i have to thank my brother-in-law for helping to inspire this post. actually, i knew i wanted to cover this topic in the blog because it is an issue that lily addresses in Silence & Noise and it’s an important one. but my brother-in-law made a comment today that made me realize, today was the day to write this.
as lily is coming to terms with the world around her, realizing that maybe she isn’t like everyone else, she encounters many walls. barriers. obstacles in her path. they range from parents, to friendships, to doctors, and even herself. in fact it is arguable that she is her greatest obstacle. and i think that is true for so many of us. we wake up each day fighting the fight of life, swinging our punches, only to realize we are fighting ourselves. one piece of advice lily receives on her journey is that maybe what she is battling is just “teenage problems” everyone has them, right? misunderstandings. self-esteem issues. insecurities. the wrong clothes. acne. the awkward years. depression. cutting. fears. anxieties. voices. these are just “teenage problems” right? maybe. maybe not.
and what happens when these “teenage problems” become adult problems? this of course isn’t to say that every teenager that cries over a break-up must be batting some form of mental illness. this isn’t to assume that anyone who may tell you, you are dealing with regular, normal, ordinary things is a bad person. or that they are even in the wrong for that matter. it’s just to say that maybe, just maybe for some people out there these little things that seem quite typical on the outside could be a whole other monster internally. i think we are doing ourselves a disservice to pretend that all these feelings are fleeting. that we will simply grow out of them in time, move on, and put them behind us. in turn that doesn’t mean the other extreme of obsessing, holding on to, and never letting go of these feelings and fears is the answer. it’s more about being honest with yourself. if the hopelessness feels real to you, simply stated, it is. your reality is your truth, but it is how you treat that truth that ultimately can free you or imprison you.
so how do we know when to take these “teenage problems” seriously? for lily her battle grew so heavy and i think she was trapped beneath the weight of it. i wish i could have been on her walk with her and lifted her up and told her, “i can’t promise you this will pass, but i can tell you, you will learn to understand who you are.” i think lily has a great gift and i think people who walk around feeling immense amounts of pain all possess their own gift, i think it’s just how it is utilized, and how it is realized. it is so easy to point fingers and blame people and think “they don’t understand”, “won’t understand”, “can’t understand” but the gift of feeling is pretty extraordinary. and it is something that most people will never know. to be able to look at someone and see their hurt, because you know that feeling, have experienced that weight.
i think if we aren’t careful, if we don’t take those “teenage problems” seriously then they might just become adult problems. maybe if we come to terms with some things in our youth if we allow ourselves to consider the possibility that our battles are real than we can better learn how to face them as we age. instead i think so often we are lied to and we lie to ourselves. we think, “i will grow out of this”, “i will make money and this will go away”, “once i find love i will be okay” and it is those lies that will haunt us, will destroy us. and they will destroy the things we try to use to fill the space. relationships are good. love is good. friendships. family. jobs. things. none of these alone are bad, none of these alone are the problem. the problem is when we assume having, finding, or possessing these things will solve any certain problem.
i just hope that we can all take more seriously mental illness. that we aren’t so quick to judge. to assume. to speak. that we aren’t so inclined to say, “this is fleeting, this will pass.” mental illness isn’t a death sentence, it doesn’t have to be. it is a misunderstood beast. it is a notion full of lies and half-truths. it will destroy us if we let it, but it doesn’t have to.
there is an organization called To Write Love On Her Arms. they are doing some pretty remarkable things to help people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. i think it is resources like this that will be instrumental in knocking down some of the walls of mental illness. i urge you to check out their work and i truly hope that lily’s story can impact your life as it has mine.