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Blog My Clear Mind UnderstandTEEN-YOUTH

When We Were Teens

All too quickly, adults forget what it was like when we were teens. So we have lots of teens who keep issues to themselves and end up making mistakes that could have been avoided if only we chose to remember what it was like when we were teens and provided the support they need. So let me share a quick story with you.

Once upon a time, there lived a teenager who was full of life. No matter how brightly a room was lighted, it felt like she brought a brighter ray of sunshine with her whenever she stepped in.

She gave hope, listened to those who hurt, offered comfort and loved each person like they were all that mattered. Every girl wanted to be her and every parent wanted her for a child.

Until one day, she was announced dead! Tears flowed, people wondered, how could such a young beautiful girl so full of life be dead? It was unfair. People wanted to say much at her funeral, but they were unsure how to connect the dot between such sweet girl and the fact that she killed herself.

Shocker, she killed herself! STOP! REWIND!

Let us go back to the beginning of this story. Once upon a time, there was a girl so full of life. She always was the life of the party, but she was hurting. She felt alone, misunderstood and afraid of appearing weak if she opened up about what she was experiencing.

Sleeplessness, overeating, crying incessantly for no reason were all the things she felt. She tried to talk to her parents, and Dad said “go talk to your mum, this is ladies business”. So she went to mum, and mum said “it is normal puberty feelings”, give it time they would go away, the feelings remained.

“Maybe I am overthinking this” she thought, so she tried to continue being the life of the party, and the ‘good girl’ she was. Soon enough, homework started to feel like a burden, school was a drag, everything became irritating, the crying increased and she never wanted to get out of bed. “Stop being a lazy brat”, mum would yell. “Listen to your mother”, Dad echoed.

Conflict and tension started to build, she thought her parents were not being understanding, “they just don’t get me”, she thought. Her parents are starting to have serious concerns, “why is this girl being so lazy all of a sudden, what are we doing wrong” they wondered. So the cycle began, and the not so helpful conversations.

“Maybe you are not praying enough”, says the Christian friend. “Maybe you need to workout more”, says the gym-addict. “I think it is because you are too fat”, or “maybe you are just not strong enough”. All of these voices, they echoed very much what the one other voice that mattered the most had been saying to her- ‘the voice in her head’.

Each time she heard about all the things she was not doing enough, that voice said “I told you so”, see “you will never be good enough”, “you will never be pretty enough”, “you can never do anything right”, and “maybe you should just end your life”.

On the inside, she was torn apart each day, on the outside, whenever asked- “how are you”, with the brightest smile you had ever seen, she replied “I’m fine, thank you’. Her smile was so bright it blinded you from seeing the sadness in her eyes, until she finally listened to the voice in her head.

And just like that, she who was once the life of the party, had no life left in her. STOP! FAST FORWARD! She is actually alive. These were the thoughts and battles she dealt with, but she never really listened to the voice in her head. She came close so many times, but, ‘soldiered’ through it, until she met someone she could talk to.

When she did, her issues did not disappear all at once, but she felt better, because she spoke up. The need to be perfect, the pressure to be something to everyone, all lifted.

What did start as feelings of puberty had grown into depression, suicidal thoughts and a near-suicide attempt. Add to that the social pressure of perfection and the ‘achievement’ culture we have created, there is no telling that these things impact teens a lot.

As adults, some of us felt these things when we were teens. And we wished someone was there to walk us through it, to listen to us, and let us know that it will all be okay in the end. Many of us suffered in silence- heck we still do suffer in silence, because the culture told us to feel this was was weak, demonic and meant that we had to be ostracized. Are we really going to let our teens of today go through the same?

What to Do If You Are The Girl?

  1. Realize that there are lots of people who have been in this space. Open up to someone you trust, who can listen with compassion and no judgement.
  2. Remember that YOU ARE NEVER ALONE
  3. Prayers, mediation, exercise, good diet, workout etc. are actually great and releases the right hormones to help mitigate those feelings, practice as much as you can on them.
  4. Stop putting pressure on yourself. You have time to grow, so just grow. No plant ever frets about whether or not they are budding right or if their flowers look good enough. They just grow.
  5. Talking about it can be hard, but not talking about it only makes it worse

