good enough when you make men happy.” “You are special when a boy wants to sleep with you.” “You are worthy when a boy likes you.” “You are great because you are good at sex.”

“Normal” girls were busy playing on sport teams or were in debate club or hanging out with a big group of girls at a sleepover. I was sneaking out of the house, doing drugs with my babysitter and stealing vodka (replacing it with water) from my parents. I was worried about a guy not liking me, but not just the normal amount of worry, like the type that destroyed me for weeks.

I wish I would have continued to do things that made me genuinely happy and built upon my natural talents, like dance. I wish that I would have joined a sports team or a club of some sort and thrown myself into it. I wish I would have done..a lot of things differently.

It is hard to change your mindset from a negative thought into a positive or just a neutral thought. I find it challenging to not live consumed with regrets. I am working on channeling my regrets into things that I could incorporate into my life now. I live by the phrases “if not now, then when?” and “what are you so afraid of?” when telling myself “you can’t or you shouldn’t”

Want to read more? Check out these posts:

Why losing weight shouldn’t be your New Year Resolution

5 Things nobody tells you about sexual trauma survivors

Silently suffering with mental illness, how to help yourself

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