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.
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1. Most of all, I wish my 16-year-old self knew that it was okay to accept herself exactly where she was at, that she didn’t need to lie awake at night berating herself after her parents had done that for her, that self-loathing isn’t holy, and being made of iron is a coping mechanism, and doesn’t have to be an entire existence.
2. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that my parents’ compulsive behavior was a sign of mental illness, not an edict from god.
3. I wish my 16-year-old self knew not to internalize everything
4. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that it’s morally okay to be depressed, that depression does not have to have a known cause to excuse it, and that it’s okay to seek help for it.
5. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that he didn’t have to be the savior knight in shining white armor for every friend dealing with overwhelming circumstances. I wish he knew it wasn’t his responsibility to be everyone’s counselor, pastor, and confidante. I wish I could have warned him about the massive burnout he was hurtling himself toward, that “bear one another’s burdens” doesn’t mean “bury yourself alive”.
6. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that having a crush is not a sin, that “emotional adultery” isn’t even a thing, and that being head-over-heels for the same girl for three years is maybe an indication that I need to stop thinking about her and get to know her… and maybe ask her out if I felt inclined, because dating doesn’t turn people into licentious nymphomaniacs.
7. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that mental illness exists. Like, it’s an actual, real live thing.
8. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that not being happy all the time doesn’t mean you’re “broken”.
9. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that mental illness is not a sign of demon possession or an “ungrateful spirit”.
10. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that she was beautiful, even after all the struggles with health took a huge toll on her body and her self esteem.
11. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that, unlike the patriarchal messages would have her believe, she did not need a man to validate her self worth in order to feel beautiful.
12. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that what happened to her was not her fault, that she was not a “temptress” or seducing someone.
13. I wish my 16-year-old self knew what grooming was and what abuse looked like, but I also wish she knew not to blame herself for being manipulated and abused. I wish she knew that it wasn’t her fault. I wish she knew how to forgive herself.
14. I wish my 16-year-old self knew that, as my friend advised, “You are a human being — not human doing. Your value lies in simply being human, not in what you do for others.”
15. I wish my 16-year-old self knew the signs of enmeshment, co-dependence and a relative having a personality disorder.
16. I wish my 16-year-old self knew what to do when I found out that two relatives were self-harming.