Tag Archives: youth voice

We always wonder why

November 19th, 2019

Nobody talks about wanting to die. There’s a dark stigma around it, like it’s a contagious disease. It’s as if by talking about it, we have something to lose, when in reality, if we don’t talk about it, we’ll continue to lose many lives. We’re always surprised when somebody dies by suicide. We wonder where the signs were, we wonder how no one noticed something was off. We wonder why. We always wonder why.

Some days, I wake up and the thought of having to go through the motions again become almost unbearable. Get up, shower, try to eat breakfast, go to work, try to have a social life, go to bed and think about how much I don’t want to do the same thing day in and day out for the rest of my life. It all seems so tedious – especially when I’m also dealing with constant anxiety and treatment resistant depression.

There are even days when I just want to die. I’m not saying that I’m suicidal. I don’t have a plan of action. I haven’t written my final goodbyes. I’ll be honest – I don’t even think I could bring myself to do it. The thought, though, is almost cathartic in a way. It’s like looking forward to taking a nap after you’ve woken up too early for a breakfast party that you didn’t even want to attend in the first place. When I’m at my lowest, I constantly think, “I didn’t want any of this. I didn’t ask to be born.” Often, I’d rather face the pitch black of uncertainty than deal with being depressed and crying myself into an uneasy sleep night after night.

I’m finding that this is a fairly common train of thought – especially in my peers. We’re exhausted, overworked, underpaid, unfulfilled, overmedicated, undermedicated, stressed out, angry and depressed. There’s not enough time in a day to get everything one wants and needs done. By bedtime, we’re so frazzled that we’re overtired, our thoughts going a thousand miles an hour, with nowhere to go except around and around. That’s not good for anyone’s mental health, and it can seriously start to bog anyone down. I can’t tell you how many of my peers have ‘joked’ about killing themselves just to ease the stress of living. Maybe the thought of suicide hasn’t been in the forefront of their minds- but it’s definitely there.

When you type ‘not suicidal’ into the Google search bar, the first three suggestions that come up are:

“Not suicidal but tired of life.”

“Not suicidal but wouldn’t mind dying.”

“Not suicidal but wanting to die.”

This tells me that there are a lot of people, like me and my peer group, who are feeling the exact same way. It’s comforting, knowing that I’m not alone in my existential dread, but it’s also concerning. As a nation, we’re still not talking about suicide, and we’re certainly not addressing mental health. Not to mention that treatment for anyone who’s considered “high functioning” with mental health needs is almost non-existent for young adults/adults. Most of my friends hear the same script from their providers, “Okay, you’re depressed and having some minor suicidal ideation… but you’re out of bed, you’ve combed your hair, ate half a piece of toast, and you’re going to work still… so I’m going to prescribe you this antidepressant that’ll make you groggy and confused when you wake up, and let’s see how you’re feeling in a month!” Are we supposed to take that seriously if they’re not taking us seriously?

I don’t know how we fix this. Maybe we don’t. But! We can make it better. We start by having real, open and honest conversations about wanting to die, and we stop judging people and telling them that they’re weak. We start listening and stop threatening to send someone to the hospital every time they curiously utter the word ‘suicide.’ Be a friend. Be kind. Be supportive. Now, if you’re thinking that you can’t do this alone and you’re afraid to talk about it, don’t worry. I’ll start the conversation – my name is Chandra, and some days, I want to die.

Chandra Watts is our guest blogger. She is our Youth Development Specialist and draws on her own life to change how the world sees mental illness.  She is one of the founding members of Youth MOVE Massachusetts.

 

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My First Impression of PPAL and Youth MOVE

October 21st, 2019

handsFor me, my mental health has always been a struggle. I have what is called major mental illness, which means I am diagnosed with over five mental illnesses including schizoaffective disorder and autism spectrum disorder. I’ve been in 18 short-term mental hospitals, starting as young as 4 and as recent as age 16. I was also in Worcester State Hospital for two and a half years. While I was there, I really began to do well for the first time, and about a year and a half later I was introduced to PPAL. I remember my first day at PPAL. They were super welcoming. My first memory at PPAL was having chicken and broccoli alfredo for dinner, which is one of my favorite dishes. 

It seemed like maybe just a one-time thing, but week after week I kept going, and it wound up being a huge support for me. When Youth MOVE accepted me for my first internship in 2018, it paved the way for me to have more independence than I’d had in years. When the internship ended, it resulted in going to PPAL and doing other things independently.

PPAL has been supportive of so many milestones. These include stepping foot inside my house for the first time in three years and eventually working my way to unsupervised passes, which led to triple overnights. 

The staff and youth at PPAL are amazing. They get so excited for me — even the small things are worth celebrating. It’s just infectious. I get so much support here at Youth MOVE, but I also just have fun! PPAL, I don’t know what I’d do without all of you. The support is and will always be incredible.

by Meg Markert Parabicoli

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My Life So Far

September 19th, 2019

person in the rainHi, my name is Alan and I’m transgender. Ever since I was a little kid, I always knew there was something different about me. I just didn’t know what it was at the time. I was once told that I was a tomboy, and just went along with that. I thought being a tomboy was the closest I could get to being a boy; I didn’t even know that the word transgender even existed. 

When I was in elementary school, all the kids saw me as “that one kid” almost all the time. I would be asked if I was a boy or a girl because of the way I was dressed and acted. Every time someone asked me that question, I would answer with “I’m a girl! I just dress like a boy!” The only reason I would reply with that is because my family was always telling me that, and at the time I thought adults were always right. Boy, was I wrong. You see, most of my family is either Catholic or Penticostal, except for my mom and older sister, thankfully. 

My family would always talk to my mom about me, worried that would turn out to be trans in the future and that I would go to Hell because of it. Of course, they didn’t tell me any of those things because they still have manners, which is nice. For the longest time I hated them, and after a while I distanced myself from them. My mother couldn’t do that because she partially took care of my grandma and I understood; I mean, she can’t just abandon her mom because of me. So the only relative I actually visited was my grandma, the most religious out of all my family members. Over time though, I grew to ignore the fact that she didn’t accept me, and eventually I did the same thing with all my family members.

Did it annoy me? Yes it did, but I decided to be the bigger person and tried to repair the broken relationship I had with my family. Over time, my relationship with them got better and better. Recently my uncle told me that he would call me Alan, my cousin is referring to me as a ‘he’ now, and my grandma actually referred to me as a ‘he’ a few times – but she then went back to referring to me as a ‘she.’ But it is progress, and I’m thankful for that.  And to all the kids like me, things really do get better.

by Alan

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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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