From a teen in Switzerland: I want to live my life without all of the negative thoughts and worries. I want to enjoy life again rather than thinking of it as “just having to get through it”. I have avoided going out with friends because I feel like it does’t matter if I go anyways, like nothing is missing if I’m not there because nobody seems to have noticed.

But also with school work and other tasks I am expected to do, I am so overwhelmed by them all, I get so stressed and feel like there isn’t enough time in the world to do it all. For some reason I get caught up with worrying about everything I should do and how I should have done something else differently etc.

Anyways, after months of denying that there was anything wrong with me and that everybody feels like this sometimes (which I mean literally; I don’t ALWAYS feel this way, which gets me thinking that I am over exaggerating?), I just can’t take it anymore.

But I feel like from where I come from mental illnesses are not acknowledged by society and that’s why I am so terrified of speaking to anybody about my feelings. I did, however, tell my best friend about it and she told me that whenever I am overwhelmed by everything and feeling depressed, she’s always there for me. But when I’m feeling particularly depressed I just want to be left alone and don’t want to talk to anybody because I’m too embarrassed. And I keep thinking, if I can’t even talk to my best friend, how in the WORLD am I going to talk to a therapist about it?

I’ve thought of speaking to my mother but she suffers from bulimia, which I have been wanting to speak to her about for years. But I am so scared of how she might react and might think she’s a bad mother so then it might only get worse if I do, especially if I would tell her about me. But then again I feel SO damn guilty for not trying to help her.

How can I get over being embarrassed and scared to talk about my feelings and get help?

I would immensely appreciate any advisc and would be truly grateful for any time taken to read this and help me feel a little less alone in this situation.

A: You are most certainly not alone in your situation. I receive many letters from teens like yourself who are carrying a burden that is too big but who feel like there is something wrong with them that they can’t handle. There is nothing wrong with them — or with you. Adolescence is a confusing time for most teens. Your body is changing. Peer relationships are often unstable. Additional layers of worries about family members or feelings of depression or anxiety can make it even more difficult.

Your letter shows that you are a sensitive person with big feelings who doesn’t want to burden others. Unfortunately, this leaves you carrying the burden on your own.

One of the advantages of therapy is that it is outside your usual relationships. A therapist’s job is to listen to you and to help you. There is no need to be embarrassed by what you are feeling. A therapist doesn’t judge and will not be burdened by whatever you have to say. Further, your therapist may be able to help you figure out how to both take care of yourself and also provide some support for your mother.

You don’t need to get over your feelings of embarrassment to start therapy. In fact, talking about that embarrassment may be exactly where you need to begin your first session. That will give you a place to start unloading some of your stress and will give the therapist the opportunity to reassure you. That is the beginning of establishing the trust you will need to have to do your emotional work.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie