People ask me all the time what I would say to my teenage self. I was a hyper-driven achiever with a severe eating disorder that resulted in multiple hospitalizations and years of illness. I resisted therapy. I felt so much tension in my shoulders that I asked for a prescription of muscle relaxers. And there are kids today who feel a lot like I felt then.
So what would I say to myself? What should we say to the teenagers who feel despair and pressure to achieve and anxiety and hopelessness?
There is no simple statement that would have made things better for me. And there is no simple statement that will magically or miraculously or instantaneously help our kids right now. But there is still so much hope and so much we can do to bring healing.
As I look back on my life, the difference was a person who was willing to offer me faithful love.
Years ago, only one person in my life was bold enough to tell me what I wasn’t willing to admit to myself. My then-boyfriend (now husband) was the unlikely truth-teller who confronted me and spoke the truth that I was sick, that I needed help, and that I was beloved.
And then, he stuck around. He didn’t simply speak words of truth but he also walked with me through an arduous journey.
Teens don’t need tough love. But they do need faithful love. They need to know the truth that anxiety and depression and self-harming behaviors are not good. They need to know the truth that they are utterly, abundantly, absolutely loved in the midst of those behaviors. And they need the ones who speak that truth to stay with them through the healing.
More with Amy Julia:
- I Want Our Kids to Accomplish Things, Not Achieve Them
- The Significance of Our Social Worlds
- Addressing our Mental Health Crisis
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