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 it is okay to need time to yourself and that you don’t have to act like you are happy all the time even when you aren’t.
2. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that I could seek help. I was so trapped in my religion, all I knew to do was pray.
3. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that you can think you’re fine for a while and later on realize that you’re not, and childhood trauma plus a secondary trauma (getting mugged, a natural disaster, loss of a loved one, war, etc.) can bring about delayed-onset PTSD.
4. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that a lot of what I was experiencing was not mental “weakness” but mental injury and that it needs to be taken as seriously as a badly set broken bone.
5. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that dissociation can take different forms ranging from an out-of-body type experience to just feeling like your head is the only thing that isn’t numb, and that dissociation is a coping mechanism that works to help protect you in a time of extreme hardship but needs to be overcome when you’ve reached a more stable place in life.
6. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that the mind-body connection is a powerful thing and somatic symptoms like stomach aches, headaches, and changes in appetite that don’t seem to be for any particular reason might be the main signs you have that something is off.
7. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that cultures where the typical solution for mental health issues is to go to church or go to drinking often end up with too many religious fanatics and alcoholics. Make a counseling appointment if you feel yourself needing help.
8. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that you are not broken, defective, sub-par, or damaged goods if you have these feelings and issues. You can have a good life and you are worthy of self-care, outside care, respect, and meaningful work and relationships.
9. I wish my 16-year-old self knew everything truly wasn’t her fault.
10. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that there was another way of life, and that depression is a real illness that she had.
11. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that she was beautiful and not fat.
12. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that feeling “down” pretty much all day, every day, and sleeping so much that your mom takes you to get bloodwork done because she’s worried you have anemia are signs of depression.
13. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that it’s okay to need encouragement, unconditional love, and affection and that depression can be a natural response to not getting them.
14. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that it was okay not to be “strong” all the time, that feeling as though I was a shell made of metal isn’t normal or healthy, that numbness isn’t what happiness feels like, and that feeling and crying aren’t signs of weakness, but the inability to do either is a sign there’s something wrong.
15. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that it was okay to get help and that life does get better and doesn’t have to be the hell-hole her parents told her it should be.
16. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that she had intrinsic value just because she existed, and was worth more than the broom she felt like. I wish she knew it was wrong to have been stripped of her humanity and individuality that way, and wrong to feel like she needed to apologize for her existence.