What to Do as A Parent of the Girl

  1. Listen to your child. When they come to you , pay attention. I know we are busy, but this is your child, what could be more important? Be the person they trust the most, and want to talk to about their feelings, fears, dreams and aspirations. Make yourself attractive to your kid
  2. Help them know they are not alone. Share some of your teen-years epic failure stories. To draw the lesson, share the consequences of your actions, what you could have gone back to do better. Trust me, they will think about it. Let them have to ‘laugh’ at you about it. You would have taught them valuable life lessons, and also told them, they are not alone and you get it! This is how to make yourself attractive to them.
  3. Model life balance for them. Let them see you take a break and rest/relax with dirty dishes in the sink. Let the see you pray, meditate, read a book, work. Share some of your unwinding secrets with them (provided they are good stuff, oh God, it better be good stuff). Dance with them, exercise with them, cook healthy meals together. Family activities creates bond, lowers defense walls, and sets the right tone for authentic expressions.
  4. Do not put pressure on them. Nudge them towards being better, but not in a negative way. Avoid comparisons with siblings and others. Before you yell at them for not doing the right thing, ask yourself “have I actually taught them what is the right thing to do here?” Set reasonable goals with them and build support system to help them achieve those goals.
  5. Let them know its okay to share how they feel. Sometimes, just letting them vent and sitting there to listen is the best you can do. Pray with them afterwards, and continue to pray for them. Please be actively involved in your child’s life.
  6. Finally, Parents, study your child, and use this mental health spectrum to get an idea of where your kids are mentally. It shows behavioral acts that matches where people are on the spectrum. If you observe disturbing consistency outside the green zone in your child, take the necessary step (including professional help) to correct it and bring them to optimal mental health.

Last year into this year has been particularly hard for lots of teenagers. It is hard enough being a teenager: hormones all over the place, feelings you have no idea what to do with, worried about asking questions or making mistakes, trying to maintain good grades, do house chores, meet everyone’s ecpectations and then now, COVID-19.

In Canada, the inconsistency with school, the back and forth with closures and the pandemic in general has affected social interactions among teens. In addition, thier pysical acitivies ahve also been impacted. And like everyone else, they still worry about not getting infected with COVID-19.

We can all agree that they can use a little more patience, understanding and compassion. Much more so, they can use a loving, listening ear. Will you be that person for them? Or have you forgotten what it was like to want to be heard and understood, when we were teens?

Its #BellLetsTalk day. This is yet another opportunity to peel off stigma form the topic of mental health. This impacts us more than we care to admit, so why don’t we start having honest conversations about it? I for one, perhaps because I work closely with teenagers have decided to make a case for teens today.

So how will YOU make the conversation easier? Being open is a good place to start!

Thank you for reading and sharing.

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Blog Survivors Corner UnderstandTEEN-YOUTH

No Daddy, I am not Ready!!!

It was the year 2003, December 1st was fast approaching, my daddy had promised to buy me Christmas outfit this year, and the hunt starts by December 1st. There was a two-year ban on buying new clothes for me because my Dad thought I was getting too ‘boogie’. I needed to learn how to be okay without certain ‘extras’. I was excited and looked forward to it. Somehow I had learnt something and now deserving of these ‘extras’. In his words, “I was ready”.

No! I was not ready for what actually hit when December 1st finally came. To think he said it for three years. This was what he meant? Then no, I was not ready. No one is ready for such. Okay, honestly, by that date, he took a trip to Portharcourt. We lived in Warri, he was sick, and needed to travel and be with my mum (there is a story there). So no biggie, it just meant, my new clothing purchase got postponed. He would return when he felt better, and we will go on this shopping spree.

Couple days in, on a nice beautiful breezy afternoon, I lay on the floor directly under the ceiling fan, with the house door wide open. The natural air, coupled with air from the fan, worked synergistically to offer a soothing feel to my troubled teenage soul. Lost in the thoughts of the dreams (no visions) I have been having for a while, I was jolted back to reality by a familiar voice.

My paternal uncle had come to visit. “Didn’t he know my Dad was out of town?” This was my thought, as I heard him say hi to the neighbours. His very intimidating voice filled the house in no time as he stepped in and said “pack up your things we are going to see your Dad”. Scared, was an understatement for how my brother and I felt in that moment.

This story is not about what happened before that day, during or right after, neither is it really about what happened December 1st. This story is about what happened on a day in December (maybe three weeks after), which frankly, I cannot remember the precise date. It is also about something that happened more recently.

Here is what I remember though, my eyes were filled with tears. I stood there, wondering why my dad was in that casket that was going down. I could feel all the eyes that were on me, and the murmurs of pity towards my brothers and I.

I wanted to tell him so many things. To tell him that I was sorry for being so sassy. That I was sorry for being a very demanding teenager. If I could just have him wake up, I wanted to let him know that I was not mad at him anymore. I would never grumble to cook us another meal, or talk back at him. I would do anything to call him ‘DADDY’ for once in my life.  Most of all, I wanted to tell him that no, I was not ready. I wasn’t ready!

