Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Grade 11 Student's Journey from Despair to Hope

How do we respond to suicide?  Especially when it is teens in our own Valley?  One of the most important tasks is to offer hope to the struggling.  I find myself most inspired when it is not simply abstract, but when I hear from a real person who, in the valley of despair, has found hope.

This week I am honored to share a guest post from a Highland student who has battled with destructive behavior and suicidal thoughts and come out the other side with incredible hope and confidence.  

Her story was distributed by Youth Unlimited at the SD-71 Suicide Awareness event this month.  Her name is not mentioned but her story is known to many and she is boldly living out a new hope today in her school and home.

In compassionate memory of those we love who lost the battle for hope, and in prayer for those battling for hope today, I share her words.

A Grade 11 Student's Journey from Despair to Hope
November, 2011

            Hello, I’m a sixteen year old girl, in grade eleven, attending Highland secondary. I’m active in my school, youth groups and church activities. I get good grades and have lots of friends, my life growing up had been normal; two loving parents and two sisters, one older and one younger, we attended church every Sunday and had family meals. I've always tried to make decisions that appeared to be in my best interest.
            In grade eight I was transferred from a private school to Public school; Highland Secondary. During this time I was trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. Through grade eight I slowly pulled away from my parents and kept my thoughts and emotions distant from them. Eventually I realized that I felt so alone in life and it felt as if I couldn’t share my emotions and the conflict of thoughts with anyone around me. In grade nine I had a hard time at home and used every chance given to me to stay out later or not go home at all. I didn’t want to see my parents or siblings at all. I stuffed every negative thought and fears inside of myself and pretended that everything was okay. I was believing more and more lies about myself and life. In the process I was losing my way.
             Early in that year I found myself cutting my arms as a way to escape the huge amount of pain in my heart. I was living a double life, Good little Christian girl at home and around my church friends, and the rebel child with my school friends. I hid my cutting from everyone and kept it as a secret. Not long after I started self mutilating myself I was involved with smoking pot and sneaking out of the house at night just so I could be “free” from my house. I don’t call it a home because it wasn’t. My parents and I didn’t connect on a heart level and my sisters were constantly bashing me on how I looked, or what I said. From the outside we looked like a fully functional family, happy and healthy, but if you take a deeper look, we were a mess.... I was off smoking pot, cutting myself and letting my grades slip, and had lost myself, and didn’t know what I was doing with my life, or what was important. The thoughts of suicide had crossed my mind multiple times, but before I had time to take action on those thoughts, some of my friends had noticed my cutting problem, they dragged me to the school counselor who helped me take my first step on the road to healing my broken heart and a broken hope. She called my Mom-with my permission-and told her about the problems I was facing with cutting. Through this my parents were able to sit down with me and talk to me about these issues. It was hard at first, everyone in the house was awkward and didn’t know how to talk to me, or what to do when I was around, but it was an important first step.
            Even though my one problem had been brought into the light, I still had others hidden away in the dark and emotions still stored away in my heart. One night when I was sneaking out, my neighbor saw me, and after I left, told my parents (it was about 2:00 Am). My mom and dad stayed up worrying about me while I was off running around with my friends getting high. I came home two hours later to my parents waiting for my return. We went and sat in our dining room and talked about what I had done and how I was hurting, we talked till about 5:00 Am and then went to bed only to get up for church at 8:00 Am. I still didn’t care about what my parents had talked to me about or how I was affecting my family, I kept doing my own thing, getting high, cutting myself and sneaking out.
             In grade ten I had cut back on the pot and my cutting wasn’t much of an issue that year, I had stopped sneaking out, but that year I found myself into drinking alcohol and getting drunk. I had bought into the lie that my life didn’t matter and I couldn’t do anything to impact it so why even try? I threw caution into the wind and went with the flow of what everyone was doing. Lies abound in youth culture and my mind was getting filled with them.
            Near the end of the school year I had gone to a party so stupid drunk I couldn’t stand let alone hold a bottle of water to hydrate myself, the people running the party wouldn’t let me in and ended up calling my parents who had no idea I was at a party and instead thought I was at a sleepover with my friend. That night was the night I understood that everything I was doing wasn’t fun and that it was too much for me to take emotionally. I gave up on the pot, parties, drinking, and cutting was long gone from the picture. I picked up my life and tried to put it together again. But no matter what I did or how hard I tried my life still felt empty. Something deeper needed to change.
            It wasn’t until this past summer that I found what I was truly looking for. I realized that I can’t do anything real with my life unless I had Jesus Christ leading it, and to be honest, I think my heart knew all this time that He was the only thing that could truly fill that hole in my heart. Only through a loving relationship with Jesus and a growing understanding of the Bible could I begin to exchange the lies in my mind with the truth and become filled with peace and hope. My parents, Christian friends, youth groups, and church helped me come to this place but Jesus did the healing in my heart. God is slowly healing my family and helping us grow together in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of. We sit down and talk to each other and share what’s on our hearts, spend time together and enjoy the time spent together in the Bible. I used to resent morning, family devotions but now I miss them when I'm absent. I'm very thankful to Jesus for rescuing my life and to my family's love for me.

Ideas for parents from a teen's perspective
after reflecting on My Journey from Despair to Hope
-         You need to be open to your children, LEARN how to interact with you child in a healthy way.
-         Spent lots of quality time with you children, they need to know that you are someone they can come to with their problems, and how can you build that trust with your kid unless you spend daily time with them and build a friendship.
-         Expect your child to not want to spend time with you if this is something that you haven’t done before; it’s an awkward process from not communicating to suddenly spending time together; but it has to happen! Press through the struggle, it’s so worth it
-         Try and get to a point where you have heart-to-heart conversations with your child and share your emotions with each other.
-         If your child is struggling with issues that are huge, don’t baby them through it. What they need is a parent who is willing to help them out and be a shoulder to lean and cry on when things get hard. They need to learn how to deal with these things, not have them taken away. They deal with adult issues; treat them with the respect an adult would appreciate.
-         Assert your authority, and make it understood that you have rules that need to be respected, there may be anger from your child, but in the end all a kid needs is a parent who’s going to remain constant in what they say and who they are, and to love through everything that’s going on, authority is key to building a healthy relationship with your son or daughter.
-         Communicate your feelings and thoughts to your child, but be mature and adult like when you express these things (without getting angry or frustrated).
-         Its okay to ask what your kid is doing with their time and who they’re spending their time with. Better to know then have them running around getting into dangerous stuff that can be avoided.
-         Understand the culture your child is living in. It’s a lot different from when you were our age.    
                  “Seek first to understand before being understood”
                                                      -Steven Covey.

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