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(Adults, read at your own risk)
It's not easy being a young person today. In fact, it's probably never been easy to be young. Growing up is hard and sometimes it feels like you'll be depressed or angry forever. Parents are always on you--or maybe yours are divorced and you never see them. You might be having problems at school or at home and you feel resentful and angry. You might even wonder if these feelings are normal. Many kids and teens have feelings of being depressed (sad, blue, down) or angry (mad, feel like you could hit or hurt someone). But usually these feelings do not last a long time. You might want to get some help if:
1) You feel sad and down most of the day, nearly every day
2) You feel irritable (annoyed, angry) much of the time
3) You lose interest in things you used to enjoy, like sports
4) You can't sleep at night or you sleep too much.
5) You feel worthless (feel no one wants you)
6) You can't think straight at school or concentrate on your work
7) You think a lot about death or even of hurting yourself or someone else
8) You think others are out to get you
So you feel frustrated and angry, like no one in the world can understand what you are going through. Maybe even your best friend (if you have one) can't understand how miserable and angry you really feel. Or you've told them and they're no help (probably because they have their own problems to deal with). Below are some suggestions on how to get through those times when you feel like you could snap and hurt yourself or someone else. Or maybe you know a friend or relative who feels this way. How can you help? What can you do?
1) The first thing to do is talk with a trusted adult or friend. Even if you are a guy or girl who is used to doing things for yourself or you tend to keep everything inside, you might be surprised at how someone else's perspective can help you when you feel lost. Maybe you don't have anyone. Your parents are divorced or the problems you have are about them. Seek out your school counselor or if you don't like the school counselor, talk to someone at your school or in your neighborhood. Sometimes even a friend's parents can help you if you give them the chance.
2) OK, you've tried this approach and it didn't work. Say that everyone in your school and community is an idiot or not trustworthy. Examine your possibilities again. Are you sure? Can you speak to your parents about going to a private counselor who is trained to help kids like you? Or have you tried going to your minister, rabbi, or priest?
3) You've tried talking, it didn't work. Maybe you'll have to go it alone. What kinds of negative messeges are you sending yourself? Do you tell yourself that your problems will never end, that they will go on forever. They won't. One day you will grow up, leave that school, girlfriend, backstabbing bestfriend and go on to bigger and better things. Is it really worth hurting yourself or someone else over something that in ten years you won't even remember? So what do you do right now to make yourself feel better?
4) Stop making your problems bigger than they are! You will get out of school one day even though it seems like it is forever. Your parents' divorce can effect you in a positive way or a negative one. It's up to you how you choose to deal with your difficulties. The only thing you can control are your actions. If you blow up or get depressed and act impulsively, you will be sorry for years to come. You have to try and cope with your situation in a constructive way. Don't think with your emotions. Think with your brain.
5) Take for example, there's a bully at school. How can you deal with someone harrassing you? Don't use your fists, use your mouth if possible. "Is your life that dull that all you can do is pick on me? Do you feel better about yourself now?" If you are a kid who is teased or known as an outcast at your school, read in the next section how others have dealt with this problem and lived to go on to bigger and better things.
6) Try joining an organization, group or find a hobby that is outside your school or even your community. When I was fourteen, I took airplane lessons every week. Although I was never much of a pilot, when I was flying around, looking down at the scenery, my problems seemed to melt away. It helps to get involved with things you enjoy that are just for you. Also, you will be in a different setting with people other than the ones making your life miserable. This alone has to be some comfort.
7) Reward yourself even if others don't. Listen to your favorite music, go to the movies, fantasize about the great life or job you will have one day.
Believe me, you are not alone if you are having a bad high school or junior high experience. As President Clinton is fond of saying, "I share your pain." The difference is I actually mean it. I understand what it is like to be an outcast. Although at my school, I was not really a geek or nerd, I was a nobody, which has its own hardships. My family was also Jewish which meant that I was automatically somewhat of an outsider. One day in junior high, I came home on the school bus to find a huge swastika(a Nazi symbol) in front of my house that some complete losers from the junior high had put there. Initially, I was horrified and told my parents, who with raising five kids did not have the energy to do anything much. They just let the incident go. But day after day, that swastika was there as a reminder to everyone in the neighborhood that there were people out there who were full of hatred and cruelty. A few days later, someone cleaned the swastika off the road. I heard that it was the same kids who had put the swastika there. They were so humiliated that their prank had not created even the slightest stir from us that it was no longer a thrill. I was never bothered by them again.
Like me, there are countless former outcasts and nerds who have had horrendous experiences in school and lived to tell about it and even go on to be successful. I have been e-mailed from former nerds around the country to share their own horrible experiences after the Colorado shootings. But as you will see, they lived through it without harming others or themselves and so will you. Here are just a few of their stories:
Finally, one last letter:
"I had a terrible time in high school and can completely understand how these kids minds work. I think that I was very seriously depressed all through high school. I was a nerd, I was teased, I hated most of the people I knew. I never really considered doing anything violent to anyone else, but thoughts of such things definitely went through my head. But I am fine now. I have a PhD from Harvard and am doing work in drug research."
You can now see that others have been where you are now and survived. Believe me, life does get better after high school, just as the letters above prove. Violence is never the answer to feeling rejected. Channeling your energy into something constructive and positive until one day you are out of school is the answer. One day, you too, will be a former nerd looking back at high school and realizing that living well is truly the best revenge. E-mail me at email@example.com if you have a story to share.