Tag Archives: youth

A Letter to 12-Year-Old Me

May 9th, 2019

loveHi. I know you are probably confused as to why I am calling you Rae and not Rachel.

You know how you never felt really comfortable being called a woman, or how you thought “she” just didn’t suit you? You were right. You now identify as non-binary, and I am super pumped for you to learn about that.

With that out of the way, I wanted to talk about trauma and what’s happened to you recently. You were sexually assaulted, and the people telling you you are lying are really, really wrong and are going to make you doubt yourself. They will invalidate you. And you will become silent. Not forever, obviously, because I am writing you this letter, but it’ll take some time and some new friends in adulthood.

You are going to go through this again, and it hurts to write that. But you will, and you will survive it. It’ll be someone you love with all your heart. He has brown eyes and is very charming. And he’ll do some damage.

My dear, dear friend you will experience heartache and loss and abuse but you come out so much stronger and more compassionate on the other side. You are such a wonderful, well-rounded human now. You have a job supporting other young people, you’re working on moving out, and you’re on the Board of Directors for a national organization (at 22 holy crap!). There is so much to look forward to.

I want you to know I love you. I know you don’t love yourself yet (you are getting there) and I know you cannot see the future. But you are such a valid, incredible, vibrant young person, and I want to congratulate you on sticking to who you are and what you believe in.

As Elton John said, “I’m still standing after all this time.” And you are too. Thank you so much for staying alive. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Love,

Your Future Self

Rae LaBrie is a young adult who’s striving to make the world a better place, one step at a time. They are currently working at PPAL and serving on Youth MOVE National’s Board of Directors.

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Question 3 from the Perspective of a Non-Binary Young Adult

November 28th, 2018

trans military ban protest

By: Rachel LaBrie

Recently, in our midterm elections on November 6th, we had a ballot question that could’ve made life a lot more frightening, and potentially dangerous, for folks who are not cisgender. For anyone who is confused, cisgender means you identify with the sex assigned to you at birth. For example, if you were assigned female at birth, and you identify as female, you are cisgender. Transgender, which is an umbrella term, means you do not identify with the sex assigned to you at birth.

The law that we were voting on, and we inevitably kept in place with our votes, made it illegal to discriminate against someone for their gender identity in places of public accommodation. For example, it made it illegal for places like sports venues, hotels, and restaurants to discriminate against you for that reason.  If we had a “no” vote on this question (question 3 on our ballot), this law would have been rolled back. We would have been the first state in the country to roll back protections for transgender people. That would have set a dangerous precedent for the rest of our nation.

As someone who is not cisgender, this law being taken away would have had an impact on me. I identify as non-binary and gender fluid. Basically, for me, that means sometimes I identify as female and use she/her/hers pronouns, and other times I feel like I’m somewhere in between male and female, and on those days (which are most days) I use they/them/theirs pronouns.  I could have been denied service based on this fact. That would be devastating to me.

I’ve been asked, as someone who is a contractor for a youth organization (Youth MOVE Massachusetts) and PPAL, why it was and is such an important question for our organization to have a stance on. A lot of our youth and young adults are transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming. This law put the livelihoods of our folks at stake. It is so important to recognize that this law is so important and crucial in keeping our folks protected and involved in their community.

There is still a lot of work to be done to educate the community on gender identity. So many people don’t understand the terminology, or the disparities in care that people experience when they are transgender. I hope to see a day where we can all coexist without this constant judgement and that people will stop feeling entitled to have an “opinion” on whether or not people like me exist. Because we do, and it is not a matter of opinion. We are here. And we will continue to be. And the sooner we can all respect each other, the better.

Rachel LaBrie is a advocate and a writer. They are currently working on compiling a book of poetry about their struggles with mental health. 

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I Am Not My Mental Illness, And Neither Are You

September 28th, 2018

seacoast sceneI am most certainly not my mental illnesses.

Although I have ADHD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, and most likely an upcoming OCD diagnosis, I am not defined by those labels.

I am a lover of poetry. I get lost in the words I write, pouring the bottled up emotion onto paper, and making it sound like a symphony. I love to sing, love to hear music flow through my headphones, a form of escape sometimes, and other times indulging in sadness.

I am empathetic. I love to help other people. It’s what I know I was born to do. I am an advocate. I have advocated locally, statewide, and nationally, and it’s all a result of my burning passion for being a voice. I am a voice for those who have a hard time speaking out, for those who are growing tired of being treated like they don’t belong.

When I tell people I have a mental illness, it is an immediate judgement when that person doesn’t know what it is like to feel like there is no hope. Sometimes, hope seems so far away. It feels like I will never earn the right to be happy. However, there is strength within me. So when I feel like I don’t belong, I tell myself there must be a reason I’m still here. I think that reason is to pursue a better future, both for myself and others.

