“Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.” ~Cicero
The first thing I realized after I read your letter, which I am so glad you wrote, was that my shoulders were somewhere up around my ears, and I was holding my breath. It was only when I had to finally start taking in some air again that I realized how tense I’d gotten just by reading what you’ve been through. I can only imagine what it is like to have all this happen when you are 16 years old.
So I went through your letter again and realized why I had such a reaction. In a very short time you have experienced a series of powerful losses:
- You mother went into the hospital and became infirm. Since you did not mention your dad, I am imagining he is not in the picture, which makes her loss a profound one. As you said, she means the world to you.
- When she was in the hospital you lost the routine of being in your own home.
- You lost balance in your friendship when you moved in with your girlfriend and became estranged from her. All this without it being your fault, just a matter of circumstance.
- Because of all you were dealing with your mother and friends you’ve lost your academic standing in school. This is very understandable. How could you concentrate when the care of your mom is utmost in your thoughts?
- Even though your mom is back home you’ve lost the old relationship with her, and the old routine, because now you must change. In some ways the roles are reversed; you have become the one taking care of her.
- And, even though your girlfriend and you have repaired your relationship, it too has changed and you are more aware of her mental imbalances.
- You’ve lost a romantic expectation with your male friend. This, too, was a surprise and not something within your control.
- It is no wonder, as you say, “ you’ve now simply lost hope.” This would be a very natural reaction to any one of these losses. You’ve had more than a half dozen.
Your role with many significant people has changed radically in a very short time. What we know about this is that that is when a depression is likely to occur. Depression can happen when we feel we don’t have any control in our lives. We feel helpless, and we will have trouble concentrating, making decisions, getting motivated. Even the cutting and burning you’ve described is part of this. When pain happens to us and we feel we have no control in bringing pain to us, we are even tempted to bring pain onto ourselves as a way of getting some control.
But you already know what to do. The good advice you give others is now important for you to accept for yourself. What you would tell a friend in the situation you are in? My guess is it would be something like this:
- Begin by going to the school counselor to start talking about all of this on a regular basis.
- Have the counselor broker an understanding with your teachers so they can help you improve your grades.
- Your school or the hospital your mom was at may have a social worker that may be able to help find some in-home medical support for your mom. You need some help with her at home.
- Are there any family members or your mom’s friends you can call? Aunts, neighbors, and people your mom knows, that could help you get help for her?
- Make some time to study each day. You know you have academic talent, and your mom would want you to do well, so make a plan to begin catching up. You’ll feel better when you can begin accomplishing again.
- You have good friends, but it may be time to open yourself up to connecting with others. You are cool to hang with, so be open to new friendships and nurture them in your life.
- Take it one step at a time. Remember the saying: “Left foot, right foot, breathe.”
Let me close by saying how much I appreciate your writing us, and to end with a quote by an unknown author: “The best way to succeed in life is to act on the advice we give to others.”
Wishing you patience and peace,