Growing Up In... Uganda

shutterstock_648406015.jpg

GROWING UP IN…UGANDA

We interview 13-year-old Ndagire Fridausi

Meet 13-year-old Ndagire Fridausi as she tells us all about what it’s like growing up in Uganda.

Ndagire, thank you so much for talking to us. We can’t wait to hear all about your life in Uganda! Can you tell us about your family and who you live with? Is it common in Uganda to live with just your immediate family or with extended family?

I have a mother, a father, two sisters, and a brother. We are Muslims and I do love my family a lot. In Uganda it is very common to live with extended family. I have had cousins staying at our house while going to school. The reason why it is common is because some family members might not have enough money to have their kids staying with them, then other family members will help to take care of the kids.

Can you tell us about the neightborhood you live in?

I stay in Kyaliwajjala. Kyaliwajjala is a neighborhood in Kira Municipality, Kyaddondo County, Wakiso District, in Central Uganda. We have a good school, medical centers, recreation centers, and shopping mall around. During 2012, the Kira Municipality authorities estimated Kyaliwajjala’s population at about 50,000.

 13-year-old Nadagire Fridausi

13-year-old Nadagire Fridausi

Is your town typical of those in Uganda?

My town is very developed by Ugandan standards. We have everything we need; shopping malls, restaurants, playgrounds, and so on. But most areas in Uganda can be less developed.

It sounds as though there is a big gap between the rich and the poor in Uganda?

Yes, there is a very big gap between the rich and the poor. Some kids do not attend school because their parents can’t afford it, or they only have one meal a day. We also have a lot of street kids. I’m lucky I have parents that have gone to school and are hard working, therefore my brothers and sisters and I don’t lack anything.

Can you describe your home?

My home is a bungalow with three bedrooms, living room, and kitchen. There are five units in a fence.

We have two bathrooms/toilets in the house, one for me and my brother and sisters and the other for my parents. Our home is not a typical home in Uganda because most homes are very small and don’t have such amenities. Many homes have outside toilets or a family of five can share one room, where they sleep, have a living room, and then a toilet outside.

What is the main source of income for people where you live?

Where I live, most people are employed, and a few others are self-employed, i.e., business people. In Uganda though, the unemployment rate is very high at 68%. That means that many young people, when they finish school, don’t get jobs and therefore have to find a way to provide for themselves, as our government doesn’t provide them help.

Can you tell us a little about the weather and climate?

The weather is good and the climate is seasonal. We always have sun, and therefore we can always play outside and be outside. We don’t spend too much time inside the house.

Can you talk about the geography of Uganda?

Uganda is located in eastern Africa, west of Kenya, south of South Sudan, east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and north of Rwanda and Tanzania. It is in the heart of the Great Lakes region, and is surrounded by three of them: Lake Edward, Lake Albert, and Lake Victoria. While much of its border is lakeshore, Uganda is landlocked with no access to the sea. The country is mostly plateau with a rim of mountains. The climate is tropical and generally rainy with two dry seasons (December to February, June to August). It is semiarid in the northeast.

Uganda has many national parks. Can you tell us about the wildlife that you can see around your home as well as in the parks?

Uganda is one of the best countries that is blessed with a variety of wildlife. There are different national parks which are located in the different parts of the country, and each of these national parks is blessed with various wildlife. Therefore the choice is always yours, depending on the time you have to travel around the country. You can visit national parks like the Queen Elizabeth National Park, you can go to Jinja and visit the source of the Nile, you can go to the Ssese Islands which are located in the center of Africa’s largest lake, Lake Victoria. We have wild animals like mountain gorillas, hippos, elephants, lions, chimpanzees, etc.

At home we don’t have any wild animals. We have domestic animals like cows, goats, sheep, and dogs.

I believe the main languages in Uganda are English and Swahili. Which languages are you able to speak?

