“My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me. My shadow heart’s the only thing that’s beating. Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me. ‘Til then I walk alone.”-Green Day
Angst or Depression?
If you were in high school during the early 2000s then you know this Green Day song was our anthem. We blasted it on our boom boxes making sure our parents could hear it. Oh wait, was that just me?
Every teenager can relate to feeling alone and misunderstood. It’s labeled as teenage angst, the turmoil of adolescence. However, there’s real emotion and feelings happening behind that angry, silent exterior. Teenagers are developing who they are as an individual and trying to figure out where they fit in with the world around them. This can be a lot for a young person to handle, especially if they don’t have the resources and support around them to get through this chapter of life.
Anyone who knows me, knows numbers make zero sense to me. Throw a number at me and you have completely lost my attention. However, these facts were enough to catch my eye. According to the CDC suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for people ages 10-24. More teens die from suicide than cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, pneumonia, stroke, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED! Maybe we should stop brushing off those angry, disgruntled teens and start really trying to hear what they have to say.
I was one of those teens that felt misunderstood wherever I was. I never felt like I belonged at school and I felt even lonelier at home. My family didn’t have much money when I was growing up. I watched my friends get name brand clothes and items. Most of my clothes were hand-me-downs from my cousins. When I finally did get my first Aeropostale shirt for Christmas, in sixth grade, girls made fun of me for “trying to fit in”. I carried that feeling with me all the way through high school. I figured if I just stayed under the radar and didn’t do anything, no one could make fun of me. Boy, was I wrong.
I didn’t get made fun of for my clothes or how I looked, but I got talked about as the girl who always needed a ride home from school. The phrase “the mooch” had been tossed around in our senior superlatives. I was just a little bit weirder than everyone else in the dance group. These girls were the ones the whole school knew. To the rest of the school I was one of them, but inside the group that was far from the truth.
What Actually Happened
My relationship with my dad and step-mom wasn’t what it is today. We are on the mend now, but in high school it was toxic for everyone involved. If you ever raised a teenage girl then you can attest that we are no picnic. We are the perfect combination of moody and feisty. That being said, for a new mom, let alone a step-mom dealing with a teenage daughter for the first time, it’s a lot to handle.
Imagine you’re a step-mom and your step-daughter’s birth mom was telling her you’re the reason her family is broken. Feeding lies to her about how awful you are. Then on top of that, imagine your step-daughter had also witnessed drugs, alcohol and physical abuse all at a young age. Then on the other side, picture trying to be the dad trying to make everyone happy. No one knows how they would handle that situation until they are in it. I never knew all of this was happening behind the scenes until I was older. As a teenager, it felt entirely different.
My Side of the Story
What the kids in high school, and my parents didn’t know was how much I was struggling. I always needed that ride home from a friend because picking me up just wasn’t a priority in my house. There were a lot of things my friends’ parents did for them that sadly I never got to experience. I spent many nights eating dinner alone in my room because of the amount of tension that would be at the table if we all sat down together. We fought so much that it was almost easier to just stay away from each other.
I felt like I was a stranger in my house. There were many times I so badly wanted to sit downstairs and have the life my siblings had, but that just wasn’t the case for me. Many times I thought, “would it just be easier if I wasn’t here anymore? Would anyone really be sad if I just didn’t exist?” I never thought of ways to harm myself, but not being alive sometimes sounded a lot better than feeling alone and not wanted.
I desperately needed to hear they were proud of me. Someone needed to take that step to start the healing, but no one knew how. So instead, I didn’t have my parents at every dance show. I didn’t have someone helping me get ready for prom. I felt like I was alone. It can be overwhelming being a teen trying to figure out where you belong, but not feeling like you belong anywhere. I would imagine, that’s enough of a reason for a teen to commit suicide.
People who have similar thoughts to me, maybe it’s easier for us to pull ourselves out of it. I don’t have a magic quick fix to stop feeling that way except to keep moving forward. Eventually things have to get better. I would always tell myself, one day I will find my purpose and where I belong. One day I will have kids and I will tell them how unbelievably loved they are. Those thoughts of a positive future got me through it. Other people are not as lucky. They are in an even darker place that seeing that light at the end of the tunnel is harder to do.
Those are the people we need to protect. If you love someone, tell them. If you think of a compliment about someone, say it. We all should be building each other up in any way we can. Mankind has come too far to be treating each other with hate. Everyone has something good to offer, so focus on that, not their flaws. I firmly believe what you put into the world is what you will get back. So if we all put good into the world maybe less people will feel alone and unwanted.
If you or some you know is struggling with dark thoughts or feeling alone please call The National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255. Also you can visit the website at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. My email is always open for you to reach out if you need someone to talk to or just to listen. You are amazing, so go out and be the best you, you can be! I’m behind you 100%!