No child is ever ready to do life without the covering of their parents. As I cried silently, with the tears rolling uncontrollably, I made a commitment- never again would I let anything hit me so hard. And that day, a part of me died. I was told I had to be strong, me tears were seen as weakness, so I also swore never to cry. For the longest time, almost nothing could bring me to tears,

Like I said, I don’t even remember this precise date, but I was not ready, not just for my father to die, but for the roller-coaster of emotions that swept me from that point on. All those emotions stayed bottled up, until it was almost too late for me, but GOD!

If you have not read about my write-up on “why you should know about the mental health spectrum”, seriously, pause and read it right now!

It was until recently, I realized why I spent so many years, on the “ill and injured” ends of the spectrum, and that was simply because I was uneducated, so was my family. And like them, a lot of us think that when traumatic experiences happen, that somehow, with time, it would all just go away, or that ‘good grieving’ (if there is anything of such) meant, not showing your pain.

We live in this assumption that if the traumatic experience affects us in any way, then we must be weak. This is wrong thinking, because truth be told, like me, YOU were not ready either to be hit by whatever your own experience was/is. And like me, time won’t just make it go away. 

But there comes a point, eventually, when you HAVE TO BE READY. Ready to be healed, and that starts with taking inventory to know where you are. It also comes with realizing that grief sometimes is part of the living’s experiences, not something we carelessly and passively leave to time and chance, in hopes of it just going away.

Lately, life threw another curveball, not just at me, but the whole world- with the death of Chadwick Boseman. I cried, it hurt. Don’t ask me why, I never met him, but he meant something to me. At this point, I had now learnt that feeling our pain does not mean weak, it means I am human, capable of love, not immune to loss.

Chadwick Boseman, Star of 'Black Panther,' Dies at 43 - The New York Times
RIP Boseman. I unashamedly admit my pain of your loss.

While you may not have been ready for the negative experiences that hit you, if you have ever connected with me, read this thus far, or you have recently shared your experience with a trusted person, then I say to you in my father’s voice- YOU ARE READY!

The sheer joy I felt when I finally admitted to being ready for healing. The times I have retold my experiences to myself, my husband, pastor or others, it helped transition me from one one end of the mental health spectrum to the other. I could finally say “Yes, Daddy, I am ready!” Are you?

It is a New Month, you better be Ready to let a new you ARISE. You deserve to be happy, to be filled with joy, to live and breathe again. We owe it to those who have gone before us, I would love to leave you with this song- “Tell your heart to beat again”.

Welcome to September, welcome to a new YOU.

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Blog My Clear Mind UnderstandTEEN-YOUTH

Why you should know about the mental health spectrum

“Ignorance is bliss”. Ever heard that before? I bet you have. But is it really? Food for thought- for you, not me! Get thinking after reading this.

You ever heard of the mental health spectrum? If you have, give yourself a pat on the back, welcome to the elite club! If not, then now you get to know. Either ways, dare I ask if you know where you belong on that spectrum?

But knowing about it is not enough. Before I share the spectrum with you and why you need to care where you belong, let me share a quick story with you. You may also want to just scroll down, don’t, you will love the story, I promise.

Actually you know what? Read a different related story- remember the one I shared about “the the day I died”? There were some clear signs that my mental health was whack,. but no one saw it, I knew I felt weird and honestly depressed a lot, but didn’t know what to do about it or who to talk to, until I became suicidal, but for God.

Here is another thought, when you find yourself sneezing consistently, having a headache, feeling sore in your throat and nauseous, what would come to your mind? If you are a regular normal human, you probably start wondering if you are coming down with the flu, malaria, typhoid, etc. Do not self-medicate. Get your cute sick self to the doctor. These are SYMPTOMS that signal to our bodies that something is wrong and needs to be taken care of.

In the same way, there are symptoms that signal to you the NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR MENTAL HEALTH.

I cannot begin to tell you how many people whose state of mental health are likely out of shape, but they are not even sure of how to put their feelings into words or know what steps to take. This is where the mental health spectrum/continuum comes in. Simply a chart you can use to measure your mental health.

Why you should know about the mental health spectrum- where are you on the continuum?
Source: Dr. Karim Dharssi

Now I get to ask you again, where are you on the spectrum? Not sure? Look at it again. If you are outside the green and yellow columns a lot, please seek help. There is NO SHAME! Everyone deserves to live life in the green.

As someone who was sexually abused from a young age, I lived more on the right side of the continuum for longest time in my life, without taking the matching action, hence why I got to the point of being suicidal.

