Tag Archives: youth

Engulfed in Academia: Avoiding Trauma

August 26th, 2019

I’ve always been told I’m bright. I’ve been told I’m intelligent; that I’m wise beyond my years. I always did well in school. I was valedictorian of my high school class. The only reason for all that, however, was academia was the only distraction I could delve into to escape my trauma.

In the 6th grade, I was sexually assaulted by one of my classmates. I remember being terrified of him. I can still see the look on his face and feel his hands on me when I’m having a particularly intense flashback. No one at my school acknowledged it. In fact, they all told me I was lying, and that if I told anyone else it would result in consequences. I can only assume they were protecting their reputation, and it proved to me that although school is supposed to be a “safe place,” it certainly isn’t.

I lost a lot of friendships; endured bullying, name-calling, pushes in the hallway, and uncomfortable stares. I was lost, stuck in the hell that was my head, with no way to reach out. No one believed me, and no one seemed to see an issue with pretending nothing happened. They didn’t file a police report (which is illegal) and I felt like I had no escape route. So I dived head-first into obsessing over my grades.

I got called a lot of names for this as well: know-it-all, teacher’s pet, all the usual suspects. But it was much more bearable than the other names like whore, slut, and liar. I was considered so bright and talented by all my teachers, which was a relief, because when I started at this school, I was told it was unlikely that I would graduate high school due to the intensity of my symptoms.

Leaving high school was equally the happiest and scariest day of my life. On one hand, I was finally free of being in a space that re-traumatized me every time I stepped foot inside. On the other hand, I had to figure out a future. Everyone kept telling me I’d do so well in college and that I had a bright future ahead of me. However, I let my trauma sit too long: college ended up being too much for me and I ended up withdrawing.

Despite all of the trauma and what I called “failures” at the time, I learned so much. I have a job I love, I have people who love me and support me, and I’m finally looking into returning to college to get a degree in early childhood education, with the intent to become a kindergarten or first grade teacher. I want to be a good influence and a role model for young children. I want to create a safe space for students to learn their academics, as well as life lessons.

I still have really, really intense flashbacks, nightmares, and reactions to my trauma at times. But I’m looking forward to a long, successful life ahead. I’m so excited to grow, learn and teach.

 

Rae LaBrie is our guest blogger. They currently work for PPAL and serve on the Youth MOVE National Board of Directors. They aspire to be a teacher in order to share their wisdom and support the emotional and academic growth of young people.

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Social Anxiety, Change, and Me

July 18th, 2019

frowning faceI’m terrified of change. Weird, right?

It’s not that I don’t want things to change, especially if they’re negative. I just get scared. What if I try to plan everything out and something goes wrong? What if I end up looking like a fool? I would rather go to a familiar place than switch things around because people think it got “old.”

Another thing I’m scared of is: what if I’m going to show something I did to somebody else, or present it in front of a class?! I would be so embarrassed. I absolutely hate reading out loud, asking question in class, and even just being in a line. I am not confident in my ability to share with other people. I don’t like to be the center of attention or have all eyes on me.

This is how social anxiety makes me feel. It keeps me from asking for help when I don’t understand something. I’d rather just get it wrong if it means I don’t have to speak out loud or possibly be laughed at. I would rather leave something as it is so there’s no chance of ruining it.

In the past year, I have been facing my fear of socializing by joining Youth MOVE groups. At first I didn’t really talk to anyone, not even the staff. Now I am talking with almost everyone here. When a new member arrives, I try to welcome them because I know how it feels to be one of the new youth and/or young adults to come in. When I came, only the person running the group was trying to get me engaged, but I feel it might have been better coming from another peer.

Even though Youth MOVE has helped reduce my social anxiety, I don’t believe it will ever fully go away. If you are having a hard time, I think it would be in your best interest to look into groups in your area with like-minded people. There is no shame in trying to get help.

 

Eleana is a young adult who has been connected to Youth MOVE for over a year. She likes to draw, do hair and makeup in her spare time, and loves her dog very much.

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22 Brief Thoughts on Life from a 22-Year-Old Advocate

June 12th, 2019

handsI always like to reflect on my life before a birthday. 22 marks 6 years past 16, which is 6 years past the lifespan I thought I would have when I was younger. Here are 22 thoughts I’ve had regarding life in my 22 years on this earth.

  1. You never know what’s going to happen. Try not to predict what your life will look like, because you can’t know, and in some ways I think that’s one of the beautiful things about life.
  2. You will experience loss and But you will grow, and you will find your strength to carry on. I didn’t believe this at first, but it’s true.
  3. Suicide is not without I lost my best friend to suicide, and I contemplated suicide for 10 years. But people will miss you. And you are loved, even if it doesn’t seem like it.
  4. You will find people who are Some people are not meant to stay with you forever.
  5. You will find people who are They are your people, and you should cherish them.
  6. Don’t let other people tell you what “beautiful” You do not have to squeeze yourself into their box to be beautiful. Define for yourself what it means.
  7. Never underestimate the power of finding people who understand It may just save your life.
  8. I highly suggest talking about your feelings with people you Silence is what almost took my life, and I am so much happier now that I talk about how I feel.
  9. Everyone has bad days, even in There is no such thing as being happy all the time. If someone tells you they are always feeling good, they are lying through their teeth.
  10. Don’t let someone tell you that you aren’t “sick enough” to ask for help. No one can determine that except for If you need help, there is no shame in that, you’re doing the right thing.
  11. The stereotypes you hear about people with mental health concerns are mostly inaccurate. Most of my friends have a mental health diagnosis, and they are the kindest, gentlest people you’ll ever
  12. Don’t judge someone because of their weight. I have an eating disorder, and also happen to be overweight, you never know what people are going through, so steer away from judgement or dirty
  13. Sometimes, you have to mind your own Not everyone will let you in, not everyone wants to be asked about their own health/mental health. So respect that boundary.
  14. Not everyone thinks like Not everyone has a heart like you. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t respect them. Everyone is different.
  15. Some people will hurt you. Some people will come into your life, and all they do is drag you down and treat you like Don’t let them define you. You are strong enough to piece yourself back together.
  16. Sometimes, you need to let yourself fall When life hits you with something that hurts, you need to break down and learn to build yourself back up.
  17. You are made up of so many traits. Consider your traits to be Lego blocks, and build up the good traits, while learning to knock down the more negative It’s a good visual.
  18. Keep believing in the good in the I know sometimes it seems like good is gone, but there are good people in this world, and they make it go round.
  19. Journaling is a good habit to get I find I am most productive when I’m introspective.
  20. Self-care is so, so Like on an airplane, you have to put your oxygen mask on before helping someone else, and the same goes for your mental and emotional wellbeing.
  21. Do what you love to do, whether it be drawing, singing, sports, or whatever it It’ll help you in the long run.
  22. And finally, be Don’t let anyone, or anything, change you. Let yourself enjoy being you, there really is only one of you. Embrace that.

I want to know if you have any pieces of advice or thoughts that have shaped you or that you feel are important. Life is full of ups and downs, and will throw you curveballs from time to time, but you learn so much.

Rae LaBrie is a young adult whose passions are advocacy and writing. They hope to one day write a memoir about their struggle with mental health, and the beauty they’ve found in life.

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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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