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Water

 

As I walk around each day I feel a sense of hopelessness. It’s that same pinch of hopelessness in my heart from my parents’ divorce over a decade ago and I wonder if true love can last. It’s the deep and steadfast hopelessness that arises each time I remember that my brother is living on the streets and getting high on drugs every day.

I go to class and put on a close to perfect face, but inside I am just waiting for the phone call to hear that my brother has overdosed, and this time it’s fatal.  If that day were to ever come, I would bake chocolate chip cookies for him one last time and put them right by his grave, along with a stack of baseball cards.

I try to talk to people about my feelings, but people just say, “I am sorry,” and they think it will get better.

Well I am tired of that answer! I am tired of feeling stuck and I am just waiting for this big piece of my life to fade away.  If you have family or friends dealing with addiction to drugs or alcohol, I know you can relate.

So, I am here to encourage you…right?

I don’t have perfect little things to say and I don’t have the answers – if I did, I would take my own advice.  But, what I do know is that you should find just one person you can talk to, such as an aunt, grandma, teacher, tutor, someone at Youth Outreach, or a friend.  Even press into faith if you believe.  I would encourage you find someone who will just listen and be there.  And not say, “I’m sorry.” In my eyes, to say “I am sorry,” is for little things, like, “I’m sorry you missed class today because the teacher did something wild!”  If you can’t find someone, then write. Write a page to whoever in your life is abusing drugs or alcohol. Then write clearly what you would say to them.  I know this might sound silly, but trust me – it helps.  After you write this letter, read it out loud and know that it is okay to cry! Next, take a thick black pen and draw over the things that really upset you. After, tear it up, go workout, and just allow yourself to feel what you feel.

Another helpful coping method is to find something that you love to do: cook, journal, maybe clean, or play music. What I have found important is to keep yourself busy in a healthy way.  One of the things that I like to do is write poetry.  Poems can take on many forms, so there are no rules and there is no pressure.  It’s very therapeutic.  Here is piece I wrote that reflects on hopelessness in a hopeful way.

 

Water

It has its perks and it rocks my boat.  I swallow my words to not say a thing to anyone about anything, so I will stay on the path of rowing

I sit on a boat and I look at how calm the water is on top.  Do I dare look below to see all the hurt that I have seen

Would I be able to look back up

Why is it so hard for me to keep my mouth to myself

I start to think about things that I could do to maybe have control for once

I glance at the idea of what I could breathe in and then I remember all the people around me that are at the bottom of the ocean because of taking that first dirty creation

They have no way of swimming up because every time they try and take a breath it’s filled with more dirty water and they can’t float up

The question becomes how could I save the people in my life that are treating their bodies as a miserable disguise

I wonder if these addictions will fly away

A family is by a simple definition to be healthy and to love

Is the definition for people that are surrounded in dirty water to just breathe in

I can’t imagine becoming one of them

I see how their life will never go back to being who they once were

If that was the case, it would be broken hearts and deep desires to let anything in

Do I have hope

I want to believe that I do

Now what

I can jump in with a lifejacket

I can swim with goggles and make eye contact with them

I can keep breathing underwater and wave them to come up

Then, when I have no more air I can come back up

My lifejacket is God

and the people around me

They are holding me so tight that nothing is stopping me

I know that God will never leave me so my security is solid

But how do I keep my own dignity from hurting the people that are a part of me

and

right

down

under me

Life is a journey and no one can say life is easy

It they do, they are either blind or life is blinding them

So, I say to you dear people that are living a life full of life

Don’t think that you can’t make a change, a difference, or have a new way at looking at life

Trust that you have the boat with lifejackets and that you can steer in the direction you choose

You will always have the people that are breathing in dirty water

a part of you

But you and whoever is not a part of the dirty water will be in your boat

So, look up and see the leaves changing

Have hope that you are hope

Know that you are

not alone

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The Dangers of Cocaine

Cocaine is one of the most dangerous drugs out there. Teens think it’s cool because it’s a stimulant drug, meaning it gives you tons of energy so you can stay up all night long and party and hang with friends. But it can also kill you.

