I’m really sorry if I’ve wasted your time

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I guess this is stupid to say but I just needed to say something. I am a sophmore in high school and I am in really hard classes along with some of my friends. Because of all the stress I feel like my only option is running away or committing suicide. I always think about this. Sometimes i find myself walking by buildings thinking about jumping off them, or running away late at night for some random person to find me and kill me. I haven’t done anything to harm myself, but it’s just because I’m afraid I’ll get caught. I hate talking to my parents, and find ways to avoid them and my sister at all costs. They don’t understand at all what I am going through. I have bad grades in school for the first time this year and they say that it’s OK but no matter what I always go to sleep at night wondering how much more pain I’ll have to take. I tried to read the Bible and pray but I can’t hear any answers back when I do so. I feel like life isn’t worth the time, and that I should just end it. My friends and I, during an AP class, starting talking about how, if there was a Hell, it would have to be better than the Hell that we’re in now (school).

I’m really sorry if I’ve wasted your time by writing this.

A: First and most important — you’re not wasting my time. The feelings you are having are scary to deal with. You needed help and you asked for it. I hope everyone reading this will take a lesson from that. There is no shame in asking for help!

What you are describing is far too common. Really smart kids like you and your friends tend to get through elementary and middle school pretty easily. As a result, you don’t learn to deal with setbacks and even failures as you go along. Then you hit a wall. Usually it’s an AP class or an advanced math or science or upper-level social science class that for the first time really challenges you. You may not be used to having to spend many, many hours figuring something out. You may be shocked to find that the paper or test that you thought you did brilliantly on comes back with a B or a C or even worse! If that weren’t enough to make someone depressed, there’s all the social stuff that goes on in high school as people figure out who their friends are, who they want to date, and, actually, who they themselves want to be in the world. You’re right to feel stressed. This is really, really stressful.

I’m so glad you and your friends are talking to each other. Often kids in your situation hide their less than stellar grades because they worry their friends will dump them. Kids who do that get isolated and even more depressed. You and your friend group can be an incredible support to each other.

The good news (yes, there really is good news in all this) is that you are being forced to learn some new skills before you go to college. At least now you do have your friends and familiar surroundings to help you. Students who hit the wall for the first time in college have an even tougher time.

People start to think of suicide when they can’t think of anything else that will end the pain. I’m glad you wrote because there is lots and lots to do before you get that desperate. First: You and your friends need to stop supporting each other in how awful the situation is and get busy. Make a study group. Each of you has strengths that can help the group. Divide up the homework and teach each other. I’m not suggesting that you guys start cheating. Cheating will only leave you unprepared for college. You’re not going to give each other answers. You’re going to help each other learn how to find the answers.

Also – Talk with your teachers. Teachers are almost always willing to help any interested student who is making an effort. (I know. I teach at the college level and my colleagues and I are always willing to meet with kids who want extra help.) At this point in your high school career, you’re not only looking for answers to questions. You are also developing your intellect. Talking with teachers about complicated things will hone those skills. If a group of you are having the same difficulty with a subject, ask the teacher if you can have a weekly review after school.

Still feeling awful? Then it may be time to talk to a school counselor. The staff at your school know the issues that are unique to your school and will probably help you find some strategies for dealing with them.

Finally. Please don’t give up on your parents. It sounds like they are trying to be reassuring. They’ve told you that they are okay with your grades. You’re right that they don’t understand exactly what you’re going through. But give us older folks a chance. We did go to high school once. It wasn’t any better then. If you go to your parents with an open mind, you may be surprised just how much they do understand. They may even have some useful advice. Even if they don’t, they can help fill your emotional “tank” with their love and support.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Jan 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). I’m really sorry if I’ve wasted your time. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/01/22/4979/

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