I speak English. The number of individual languages listed for Uganda is actually 43. As in many African countries, English, the language of the colonizing power, was introduced in government and public life by way of missionary work and the educational system. During the first decades of the twentieth century, Swahili gained influence as it was not only used in the army and the police, but was also taught in schools. The Ganda viewed the introduction of Swahili as a threat to their political power, and partly through their influence, English remained the only official language at that time. Upon Uganda’s independence in 1962, English was maintained as the official language, as it was already rooted deeply in the administration, media, and education. Also, Uganda’s ethnolinguistic diversity made it difficult to choose another language as the official language of Uganda. After independence, there were efforts to choose an indigenous official language, with Swahili and Luganda as the most considered candidates. Although Luganda was the most geographically spread language, people outside Buganda were opposed to having it as a national language, as were those of the Buganda kingdom because they felt other tribes’ mispronunciation and grammar errors would ruin their language. English therefore remained the official language. The native languages of the Ugandan people have influenced Ugandan English.

Can you talk about your education? Who goes to school in Uganda? What age do people typically stop going to school?

In Uganda we have three examinable levels of education. Children usually start at the age of three and complete nursery school by the age of six. In some areas most children never attend nursery; they start their education at the age of five or six at the nearest primary school. In Uganda, there are seven primary school years, from primary one to primary seven. With normal annual progression this means primary school should last seven years, but many pupils drop out part way through and return later, so it is not unusual to find teenagers sitting for primary exams. Primary school tuition has been free in government schools in Uganda since 1997. But pupils in rural areas face serious challenges to finishing their education – for example, they lack materials, like books and pens, and they often have to study all day on an empty stomach, since no meals are provided at school. Besides government schools, there are many expensive day and boarding private schools at all levels, where wealthier or more ambitious parents send their children. Secondary school lasts six years. This has two stages; the first four years, senior one (S1) to senior four (S4), constitute the O-level period. At the end of S4, students sit the second major national exams known as the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) or simply O-level examinations.

Students who pass their O-level exams may progress to A-levels or the Higher School Certificate (HSC). This lasts two years, S5 and S6, after which students sit for the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) examinations, also known simply as A-levels. All these three annual national exams are sat between October and December. However, only students who have scored 28 points or higher can be admitted to this universal secondary education program.

Students who pass their A-levels may choose to progress to university, where they can study for degrees, or to other tertiary institutions that award diplomas and certificates. Some wealthier parents send their children to universities and colleges abroad. The government gives about 4,000 university scholarships each year. But tens of thousands of students who do not get the competitive government scholarships depend on their parents and guardians to pay their tuition and upkeep.

Do equal numbers of boys and girls go to school?

Uganda overall has a strong legal framework protecting the right to education as a fundamental human right enshrined in the 1995 Constitution. Nevertheless, Uganda has made mixed progress towards gender equality in education. In primary education, gender parity is at 91% of the school-age population being enrolled. However, female literacy rates lag behind at 49% compared to 69% of males, and gender gaps widen at secondary and tertiary school (OECD, 2015). There are many factors that contribute to women and girls’ education in Uganda and to girls dropping out of school. Data from the Ministry of Education and Sports shows that school dropout in the country is higher at the primary level than at secondary level because of lack of interest, pregnancy, early marriages, hidden costs at school, and family responsibilities. Research has found that adolescent pregnancy and early marriage remain two of the main barriers to girls’ education.

We’d love to know more about YOUR education! Can you talk about where you go to school?

In my school we have mixed ages, we wear a uniform and I do 15 subjects­­— Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, English, Literature, Geography, History, Religious studies, Arabic/ French, Computer, Entrepreneurship, Fine Art, Commerce, and Accounts.

My favorite subjects are mathematics, chemistry, and physics.

Wow! That’s quite a list! Do children/ young adults work outside the home? Do you have a job?

At least 20 million children aged from five to 17 years are engaged in child labor in Uganda. It’s very common that children can get forced out of school to help supplement income of their families and are denied the opportunity to acquire necessary knowledge and skills to aid them to get decent employment in the future— leading to the poverty cycle. For myself, I don’t work, none of my sisters and brothers work.

What chores/ jobs are you expected to do to help out around the home?

At home I have to wash utensils, clothes, clean the house­­—mopping the house, cleaning the bathrooms, and at times cook food.

Do you have easy access to the internet?

I don’t have access to the internet. Internet is very expensive in Uganda, grown-ups have access to the internet and not kids.

Can you tell us about traditional aspects of your culture?