So yes, I am not my mental illness. No one is defined only by their mental illness. We are all warriors. We fight this battle bravely every day. We are not just “patients”, we are people who need our voices heard, for there is so much to be said.

By: Rachel LaBrie

 

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Body Image: 3 Years Later

August 29th, 2018

Start a revolution, stop hating your bodyMy name is Rachel LaBrie, and I wrote a blog about my struggle with my body image for PPAL three years ago. In that blog, I realize I sugarcoated a lot of things. Let me tell you the truth. Well, the full truth.

I have bulimia, and have since I was seven years old. It all started in dance class. The constant pressure to be long and lean took a serious toll on my mental health, and then my physical health. I started off hiding in the back of the room, so that not as many peers could see me. That transitioned to me emotionally eating whenever I’d get anxious. And as the guilt set in, that’s when the purging started.

I’ve been told seven years old is so young to form an eating disorder, but you’d be surprised. I’ve hated how I looked since I was 5 years old. It’s also a super common thing to have an eating disorder as a dancer.

I probably read how to purge in a book; I was an avid reader, and I often read books meant for teenagers. I never told anyone until I was 9, and it was my nutritionist, who didn’t believe me about my bulimia. My dance teacher continued to ignore the signs. So I did what I thought would stop all that…I quit dance.

However, the behavior was already developed and I just got more and more lost in my disorder. The Eating Disorder “Voice” kept telling me to eat. Chocolate, cookies, candy, whatever I could get my hands on. Then all of a sudden, “STOP!! GET RID OF IT! GET RID OF IT ALL!!” It yelled a lot.

I gave in for so long. I followed my eating disorder into fire until I felt I was igniting into flames.  That is until I hit a breaking point. I finally told my Primary Care Doctor, and she referred me to an outpatient eating disorder clinic. I did the Partial Hospitalization Program twice in 6 months.

It really did help. I haven’t purged in about 9 months. I feel better physically, but the “voice” still comes into my head from time to time. I’ve learned some techniques to shut it up.

It’s still hard. I still hate my body. I still insult it more than I should. But I recognize it does so much for me. It carries me around, lets me accomplish my goals. I need to thank my body more often for what it is, instead of criticizing it for what it isn’t. And maybe that time will come soon.

For everyone who has struggled with their own body image, I stand with you. I understand how hard it is to make that negativity in your head stay quiet. But we can do this.

Say something nice about your body to your body today. The littlest compliments help. It seems silly, but sometimes you need to convince yourself and your body that your body is worthy of love from you. I let my body become my enemy, but now, I feel like we are building a friendship. And I cannot even begin to tell you how good that feels.

Here’s to another 3 years of growth.

By: Rachel LaBrie

 

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Reaching Out

April 27th, 2015

rowofkidsReaching out and helping youth and young adults is very important. To give us attention shows us that you really care. Reaching out and helping is one of the best things that anybody can do. Look at all the trouble that happens to youth on the streets every day or that’s caused by youth and young adults.  We search for support with our actions. We speak out to you with no answer. It’s our cry for help.

I am amongst the youth and have done things in the past in an attempt for attention and support. I have set fires and even fought at school. I’ve been to different programs in three different systems. I stuck with a few programs for a while but eventually ran or decided they were not for me. One program has been helping me for five years now. I think they will always be there for me.

I have been going to PPAL and Youth MOVE for five years. It is a wonderful placed to go that reaches out to you. They talk to you, ask you how you’re doing, and offer you help whenever they can. PPAL has helped me a lot. Helped with things such as getting my ID, helping me find a job, and given me people I can talk to.  PPAL has groups every week for youth and young adults. It’s a good place to talk because it’s not run by doctors or people sitting in the corner with a clipboard, it is just youth talking to each other. We have dinner together. I can also hang out with other youth and young adults that are around my age group and listen to their experiences. I can get feedback about how I can deal with some of my experiences in the past or even problems I have now.

Before coming to PPAL I was really scared to talk about anything and when I opened my gates and started talking, I felt so much better. I began coming constantly and kept getting support emotionally and now I help as well. I help set up the groups and run parts of the meetings. Sometimes I stay away for a while and am worried about going back. I worry about how I might be judged. PPAL doesn’t judge me for why I was away. They welcome me back and help me get back on track. They offer to help.

I am a troubled youth just like a lot of youth. Many of us feel alone and like we have it the worst, but you are not alone. Talk to somebody. Open up. You might find somebody who is reaching out to you. I can personally say that a lot of people at PPAL know what they are talking about. We don’t fake it. We know how you feel. We will help.

 

This blog was written by a 19-year-old young adult member of Youth MOVE Massachusetts. They have lived experience in mental health, child welfare, and juvenile justice systems. Their strengths include leadership skills and writing poetry to name just two.

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