But it does not have to be that way for you. There is no shame in admitting that you need to boost your mental health. If you have ever visited the doctor when you were physically sick, you owe it to yourself and loved ones to see a doctor for your mental health as well. This is why this spectrum is important- it shows you the symptoms that let you know if and when you need to rest, take a break, de-stress or seek professional help.

As an additional tip, parents, watch your children, if they start to exhibit some of non-green columns, something is UP, look into it, either as teens or little kids. I went from a super active child to being withdrawn at some point, but I doubt anyone noticed anything. Friends and families you have your role- pay close attention to your loved ones. Let us be indeed one another’s keepers.

How has this helped you see your mental health? I would love to know, share in the comments below. Like, share and subscribe.

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Blog My Clear Mind Survivors Corner UnderstandTEEN-YOUTH

From Suicide to Purpose: The Day I ‘Died’

Going from suicide to purpose on the day I ‘died’, I found life. I had just been stood up by my boyfriend at the time. He said he was too sick to go to class to read, I offered to cook him something and send to his room, he declined.

I had exams in two days, so I decided to go study on my own. At seventeen, I was in my first year of school. My academics was my safe place, I did it right and never joked with it. Off I went to one of the classrooms in the famous Obafemi Awolowo University and guess who I found getting cozy with his ex-girlfriend or so he claimed?

Just a Trigger

I know what you are thinking, you wanted to kill yourself because of a guy! Nah, it was not about him. Been suicidal since I was about eleven (11). Nothing helped, I lost weight, had good grades, pretty (still very pretty), had tons of family around me, drank, smoked, but felt empty. He was just a trigger!

I had cut myself a number of times, I had held a knife to my belly so many times. Once, I took overdose of a drug. There was fantasies about a car hitting me off the road. So much so, I did sometimes intentionally walk into the road in hopes….Each time, I either could not follow through or something interrupted me.

Now that we have established it was not about a boy, can we move on? So, seeing him cozy with this girl, I dialed him up. He picked and was murmuring, saying he was cold and wished I was there, they both laughed, and that laughter felt familiar.

It was not the first time someone had made fun of my naivety and gullibility. Yet somehow, the brightest idea I had of how to not let that happen again was to end my life.

I Just Want it all to End

I remember crying so hard, I ripped the chain I had on from my neck. It felt like my heart wanted to pop out of my chest, I honestly thought I was going to die from a heart attack, well that did not happen!

I walked from one end of school to another, in search of ‘otapiapia’ (a drug used to kill rats) at about 2am. They were all closed, except for one where this man took one look at me and blurted out “I am not selling to you my dear, go to your room and sleep and come back tomorrow. Bless that man!

To my room I went indeed, but not to sleep. I cried some more, pulled out a knife, put it to my belly, about to stab, when a thought hit me: “you know it won’t be fair for your roommates to find you in a pool of blood when they wake up”.

Taking a deep sigh, I put the knife down, and for the fist time pulled out my Bible. I hated God because as far as I was concerned, my horrible experiences were His fault. But that day, I prayed: “Dear God, I don’t know if you are real or there, but if you are, all I want is for you to make sure I do not wake up in the morning”.

Hugging my Bible, I slept off. Soon enough, I woke up to the sound of busyness in the room. Recalling what happened, I blurted out “God you are a coward who won’t let me come up to you” (do not ask me what I was expecting to happen when if I indeed died). In an attempt to roll over, my Bible fell and opened up. Without trying to read it, my eyes fell to a verse.

suicide to purpose
Source: https://bibleversestogo.com/

The Waking….

It was as if God responded to me saying “if only you knew what I had in store for you”. Then I saw Dupe Akinsiun (nee Osho) walking towards my room as she usually did every Sunday morning to invite me to ‘cell’. This time, I did not run out the back door. She doesn’t know, sssshhhh, don’t tell her!

Holding my Bible, I followed her without fight or questions, this same verse was read during the cell meeting, and later that day at church. That day I gave my life to Jesus Christ, dying to self, I was raised to life.

See I started that day wanting physical death so badly, but the reality of my spiritual death hit me. It hurts me that I do not remember the exact date, but it remains to me the day I went from suicide to purpose. I found a new reason to live as I hope someone out there today does as well.

The things we go through sometimes feels unfair, and I get it. But, do not let anything get you to the point of your ending your life. You may not have heard God for yourself yet, or maybe you have, but let me be His voice to you: “if only you knew what is in store for you”.

Looking back, people would have said I killed myself over a guy, who by the way never knew what happened. But I am so glad I am here today to share this, and perhaps let you know you are not alone. Hope it help you see that in depression, suicidal thoughts, you too can find purpose and life. YOU are part of my purpose and why I started LoudSilences.org.