We don’t have a national dish. Most tribes in Uganda have their own speciality dish or delicacy. Many dishes include various vegetables, potatoes, yams, bananas, and other tropical fruits. Chicken, pork, fish (usually fresh, but there is also a dried variety, reconstituted for stewing), beef, goat, and mutton are all commonly eaten, although among the rural poor, meats are consumed less than in other areas. Main dishes are usually centered on a sauce or stew of groundnuts, beans, or meat. The starch traditionally comes from ugali (maize meal) or matooke (steamed and mashed green banana) in the South, or an ugali-like dish made from millet in the North. Ugali/posho is cooked up into a thick porridge for breakfast.

In my culture our traditional wear is a gomesi for ladies and kanzu for men. The kanzu was first introduced to the Bugandan Kingdom by Arab traders in the first half of the 19th century. It is believed that Kabaka Ssuuna, who is said to have reigned between 1832 and 1856, was the first Kabaka to wear the tunic. It initially remained a dress of the highly-placed in society. It was for those who could afford to get it from the Arab traders and people living in the Kabaka’s court or the homes of chiefs.

 A woman wearing a gomesi

A woman wearing a gomesi

The gomesi, on the other hand, is the kanzu’s equivalent for Ugandan women. The gomesi is a much more recent addition to the culture of Buganda and Uganda. But it has become equally symbolic and more representative since it is native to and only found in Uganda, while the kanzu is not. The gomesi’s standard form is traced back to the 1940s when it was designed as a uniform for Gayaza High School. It is reported that the missionaries at Gayaza found the Kiganda tribal attire worn by the students to be indecent as it exposed the torso. The school administration thus enlisted the services of an Indian tailor from Goa, Fernando Gomes, who was based at a trading center near the school to design a dress. The dress would also get its name from that tailor. Apparently, Gomes was tasked with maintaining aspects of the Kiganda outfit so he had to come up with a compromise between Western fashions and the Ganda sheet of cloth wrapped around the body and fastened with a small strip of cloth tied around the waist.

We also have clans and in my clan I am a princess. Holidays do exist but they are celebrated at national level. But we do have Christmas and Idd celebration which are home-based.

Is religion a big part of Ugandan life?

Yes, to small extent one has to be attached to a certain religion depending on the family where one comes from.

Do you have access to western music and television at all?

Yes, I have access to western music and TV, both at home and school.

Can you talk about the government of your country?

Uganda is a Presidential republic and a democracy. A person who is above 18 years is allowed to vote. We have presidential votes every five years.

Do you feel there are disadvantages/ advantages to being female in Uganda?

Honestly, there are no advantages to being a female in Uganda, but the disadvantages are many. Some girls do not go to school when they have their menstrual periods. In some homes it’s only the boys who are taken to school. When it comes to inheritance, boys are considered mostly.

If people wanted to learn more about your country, is there a movie or book that you would recommend?

The movies The Last King of Scotland, and Queen of Katwe and the book Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi.

I’ve actually seen both of those movies and they’re great.

Finally, can you tell us what you love the most about your country?

I love Ugandan food because it is fresh and I also love the weather!

Ndagire, this has been so fascinating. Thank you so much for talking to us and giving us an insight into what it’s like to grow up in Uganda.

Screen Shot 2018-10-13 at 11.30.31 AM.png

SAY HELLO TO YOUR NEW STRONG GIRL PRESENTERS!

Meet the seven amazing girls who'll be inspiring you on our YouTube channel!

 

Recently, STRONG launched a competition to find a group of STRONG Girl Presenters. We were looking for girls who not only love to make videos, but who are passionate about female and youth empowerment. We were blown away by the responses we had and all the great videos you sent in, but in the end we managed to narrow the field down to these seven amazing girls. We can't wait to start working with these fantastic girls to bring you reviews, tutorials, and all kinds of other great videos! 

 

Italia Oates and Leilana Salvini

 Leilana and Italia are best friends who always have each other's back.

Leilana and Italia are best friends who always have each other's back.

These two best friends are just 10 years old, and as such they are our youngest STRONG Girl Presenters.  They go to school together and they also train and compete against one another in gymnastics, and they ALWAYS have each others' backs. Italia has ADHD and dyslexia, and Leilana is a great friend to her—she knows how to calm Italia when she has panic attacks and in return, Italia helps Leilana learn to let loose a little and relax. As Italia's mom says "They are polar opposites but a perfect match". 

