EP 20 – Dear Struggling Teenager
The teenage years are a real struggle for many. Parents and children alike.
In the previous episode, I wrote a letter to “A Struggling Parent” – so, it’s only fair I write a letter to “A Struggling Teenager.”
If you are parent listing to this – in invite you to share this episode with your child. It might help them understand what’s going on in their heads.
Dear Struggling Teen,
It’s not just you
I want you to know this
And I also want you to know that what you are feeling is temporary. That speaks to the good feelings as well as the bad feelings. But it’s all just temporary.
Our mental health is like the bright blue sky. Every so often clouds come along.
They could be the white fluffy ones that aren’t too bad – that gently float away without too much effort.
Sometimes we get the grey clouds that might bring along some wind or rain. They stay for a bit longer – but still they move on after a little while.
And then there is the black clouds or sometimes a total coverage – that totally obliterates the blue sky behind. But rest assured, that the blue sky is still there – waiting to reveal itself again. It might just take a bit of time.
Thing is with being a teenager – everyone tells you about hormones and how your body changes.
Bits get bigger
Your voice changes
Hairs start sprouting
But not many people talk about how your mind is affected
And for some kids – it just becomes a hot mess.
One lad said that it’s like a five lane motorway going on in his head – but all the cars are going in different directions.
Another child said “It feels like having a brain full of porridge – I just can’t think straight”
And if you don’t know what to expect – its bloody scary
So here’s the sciences-bit.
During childhood the brain develops at an alarming rate – and by the time you approach puberty, the brain has the power of a supercomputer – or even like the Internet.
But here’s the problem – the software that is currently installed in your brain is still going through its upgrades.
It’s only really got the power of a microwave.
Impressive enough – but not as sophisticated as it needs to be. As I said – it’s still upgrading.
But all this takes time – and it’s totally worth it.
So be patient please.
I need you to be kind to yourself.
I need you to treat yourself with compassion and some understanding (a bit like when your Gran is learning to use text for the first time – there is a learning curve).
It takes a huge amount of brain power and energy to make these adjustments – and it is – to be fair – bloody knackering!
This is why you get angry quicker
This is why you say random things without thinking
This is why you need your sleep
This is why you mess up
You are not lazy. It’s biology.
Your mind and body are doing exactly what they are designed to do.
You see – as your brain is developing and trying to get its shit together – the amygdala – which is the bit in charge of your safety and well-being – it’s often set to “ON” for too long.
That’s why your anxiety levels are often heightened.
The amygdala was programmed to help us (when we were cavemen) to look out for danger – like the sabretooth tiger. It is programmed to keep us safe.
Sometimes, whilst our brains are going through such a massive transformation, it gets its knickers in a twist – and the amygdala is “ON” all the time.
Again this is exhausting.
Anxiety is exhausting.
And it is important to find ways to teach your brain that there are in fact no sabretooth tigers around at the minute!
Right, up until now, I’ve been talking about emotions because that’s the first bit in your brain to develop.
The last bit of the brain to develop is the front bit – they call it the pre-frontal cortex.
That’s the bit that’s in charge of :
Decision-making & rational thinking
Focus & concentration
And all the bits about understanding consequences.
So whilst your pre-frontal cortex is upgrading – it’s going to be messy.
So like I said:
Your body is doing one thing and your mind is playing catch up.
Now before you get ahead of yourself and think that this gives you a “get out of jail free card” it doesn’t!
Life doesn’t work like that.
But by understanding all this, it will help you cope with the mess going on in your head.
Now, I always say there is no such thing as failure, only feedback.
So when you mess up – learn from it.
When things go wrong – understand why – and do things differently next time.
That’s how we improve.
That’s how our brains rewire properly to help us in the future
So you don’t get a carte blanche for bad behaviour – but what you do get is a bit more understanding whilst you are going through this whole process.
And How do I get this understanding from others Cai?
Well, it is by talking
I know! I know! Sometimes that’s really hard – But believe me you will need it – it’s important.
You see – if your mum or dad don’t know what’s going on in your head how can they help?
If your colleagues, mates, teachers don’t know if you are struggling – how do they know to adapt?
They are not mind readers!
Those adults in your life have all been through this process. Some will have struggled more than others.
But what I do know is that it won’t have been plain sailing for anyone.
So you see – we get it.
You see I get it.
I was you
I see you: trying to be accepted by the “in crowd” – but deep down knowing in your heart that you’re secretly not like them.
I see you: holed up in your room, clueless of how to tackle the mountain of studies – yet knowing if you stop – your grades will suffer.
I see you: unsure of where you fit in in the world – whilst having no idea where your life is heading.
I see you: sleeping around, just so you can block out the emptiness and the need to feel loved.
I see you: sitting in fear of judgement and scared you will make a fool of yourself – again.
I see you: trying to control your eating, as your mind is full of confusion and dislike at the image you see in the mirror.
I see you: being so insecure that you’d rather be drunk, loud and annoying – rather than transparent enough to let the mask down and let people see the real you.
Terrified you’ll stand out.
Terrified you’ll be invisible.
Terrified of being judged.
And that you are in fact seriously messed up.
You see I get it.
Wondering if it is safe to listen to the whisper in the back of your mind – saying that you are indeed “enough”.
But what the heck does that mean anyway?
Enough means that even though you make the inevitable screw ups – it will be okay.
But the thing is, that’s how we all feel.
Deep down we all have these insecurities.
Some of us hide it better than others.
Some of us no longer listen to those negative mutterings in our head.
Tucking the thoughts away – safely out of sight out of mind.
But that my friend is how anxieties start.
That’s how insecurities snowball into what they call ‘mental health issues’
I invite you to stand tall and say “Sod it!”
And to embrace the delightful messiness of you!
As Dr. Seuss “Why spend your whole life trying to fit in – when you were born to stand out?”
You might be wired differently.
You might love differently.
You might feel differently.
You might think differently.
You are doing the best you can and that’s bloody brilliant.
Maya Angelou said :
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
God made you for a reason and whilst I am not a religious person – I know that each and every one of us is here with a purpose. And to fulfil that purpose we need to be different.
A goalie has a different job to do as the centre half.
An artist has a different purpose to the guitar player.
The coder is achieving different objectives to the FX trader.
The zoologist is seeking different answers to the cancer research scientist.
Catch my drift?
Everyone’s purpose is different – but this world needs us all. And you, are a part of this beautiful messed up world of ours.
And I invite you to step into your spotlight and take your part.
We are waiting to welcome you.
So what is the answer?
How do I do all this Cai?
First – you need to open up the conversations
In your head and then with others
But here’s the secret – when we look at those uncomfortable feelings they become less scary.
They drift away – like those rain clouds in an otherwise bright blue sky.
And what’s left is the realisation that everything will, in fact, Be okay.
So with that in mind –
Find someone who will listen.
Find someone to help.
And if you can’t find that someone just yet – book a call with me :
EP 20 – Dear Struggling Teenager
iTunes : : HERE :
Spotify : : HERE :