Stimulants are drugs that elevate your mood, give you more energy, and increase your feelings of well-being. Basically, they cause your body to speed up… which means they also elevate your heart rate and blood pressure, which is incredibly dangerous.

Cocaine is available in two different forms. It can be in powder form, which people can either snort or inject with a needle (if they mix it with water); or it’s sometimes in the form of small white rocks, otherwise known as “crack cocaine,” and can be smoked. Some street names for cocaine are coke, coca, snow, blow, flake, candy, or rock; it’s also called “speedball” when it’s mixed with other drugs.

Here are some of the short-term effects of cocaine:

  • faster heartbeat
  • body feels hot
  • shaking and twitching
  • can’t sleep or eat
  • feelings of anger, nervousness, paranoia, and fear
  • stomach pain
  • headaches
  • vomiting
  • fainting
  • weight loss
  • after the high wears off, you will crash and feel tired and sad for days (and crave it)

And here are some of the long-term effects:

  • built up tolerance (so you crave more and need more to feel the same high)
  • strange unpredictable behavior, like panic attacks and feeling paranoid
  • snorting can lead to hoarseness, loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, and a constant runny nose
  • seizures
  • stroke
  • respiratory problems
  • heart attack
  • brain damage
  • violent behavior
  • sudden death (even for first time users)

If you suspect that one of your friends may be using cocaine, you definitely need to get them help. It could save their life. You can usually tell that something sketchy is going on when friends start acting really weird, and not like themselves: if they’re starting to not do as well in school, hanging out with a different crowd, if they seem depressed and have lost weight, lost their motivation, and aren’t taking care of their appearance and hygiene. People using drugs are also very moody, might have changed their sleeping pattern, and have bloodshot, tired looking eyes. They also might always be asking for money, or even stealing money.

Try talking to your friend and ask if something’s going on. In some cases, they may actually open up and be honest with you about what they’ve been doing. But sometimes, probably in most cases, teens can be afraid or embarrassed to admit that they’re using drugs, and will lie to even their closest friends. They might get angry with you. If that happens, you need to tell an adult. You aren’t telling on them, or getting them in trouble… you’re literally saving their life by telling someone. It’s nothing to feel bad about. Tell a trusted adult, like a parent, school counselor, teacher, or coach. They can help you confront your friend and get them the help they need.

You could also have your friend call either 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-662-HELP. By calling these hotlines, your friend can talk to a professional about the steps they should take to get over their cocaine addiction. Or, you can go online with them and visit http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment and find a local treatment center where they can receive help.

Cocaine is highly addictive, so even if your friend has only tried it a few times, they’re still craving it. Or if they’ve been using for a long time, it’s going to continue to get worse. It’s only a matter of time until something happens to them. Get them the help they need NOW.

Self-esteem: Start being more positive!

Low self-esteem is a thinking disorder in which individuals view him/herself as inadequate, unworthy, unlovable, and/or incompetent. It could be because of their body, how smart they think they are, how talented they think they are, or anything else. Essentially, it’s all about how much you feel you are worth and also how much you feel other people value you.

Among high school students, 44% of girls and 15% of guys are trying to lose weight, and 70% of students believe they are not good enough in some way. Teens who have low self-esteem are very likely to become depressed, cut themselves, commit suicide, develop and eating disorder and begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

The main cause of low self-esteem is looks. Whether someone wears plus-size pants, has too many freckles, or has frizzy hair, everybody has something they don’t like about themselves. People develop ideas of how they “should” look based on media images, and what their peers say. Teens look at what celebrities look like and feel like they should look like that, and there must be something wrong with them if they don’t. They think girls are only beautiful if they wear a size 2, lots of makeup, and have “perfect” hair, and that guys are only attractive if they’re “manly” and muscular. Teens also tease each other about the way they look, and that usually causes the victim of the bullying to feel poorly about themselves. For some reason, a lot of people think it makes them look good if they make someone else look bad.