When we asked the girls what they feel passionately about,  Italia said: "I alway talk to my mom about rescuing animals, especially elderly ones because animals are like people and they need good homes too." She also loves science and is passionate about gymnastics because it's calming and helpful with her ADHD.

 These two best friends have fun together, but also stand by each other when things are tough

These two best friends have fun together, but also stand by each other when things are tough

Leilana thinks she will make a great STRONG Girl Presenter because she believes that being supportive and helping each other to be the best we can be is important. "It’s not about being the best, but working hard and having passion!"

Check out their fab audition video:


 

Jhonni Dixon

jhonni dixon selfie.jpg

Jhonni is 13 and was born and raised in NYC before moving to Stamford CT. She's a big fan of film making, creative writing, basketball, volleyball, Girl Scouts, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

Jhonni started making videos when she was just eight years old, and has taken film classes at the Jacon Burns film center in Pleasantville, NY. It really shows as she's quite the pro when it comes to editing the content for her videos!

She's really proud to have been chosen as one of our first STRONG Girl Presenters and we can't wait to see what she's going to show us!  Check out her fantastic audition video all about prepping to go to camp!

 


 

Nouran Alyousif

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-15 at 2.35.40 PM.png

Nouran is 14 years old and plans to become an astronaut when she's older. She feels passionately about equality not just for women, but for everyone. "We are all humans and no matter what we look like or what country we were born in, we all deserve fundamental human rights". 

When Nouran was in third grade she told a boy in her class that she wanted to become an astronaut and was shocked and outraged when he laughed at her and told her that she wouldn't be able to do that because she is a girl. The experience has stuck with her and made her determined to to achieve her dream.

"I learned an important lesson from that experience -  that I should never allow someone's opinion of me to hurt me. A lot of people have told me I can’t do things and I just don't listen to them."

Nouran wants to be a STRONG Girl Presenter because she wants to show girls everywhere that they should not let other people's word hurt them, but should use them instead to drive them on to their goal!

Her audition video is about global warming:

 


 

Ella Dempster

SELFDEF064.jpg

We LOVED Ella's audition video all about Girl Power!  It's one of our favorite subjects you know... Ella is just 11 years old and comes from Connecticut. She describes herself as hard working and dedicated, as well as positive and optimistic in all situations.  We can actually vouch for that because Ella came along to a recent STRONG photo shoot and she was ALWAYS smiling!

Ella loves basketball, making and creating things, and spending time with her friends. She also LOVES YouTube and has wanted to be a YouTuber for a while. She is passionate about following her dreams and never giving up when she sets a goal for herself.  

Welcome to the team Ella!

 

 


 

Alyssa Shah

AlyssaHeadshot.JPG

14-year-old Alyssa Shah is passionate about science, technology and math. She's been coding since she learnt Scratch in 3rd grade and has since taught herself several programming languages including Python and Java. She's the lead programmer for her school's robotics team where she's one of just three girls on a team of fifteen people!

She's a keen photographer, and enjoys reading and reviewing books for the Bank Street College of Education's Children's Book Committee. She's also athletic and is joining the high school volleyball team this year.

Gender equality is important to Alyssa because she experiences the gender gap almost every day.

"I am a girl in tech and being a girl in tech is a lonely place."

We're looking forward to Alyssa helping us to make that tech world a little less lonely for girls by showing everyone just how cool it is! 

"Our world is not perfect and I want to be a part of the solution. I hope that I will be able to inspire other young women to pay it forward, and I want to empower other girls in my community."

For her audition video, Alyssa showed us some great self defense moves. Check it out here:

 

 


 

Avery Baumel

image1.jpeg

Last but not least, 14-year-old Avery Baumel is a ballet dancer and loves theater. She is also an apprentice builder at her local educational farm where students are taught how to build gates, sheds, and other agricultural infrastructure.

Avery is passionate about the #metoo movement and is very interested in current events and politics. She believes everyone should know what's happening in the world, even if they're young, as it affects them too. She describes herself as a passionate, smart, and hard working individual who strives to make the world a better place.

