Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Teen Years

     Being a teenager is hard. Being in high school is hard. At least for some (most?) of us. I have heard of a few people who enjoyed their adolescence, or at least claimed to. But for many of us, myself included of course, it is often a miserable, trying time. Obviously, we all have different reasons for it. Depression, body changes, new emotions, new faces, new schools, awkwardness, self esteem issues, judgement and rejection, fears of many kinds, social pressures, academic pressures, parental pressures, any number of struggles can make this time in our lives so hard. We struggle to fit in, or try to stand out. We try to follow or lead the crowd, we try to learn, or try to avoid it. There are so many things to think about and be confused about or distracted by.  
     As a teen, I struggled with my weight and a hoard of physical problems, and on top of these, I often faced nearly crippling depression. I have fibromyalgia and, in those days, (less than a decade, shut up) it was not widely accepted as a "real" illness. PE was pure hell for me. I couldn't do what most of the other kids could. I was in constant pain, and my self esteem, because of these things, took a huge nosedive. I was made fun of as being fat and lazy, when I wanted nothing more to break out of this fat suit and run like the wind.
     With such low self esteem, it was difficult to make friends, or at least good ones. At first, anyway. We'll get to the happy part later. I felt lonely, isolated, and worthless. I sometimes cut myself. Or burned myself. Small self mutilations which I hid for a long time. I was careful not to scar most of the time, so no one really suspected. I ended up sharing with my parents, but that was much later. Even after that, it took a lot of years, and a lot of understanding from a few amazing people to really make me stop.
     One of my favorite (least favorite) fibro symptoms is brain fog. I get confused, overwhelmed, disoriented, and struggle to retain some types of information. I struggled a lot in my classes because of this. I excelled in English, and did well in electives (such as art, writers' workshop, and choir.) I mostly went home and spent time alone, wishing, praying, and hoping for a change. It came.
     I had many things also to be thankful for. So many blessings. I am blessed with wonderful, understanding parents, to whom I have always been close. I could talk to them about nearly anything, and often did. I was involved in the youth group at our church, and had a growing faith. I wasn't always close to a lot of the youth group kids, but a lot of that was due to my own judgements, and my fear of rejection. I didn't try hard enough. I went to everything I could make it to anyway. I'm so thankful that I did. No matter how hard it was, I always felt so much better when I attended church and youth group functions.
     I prayed without ceasing, (something I'm trying to be better at again) I sang my heart out in worship, I tried to be an encourager to others, whether outcasts (perceived or actual) like myself or social butterflies. The biggest impact the youth group had on me was the fervor with which they (we) served others. We went on mission trips, fed the homeless, and helped put together food boxes during holidays. No matter how close or far we were from one another, we banded together to serve. I miss that.
    My faith in God, and my youth group, and youth minister helped me to work out who I was. Who I wanted to be. I tried to thicken my skin to the pressures of teen years, and let the insults roll off of me. I worked at being a good influence on others, rather than falling under others' influence. (I know that I often came off as self righteous and judgmental and I pray that I never hurt others' faith or potential for faith because of this.) I also found a wonderful, loving group of friends. At school.
     I joined choir and had a group of people who shared with me a love of music. Also, I found a friend, counselor, and ally in an absolutely amazing teacher. Someone who told me what I needed to hear, even if it hurt a little. Someone who listened to my problems, however superficial, and either gave advice or just a smile and nod. Always just what I needed. {Thank you, Lee Frick. You will be in my heart forever, and I hope to see you in Glory.}
     The reason I'm sharing my story is to let teens know that they are not alone. I was there. Sometimes it seems like yesterday, but it often feels like a different life. I pray that I don't ever forget, though. I want to be there for my children, other young people I know and love, and anyone else I can who is going through such things, or have gone through such. I want you to all know that it can get better. Find someone you can talk to. A counselor, a teacher, a youth minister, an older sibling, somebody. You need a listening ear. One without judgement. One who has been there. 
     I want to take the time to pray about these things, because putting these struggles in God's hand will have the biggest impact. He knows just what you need, and He loves you.

    Father in Heaven,
I am remembering painful times, as I see young people, teenagers, sailing the rough waters of high school. I want teens today to know that they aren't alone. That they can find a friend. I want them to know the peace that I have gained, and learn to rely on You. I want young people to ask for Your comfort and guidance, Your strength and wisdom when they are in need, rather than looking to unhealthy, dangerous pastimes. I thank You, Father, for always pulling me through the deepest muck, and reminded me that You are there. I praise You for Your goodness, and am so grateful for Your sacrifice, and Your unlimited love, grace, and mercy. Without these, nothing good could ever be. Please hold the teens of our world in Your hand, and give them the strength and courage to fly through these rough times unscathed.
  It is in Your son, Jesus' holy name that I pray,


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