16 Things I Wish My 16-Year-Old Self Knew About Mental Health

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 3.26.01 PM

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 3.26.01 PM

HA note: A while ago we asked members of the Homeschoolers Anonymous community what they wished their 16-year-old selves knew about mental health. We received a significant number of responses, so we’re going to run 4 sets of “16 things” throughout this week. Each set is a group post compiled from various people’s answers.

Part One

1. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that happiness could be a daily thing. Like, the idea of waking up “happy” didn’t seem possible. I would have fought more if I knew that. I would not have given up and resigned myself. Even when I left home I didn’t know. I just wanted to get away from the pressure.

2. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that doing research on my own was absolutely not a proper substitute for real professional help and that I was worth the extra attention I needed. (Though to be fair, I did learn a lot of interesting stuff about abnormal psychology through my research. It just didn’t do me personally very much good).

3. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that I didn’t have to completely tank my life before I asked for help. It’s ok to ask for help before the problem reaches a crisis point.

4. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that addiction is a legitimate treatable disease. Addiction is not a sin, shortcoming, or lack of will power.

5. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that any non-mental health worker who tells you or anyone else that mental illness is just sin, someone’s will or anything other than mental illness is full of shit.

6. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that depression sometimes comes and goes, but that many people have it for much longer and making comments like “oh, turn that frown upside down!” or “well, if you got outside sometimes..!” are not only unhelpful, but hurtful.

7. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that depression, like the Zoloft commercial said, really does hurt. There is a physical pain to depression.

8. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that panic attacks are real, and they are frightening. They can be managed, though.

9. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that what you see on TV when it comes to therapy, really doesn’t even touch much at all of what actually happens in therapy.

10. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that mental health is no joking matter.

11. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that if someone tells you that they are contemplating suicide, take them seriously every single time.

12. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that feeling conflicting emotions after your parents’ divorce is normal and that you don’t have to lie awake at night afraid of going to hell because you are angry at your parents.

13. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that my internal freak outs were panic attacks and not God trying to convict me. And that even though when you’re in the midst of depression it feels like all there is and all that ever was, it goes away (at least for a time) and you get to be happy again, that the world isn’t always that suffocating.

14. I wish my 16-year-old self had known that spending time out in natural sunlight, even on cloudy days, could help boost my mood and energy. We lived in a dark, small-windowed house in the bottom of a steep valley and light was hard to come by, but I could have hiked up to the top of the pasture in the late afternoons and tried.

15. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that wanting to be thought of as pretty is not a sin; hell, I wish my 31-year-old self knew that.

16. I wish my 16-year-old self knew, somehow, that I would get free eventually, that it would get better, that I would learn in time that what had kept me confined for so long were nothing more than lies.

Part Two >

7 comments

  • #s 13, 15 and 16. Especially 13 – thinking the OCD/anxiety freak outs were God convicting me of sin. (I used to be obsessive about closing my door and closet door at night because i thought if I left them open, I must secretly want to “leave the door open” to sin in my life.) Aaaagh.

  • I was not homeschooled but I too wish i had known at 16 that depression was a disease. The next 10 years might have been a whole lot less painful. However, based on my mom’s reaction to my diagnosis at 26, I don’t think it would have helped much.

  • I so relate to number 3. I still feel like people will think I’m being over sensitive if I ask for help before I’m completely in crisis. And yes, depression is an illness and God wants us to be healed. My view is that if He is a God of love and healing, then any step towards wholeness, however it comes, is a blessing and a good thing. He doesn’t want us to be trapped or sick, physically, emotionally or spiritually. Yes, He can bring good out of any situation, but there is NO WAY that should be used as an excuse for people to refuse to help someone who is suffering.

  • I am a mental health professional. If someone tells you that your depression, anxiety, voices, ect are proof of a moral shortcoming, regardless of any credentials they have, THAT person is full of shit too. We mental health professionals are not immune. Psych nurses that call patients ‘thugs,’ psychiatrists who prescribe prayer over prozac….. there are many good and caring professionals, but we do have a few outliers. If you don’t feel like you’ve been helped, find another therapist, psychiatrist, or otherwise. if you wouldn’t pray away diabetes, why would you pray away depression? I have had long and hard conversations with religious relatives who think that it’s a spiritual battle. No…. it isn’t. It’s a physical condition, and it’s not because you’re not a good enough person. It’s because you’re a person with an illness.

  • Pingback: 16 Things I Wish My 16-Year-Old Self Knew About Mental Health, Part Two | Homeschoolers Anonymous

  • I’ve heard before that a lot of the depression and addiction issues can be symptoms of vitamin deficiencies…either way, diseases can be caused by lots of things, but not ever by someone committing a “sin” and blaming themselves for everything. No one deserves to suffer, and I think it’s horrendous that someone made a child believe that they did something to deserve everything.

  • I can relate to all those and wouldn’t wish them on anyone, the father of lies seeks to kill,steal and destroy. Its not a question of moral values but programming of the heart from where all the issues of life flow and its the deception,,the lie believed to be the truth stored within that causes most of our problems. The damage we do to our children and a lot of it under the banner of religion,with scripture taken out of context, bad teaching holding those who cant defend themselves, children, in chains of bondage.

    In my opinion it is a spiritual battle, one for the heart, In my time i have seen numerous different councilors to no avail, I now still have the same emotions but view them through entirely different goggles. The lie is the problem, I had no religious background, I believed I was unloved, worthless, never gave it a thought it had anything to do with my moral standing. I just believed a lie and built my life around it and my problems appeared because of it. To be truly free you need to know and abide in the truth.

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