At GWG, we strive to normalize mental wellness challenges throughout the course of the life-span, and provide real life experiences of our clients’ realizations, growth and healing. Below are unique perspectives from two of our teen mental wellness counseling clients, which not only provide those of similar ages with some solace that they are not the only ones struggling, but also demonstrates how others are seeing the world their age and navigating those challenges. These are stories clients our have given permission for us to share as a way to advocate for and help others, and be true to themselves. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, these 2 individuals wanted to share now.
Check out these compelling messages made by two of our teen clients:
1. Client: Male, Age 16, Naperville – Social Environment & Expectations Video
“You started as a one minute school assignment for my art elective that quickly turned into a way I could share an interesting form of storytelling about mental health and the feeling of normality in our world today. The more I spent time developing the short film, the more little things I saw could be added to improve the meaning behind it all. With different forms of lighting, colors, and even writing different meaning began to become clearer in the small world that I created with over 400 individual photos. Creating it was such a fun unique experience for me as taking so many individual shots and having to move such small objects little by little was something that isn’t usually the pace Hopefully, this is relatable in some way to others who can identify with the underlying meaning.” Click on the photo for the video.
-N.K., Male, 16
2. Client: Female, Age 17, Naperville – Reflection & Restoration
“Growing up, it quickly became an expectation for me to help my brother through his struggle with mental health. Despite being the youngest in my family, I ended up adopting a caretaker role when I was still in elementary school. I enjoy talking about feelings, working through problems that seem too big to tackle, and being present for people because it made me feel needed, but I was too young to understand that I still had a purpose outside of “playing therapist” for my family. Also, it was hard to balance all of the emotions I felt because my brother deals with his emotions outwardly and that created a household that was tense to be in a lot of the time, but I felt like I had to bottle up how I was effected in order to be able to calm him down and help fix whatever was going on. I picked up some unhealthy habits so I could quietly cope with whatever I was feeling and still be able to let my mom cry to me, hear everything my brother had to say, or be there emotionally for whoever else needed me. I didn’t completely bottle all of my feelings up, but I did learn how to compartmentalize very thoroughly to be able to push my emotions off to the side until I burst. This taught me to always downplay my struggles and feel very weird whenever I genuinely opened up even to my family.
I’m a junior in high school now, and I would say the biggest obstacle in my way is still feeling like sharing my emotions with anyone is a burden to them, but I’m working on it. This past year has been difficult for me and my entire family beyond the pandemic, and, silver lining, I realized I needed more help than my family could give me. My troubles were more than I could handle. My mom had suggested trying therapy a few times since I started high school, but I always said no solely because I thought my problems “weren’t enough” to seek professional help. It took something major to happen in my family for me to agree to it. Starting therapy made me realize there is no right reason or right way to start therapy; anyone can go to therapy for any reason. My therapist is a huge reason I was able to work myself towards talking to my family about how I felt forced into a caretaker position I was not ready or mature enough for and how I can no longer play that part, and it was hard. I was carrying a lot more than I knew I was, and, after almost a year of being in therapy, I am still finding out new things about myself. Professional help does not need to be scary or an indicator that someone’s “broken” because it is just another method to process through emotions and events in a healthy way. I have always downplayed what goes through my own head, so being in a safe space where I can be fully honest with myself and have someone to help me feel validated has been the best change I made.
Healing has been a long, nonlinear path for me that I might not have started down if I didn’t turn to therapy. It isn’t uncommon for teenagers to downplay their personal struggles, especially with their mental health, which is why talking to someone with a wider perspective is such a helpful option. Teens should not fear therapy as you largely get to make it into what you think would help. My first several therapy appointments were very light because I wanted to take time to become comfortable around my therapist and in a new setting. Different coping mechanisms can be tied together with therapy as well such as drawing, meditating, being outside, listening to music, and more. There is no wrong way to ask for help. Turning to extra support is not a sign of weakness, it does not have to be something to be afraid of, and it should be something that more teenagers do when they feel like they are alone. No one is alone, and no one’s problems are as world-ending as they might seem. If you feel like you need extra support, talk to someone who can help you figure out what the first step is to integrate that extra support into your life regularly. You are more than any obstacle in your way. Do what’s good for you and what will help you heal.
-M.G., Female, 17
A special thank you from Grow Wellness Group to each of these individuals for their vulnerability and courage in sharing parts of their stories with a mission of helping others who are struggling, but do not know what to do to help themselves.
Remember: You do not have to be alone in all of this! Grow Wellness Group is here to help!