Dear tween, teen, and young adult girls currently struggling to find who you are and what you stand for:
This is a letter written to you in love from a fellow girl who has had her ups and downs throughout her tween and early teen years. At the time of this writing, I am seventeen and a soon-to-be high school graduate. Hopefully knowing where I am in my own life will put your mind at ease, as I am not far removed from the stress of being a teenager and I can truly empathize and understand your situations. I will be including my testimony also, so you can see my background. But, before I delve into what I really want to say to you, there are a few things I assume are true about you, your current state of mind and your situation; if one or more of these rings true to you, then I urge you to keep reading.
Number one: You are a girl between the ages of thirteen and twenty. Number two: You feel a disconnect with the world around you and don’t know how to reconnect. Number three: You have a generally negative outlook on life and are disinterested in most everything. And number four: There is no one around that you feel would understand your emotions and problems, so you bottle up everything. These are my assumptions because I have gone through these things and I can only speak from my own experience, which I suppose I should include.
I was raised in a Christian home, my parents were and still are happily married, I have one sister who doubles as my best friend, and I have been homeschooled for my entire life. I was a pretty normal kid up to the age of 13, when I “finally” became a teenager, a far off goal that I was all too happy to have finally reached. It was around this time that I started to express myself through my fashion, which at the time consisted of everything bright, glittery, or patterned. Around this time, I also started to get involved with teen drama. Many of the girls I hung out with had a generally snarky attitude towards parents and/or other young girls who, for one reason or another, “weren’t good enough” to be in the popular circle. These were the people who most molded my thoughts at the time and I became annoyed and distant with my own family, believing that everything they said or believed was wrong, simply because they were my family.
This phase lasted until I was about fourteen and then I moved into what my family and I now call the “goth phase.” After having a falling out with a few friends, I remember being very sad and in my own head about it for maybe a month. Then I went shopping for a whole new wardrobe and bought all black, white, and grey clothes. This was a rather drastic change from the bright neon colors from the previous year. I also experimented more with makeup and took to wearing a whole lot of very dark eye makeup, and I dyed my hair such a dark brown that it looked black. This didn’t all happen overnight; it was semi-gradual.
You may be asking now, “Okay, so you tried a look that didn’t work. What’s the harm?” And to that I will tell you this: At least for me, the way I dress reflects my state of mind and which emotions are in control at the moment, and this was especially true for the “goth phase.” I continued to distance myself from my family, especially my mom. I also backed away from spending time with friends. I always felt lonely, but I was disinterested in anything around me so I chose not to go to any event or activity. I became even more withdrawn and my inner monologue consisted of self-righteousness and self-pity for my “terrible life” and “awful, closed minded parents.” I wouldn’t say I “had depression,” but I was quite depressed.
The worst of my angst came, though, when I decided that the answer to fill the void and emptiness in my life was to set up multiple email accounts and join an online dating site. I was fifteen at that point and wanted to see what guys thought of me. I went back and forth in my head about whether I should or shouldn’t do it, but once I signed up for one, I was in. I faked my profile and said I was 18, as that was the youngest these sites allow. Somehow it didn’t occur to me that many of the people on the site could have faked their ages and profiles too, and for all I know I was talking to forty-something predators. I don’t remember how long I was on this site, but it was at least a month, and one day I started to feel very guilty about what I had done. This persisted for a few days and I finally deleted the account, or so I thought. Then about a month after I got off the site, an email from it came into my regular email - not the secret email I had set up, but the normal one. The normal account was linked to my mom’s email so she could actually see it. I am still baffled as to how it came to that address, but I am so glad now that it did. After she found the dating account, which I guess I hadn’t taken down correctly, my mom and I had a very open conversation about the sadness I felt. I remember my mom praying over me multiple times that day. I look back at that conversation as the turning point for me.
In the past fifteen months, God has been changing me. I have gotten a job, grown closer to my family, and made deep friendships with good people. I feel a general sense of peace and and contentment in my soul that I have never felt before. But, of course, getting out of that dark place was gradual. I am still a very private person and have to force myself to express my feelings to others instead of just waiting around for someone to literally guess what’s wrong. I still struggle with being honest and that is probably a tendency I will live with forever. But through the grace of God, I can get better at it. Sometimes I wonder where I would be in my life now if my mom hadn’t gotten that email. I think I would still be in a dark mindset feeling sorry for myself and blaming everyone around me for my own problems. God has blessed my so much by giving me a loving and supportive family to whom I can open up, and I hope that my experience will help me give advice to girls in a similar state of mind.
If you’re going through a rough time, I would greatly encourage you to talk to a parent. If you have a parent who you know will love you and stand by you no matter what you have done, please, please, please talk to him or her. It will be difficult to open up - I know I still struggle with it - but every time you push yourself to tell someone about your problems, it will get easier. Unfortunately, people are not mind readers, and you cannot expect your parent to come to you one day and guess every single thought you have had and every single problem you face. Sometimes you have to be the one to make the first move; you need to be the one to walk up to your parent and say, “Can I talk to you about something going on in my life?” Most parents will be concerned at this phrase, but they will also love you and be so happy that you trust them to help you.
I do understand that not all families are supportive and receptive. If you are going through a hard time and you have tried to speak to your parents but they are unresponsive, then your second option is to go to someone from an older generation who can help guide you through your emotions and help you pick yourself up. A good example of this type of person would be a pastor, aunt, uncle, or teacher. If you can’t find an older person, then the last resort would be to go to a friend. I list friends as a last option because I feel a person at your same maturity level might accidentally justify your feelings and sadness. It is absolutely okay to be sad if you are, but it is not okay to simply stay that way.
My last bit of advice to you girls is this: Open a Bible and read. When you do this, please pray that God will lead you to a passage he wants you to hear. Also, please keep your heart open to what God may be saying to you. You may not think he cares but he does, and when you read his Word with a desire to hear him, it doesn’t matter if you don’t find the passages applicable to your life or not. What matters is that you are in the Word and it is in your head. God loves you, and, if you let him, he will help you. But you must want to be helped, and - from someone who has been there - I know you may not think you need it. Let me tell you now, though, that you and your burden are in my prayers and, although I can give advice, I know you are the deciding factor. Only you can decide that you want to change. But please know that you are loved.
Photo Credit: Art Ranked