why would a beautiful young girl resort to cutting herself to vent frustration? how do i get through to her? what could i tell her that would make her wake up and shake her out of it? how do i show her that i understand what she's going through and that i get it? how do i tell her that it really does get better? how do i make sure that my own children don't fall into this outlet for frustration and what do i say to them if they do?
i met that beautiful young girl earlier this year. when i asked her why she thought she was doing it she gave me some vague "i dunno" and some wishy-washy pointing in the direction of some acquaintances that might have been the cause but no defined notion of what they did. i didn't sense abuse (verbal, mental or physical); not that i'm a mental health expert or anything but after talking to her it seemed like she had a lot of pent up and built up teenage angst. she's twelve. the whole conversation stayed with me for weeks and really had me thinking. i'm a long way off from raising teens but i wanted to ponder over it now. best be prepared yes?
coincidentally, i just had a conversation with my brother-in-law about our recent bouts of depression a few weeks before i met this girl. we talked about our individual frustrations and how we deal with it. i've since realized that regardless of age, as humans, we all have a hole that needs to be filled. not to over simplify but a lot of it seems to boil down to a need for success and acknowledgement. children love to be praised, teenagers love recognition, adults live for it. some need small gestures like a hug or pride in themselves or a simple "fb like" and others need grander gestures like trophies, money, power and fame. various levels but my point is ... it's basically the same. i feel like the things she's going through, i'm still going through. the difference is that i know the source of my frustration and when i'm sick of it i can step away and focus on something else. i can bury myself in a book, a movie a bag of chips or a very expensive trip to target. my brother-in-law hits the gym. i know others that would turn to drugs or alcohol and others yet that become workaholics, food bingers or serial daters. i was telling him that this driving need and the temporary solutions we take to resolve our lack of fulfillment are so "self" centric. a lot of times we don't even know what's wrong; we just stop the gap with whatever is in our reach. i would think that for our younger generation especially, identifying the problem might be the biggest part of the problem. maybe it's worse. maybe it's knowing the problem but not being able to admit it. on top of that, the set of options available to our kids for that stop gap is a smaller list.
i wondered if it wouldn't be a more productive temporary solution to focus on helping others as an option. it might give a two fold return. i know that when i've focused on helping someone else for a change i learn something about myself in the process. selfishly, their success also feels like my own and it's great motivation. parents put their kids in sports, arts and other extra curricular activities which are great ways to develop confidence, fill that need for acceptance and accomplishment. in my formative years, the nuns that ran the school took our extra curriculars one step further by giving us little projects to care about that were centered on someone else. we would sponsor a child's education or go help with a poverty stricken family. we would visit schools to share our education with less fortunate children. it gave us a glimpse at life outside our box and something to ponder over. it didn't make sense to me then but the experiences stayed with me and actually... it makes a whole lot more sense now.
if only life could be this peaceful always...