Here’s what you should do if you feel bad about yourself:

  1. Find friends who like and appreciate you for who you are. Don’t try to fit in with a certain clique because you want to be cool. If someone’s your real friend, you won’t have to impress them in order for them to like you. Your friends should also be encouraging and uplifting, and not put you down.
  2. Have a positive, optimistic attitude. Sure, there are probably certain things you’re not so good at… you’re human, you’re not going to be perfect. But remember all the things you ARE good at!
  3. When you start telling yourself negative things, just stop. Instead, think about positive things about yourself and give yourself compliments!
  4. If you’re unhappy with your looks, think about things you could realistically change if you really want to. You won’t be able to do anything about your nose, but you could change the shape of your eyebrows, or tone up your arm muscles. Set some realistic goals and think of ways you can achieve them.
  5. Eat healthy and exercise. Being healthier will make you feel better about the way you look.

If you begin doing all these things, you’ll start feeling better about yourself. If you’re worried that a friend might have low self-esteem, encourage them and start letting them know how great you think they are.

If you or your friend really start feeling depressed and nothing seems to be working, tell a parent, teacher, coach, or counselor. Make sure it’s someone you can trust, someone who you KNOW will be encouraging and uplifting. They can help you or your friend with any self-esteem issues. Or call a local or national teen crisis hotline to get help. We are all beautiful and unique in our own way, nobody should feel like they aren’t valued!

Cutting & Self-harm: How to Help

Why would anybody want to cut or hurt themselves? How could that possibly make somebody feel better? While a lot of us don’t understand it, there are many people who feel relief when they cut or harm themselves in some other way.

To some people, hurting themselves makes them feel better. It makes them feel like they’re in control for once, and makes them feel alive instead of numb. It can help express feelings they can’t explain, like extreme sadness, self-loathing, emptiness, guilt and rage. It releases the built up tension they feel inside that they don’t know how to let out in any other way. It distracts them from their overwhelming emotions and anything going on in their life that they can’t deal with. It’s a temporary fix that, after a while, only makes them feel even worse… so it becomes addicting and they continue doing it.

If someone you know is cutting or harming themselves, here are some warning signs. They might:

  • have unexplained wounds or scars from cuts, bruises, or burns, usually on their wrists, arms, thighs, and chest
  • have blood stains on clothing, towels, bedding, or lots of blood-soaked tissues
  • have sharp objects or cutting instruments always on hand, like razors, knives, needles, glass shards, bottle caps or scissors
  • have frequent “accidents” – they might claim to be clumsy and have many mishaps
  • always be covered up, like wearing long sleeves and pants even in hot weather
  • want to be alone for long periods of time, especially in the bedroom or bathroom

If a friend tells you they’ve been cutting or if you confront them about it, here are a few things you can do to help them:

  1. Be sure to focus on their feelings rather than the fact that they’re cutting. Instead of asking how often they cut, what they’re using to cut, and where they’re cutting, ask them how they feel. What kinds of feelings and thoughts are they having?  How do they feel before and after they hurt themselves? How are they feeling about their life overall?
  2. After asking about how they feel, figure out why they cut. What are their self-harm triggers? Is there a pattern, does something similar happen every time they cut that causes them to get the urge to hurt themselves? What’s different in their life now than before they started cutting, and what happened the first time that made them decide to experiment with self harm?
  3. Help them find new coping techniques. People cut and harm themselves for different reasons, so after you figure out their reason, help them find something that works for them and will really help them feel better. Here are some ideas for people with different kinds of feelings:
  • If the cut because of intense emotions, they can…

-paint or draw

-journal about their feelings

-write a poem that expresses their feelings

-write down all their negative feelings then rip the paper up

-listen to music that describes how they feel

  • If they cut to calm and soothe themselves, they can…

-take a bath or shower

-cuddle with a pet

-listen to calm music

-wrap themselves in a warm blanket and lie down

  • If they cut because they feel disconnected and numb, they can…

-call a friend

-go to a self-help website, message board, or chatroom

-take a cold shower

-chew on something with a strong taste, like peppers, peppermint, or a grape fruit peel

