Overcoming Teenage Challenges
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When I was younger I grew up in a middle class family, and I was generally happy to have everything that I ever needed and wanted with fairly good support from my friends and family. I was actively involved with social activities, I performed well in school, and I experienced a variety of satisfying accomplishments through winning state level competitions in a few sports competitions. My life was actually pretty good from an outsider’s perspective, and I actually felt good internally as well. My connections with my friends were positive, and I was generally well-balanced.
However, suddenly moving to a totally new state for the remainder of my high school career delivered a massive blow to my relationships, and the separation left me feeling alone and disconnected – Now I needed to make new friends. However, the new people and new places started to worry me as I had never been away from home, so I began to experience shyness and embarrassment for the first time that I could remember. This was my first experience of social anxiety, and it initiated a pattern of avoidance that prevented me from asking for help or engaging with others during the remainder of my teenage years – I failed to make new connections. I had no idea how to rid social anxiety. I thought to myself that if I reached out and asked for help from anybody that this would be a public indication that something was wrong with me. Rather than risk uncertainty, I chose to avoid exposing my vulnerability to others. As a result of this chosen isolation, I began identifying myself as a “loner” by nature. I felt that nobody could understand me because I couldn’t even understand myself, and my self-imposed isolation eventually resulted in reports to my parents about my odd social behavior at school. My parents took me to a physician in order to prescribe antidepressants, but my problem wasn’t chemical, it was social.
Small and Predictable? I think not!
For me depression didn’t come in small and predictable pieces, but it slowly crept into my life and wiped me out before I could prepare myself for the challenges that would follow. My teenage depression seemed to be something that resulted in an almost inescapable grip of pain and suffering, and the most painful thing for me was the excruciating loneliness that I could not seem to overcome for several years. My motivation and my ability to engage with the world seemed to drop-off dramatically, and I found myself fighting an eating disorder and insomnia as a consequence of my depressive states. During this time the state had rendered me completely devoid of any social life, so my self-esteem dropped to all-time lows, and I eventually thought of myself as a total and complete failure. The feeling that I was completely alone, no one cared about me, and nobody wanted to speak with me was overwhelming, so I tried to escape from my pain through music and other activities as a way to distract myself, but nothing seemed to work. These were the days when I didn’t feel connected with the people around me, and I was paying more attention to my sense of contempt for the way that I was living my life than I was acknowledging the beauty that was all around me.
OK – So let’s shift to the more positive aspects of my experience!
Once I recognized that I was perpetuating these states internally, I turned to the strength of my will as my definative solution. This meant pushing myself into new situations that made me uncomfortable and challenging myself to experience new things in life. During this time I began to meditate and focus on the present moment while I searched my soul through asking myself questions about who I was. Since then I have allowed myself to notice the simple things that inspire me. Finding a way to be grateful for the natural world of birds, the wind, the trees, and my life in general has been helpful, and I have met my new Life Partner. She has inspired me to continue moving forward in my life and discovering ways to find inspiration through continued growth. Things are looking far better now. These days life has started to resonate with me much more strongly, and I am feeling happy knowing that I am now doing work that I love and building my reservoir of inner strength and confidence. As you can see this took me a long time to accomplish (years in-fact), and through the process I have developed a great deal of powerful inner strength through getting myself through that dark period of my teenage years. And guest what: You can do it too.