  • If they cut to release tension and anger, they can…

-work out, like running, dancing, or hit a punching bag

-punch a mattress or scream into a pillow

-squeeze a stress ball or some Play-Doh

-rip something up, like a newspaper

-make lots of noise, like playing an instrument or banging on some pots and pans

When people cut and harm themselves, they keep it a secret from everyone they know, sometimes for several months. That is very hard on them, on top of whatever they’re dealing with that makes them cut. So when you reach out to them, make sure they know you aren’t judgmental about it and you just care about their feelings. Let them know that you’re their to help, and that there’s hope for them to get through this hard time.

Depression: More Than Just a Rough Day

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Everyone has rough days, and everyone has mood swings every once in a while. It happens, it’s a part of life. But there are some people who have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, because every single day sucks. There are some people who have such an overwhelming sense of sadness and anger that they can’t even get through everyday life.

Depression is a big deal. Being depressed doesn’t just mean you’re in a bad mood, or you’re upset about something that just happened. It is a serious problem that affects every aspect of your life: your social life, education, career, health. Everything.

Here are some signs and symptoms of depression:

  • feelings of sadness/hopelessness/worthlessness
  • irritability, anger, hostility
  • tearfulness/frequent crying
  • withdrawal from family/friends
  • loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • restlessness and agitation
  • lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • fatigue or lack of energy
  • difficulty concentrating
  • thoughts of death or suicide

High school is already tough enough for everybody as it is, but depression will make it ten times worse. Depression can lead to all kinds of problems, like:

  • problems at school (grades, attendance)
  • running away
  • drug/alcohol abuse
  • low self-esteem
  • internet/video game addiction
  • reckless behavior
  • violence

When you have a child or friend who’s depressed, it’s hard to figure out how to approach it. You want to make sure do everything you can to get them help, but you don’t want to upset them or push them away. The first thing you should do is let them know that you’re there for them. Let them know that you will continue to support and stand by them no matter what happens, because you want to help. You’ll probably want to lecture them about everything that could go wrong and what needs to happen to prevent that, but don’t go there. Instead, just listen. Be patient, and let them tell you what’s wrong. Lecturing will only push them away.

Encourage them to start being social again. Suggest that they call up their friends and hang out for an evening, or take them out somewhere like to dinner or a movie. Also, encourage physical activity. Anything that gets them going and out of their room will make them feel a whole lot better.

Once you’ve gotten to a place where they recognize that something’s going on with them and you’ve talked about it, encourage them to get professional help. Go with them to a counselor or doctor who can suggest what steps need to be taken to get them back to their normal selves.

If YOU are the one who’s depressed, here’s what you can do:

  • Try not to isolate yourself from friends and family. Keeping good, healthy relationships will keep you strong and make you feel more hopeful when times get tough. Talk to your friends and family about what’s going on and the emotions you’re having. They love you and want to help you.
  • Keep your body healthy. When you’re feeling depressed, it’s easy to lock yourself in front of the TV or computer with a bunch of junk food. In fact, that’s probably all you feel like doing. Fight that urge to be lazy and get moving! Go for a walk or run when you’re feeling down. Just a quick 10-15 minute jog will help you feel so much better. And make sure to eat your fruits and veggies… seriously, junk food will only make you feel worse.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Nothing good ever comes from these, especially when you’re upset. While you might think drugs and alcohol will make your pain go away, they will only make everything worse. They could cause you to get violent and do something you’ll regret. You might rely on them so much that you end up getting addicted. You might even overdose. Just don’t go there.
  • If you’re starting to feel stressed, sad, or angry for an unusually long period of time, get help. Talk to a friend, parent, teacher or counselor about it, and they can help you. Nobody should have to go through anything like that alone.

Studies show that only 1/5 depressed teens get help. Look for the symptoms, and be the one to help a teen in need.