We know Avery will inspire you all with her great videos!

 

 

 


We hope you have enjoyed meeting our new STRONG Girl presenters.  Subscribe to our YouTube Channel for more videos coming your way soon!

 

WHO WAS ANNE FRANK?

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 8.50.18 AM.png

The diarist Anne Frank was born on this day in 1929. In our blog today, we go back to issue 2 to find out more about the young girl who, through her writing, has helped generations of us understand the true horror and impact of the Holocaust.  Anne Frank said herself "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." She showed us all that we all have a voice, and that just one person can make a difference.

 

Anne Frank’s Diary was first published in 1947, two years after the end of the Second World War.  It is the journal of a young Jewish girl living in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, during the German occupation.

Anne received her diary, which she named Kitty, on June 12, 1942.  It was a gift from her parents for her 13th birthday. Anne had been born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1929 but had fled with her family to Amsterdam in the Netherlands at just four years old when the Nazi party had gained control of Germany.

By 1940 however, Germany was at the height of its power and had invaded the Netherlands. The occupying forces began to persecute Jewish people.  In one of the first excerpts from her diary, on Saturday, June 20, 1942, Anne lists some of the restrictions that were placed on Jews:

“Jews must wear a yellow star, Jews must hand in their bicycles, Jews are banned from trams and are forbidden to drive. Jews are only allowed to do their shopping between three and five o’clock and then only in shops which bear the placard “Jewish shop”. Jews must be indoors by eight o’clock and cannot even sit in their own gardens after that hour.  Jews are forbidden to visit theaters, cinemas, and other places of entertainment. Jews may not take part in public sport. Swimming baths, tennis courts, hockey fields, and other sports grounds are prohibited to them. Jews may not visit Christians. Jews must go to Jewish schools, and many more restrictions of a similar kind.”

Things were to get worse and the Frank family made plans to go into hiding. On July 6, 1942, after Anne’s 16-year-old sister, Margot, received an instruction to report to a work camp, the Franks brought their plans forward and made their way to what was to become their home for the next two years.

The Frank family, Otto, Edith, Margot, and Anne moved into a “secret annex” which was a three story set of rooms hidden behind a bookshelf at the back of the building where Otto had worked.  Some of his colleagues became their helpers, collecting their rations and bringing them food and provisions.  They also kept them updated with news of the war, all the while knowing that they could face the death squads if they were caught sheltering Jews. On January 28, 1944, Anne wrote:

“They come upstairs everyday, talk to the men abut business and politics, to the women about food and wartime difficulties, and about newspapers and books with children. They put on the brightest possible faces, bring flowers and presents for birthdays and bank holidays, are always ready to help and do all they can. That is something we must never forget; although others may show heroism in the war or against the Germans, our helpers display heroism in their cheerfulness and affection.”

The family had to be careful to black out the windows and move around quietly so that workers downstairs would not know they were there. 

The Frank family was joined by another family, The Van Daans, on July 13.  They had a 16-year-old son called Peter.  Anne was unimpressed by Peter when the families first went into the annex, but in her diary she wrote about how she fell in love with him a year and a half later.  

Throughout her two years in the annex, Anne detailed the day-to-day goings on and the fallings out between inhabitants as they struggled to cope with their cramped living conditions.  

“Relations between us here are getting worse all the time. At mealtimes, no one dares to open their mouths...because whatever is said you either annoy someone or it is misunderstood.”

Apart from the news their helpers brought, and a radio, they were completely cut off from the outside world.  In such a confined space they were frequently bored and hungry, and they lived in fear that any day they could be captured. 

“When someone comes in from outside, with the wind in their clothes and the cold on their faces, then I bury my head in the blankets to stop myself thinking: “When will we be granted the privilege of smelling fresh air?””

Anne wrote in her diary about the progress of the war from the news the families heard on the radio.  She also analyzed the different personalities of the people she was living with.  She wrote that she wished to become a journalist when she was older. 

The families and their helpers were arrested on August 4, 1944, when the Gestapo (The Nazi secret police) stormed into the annex.  The Frank family was taken to Auschwitz, a concentration camp in Poland.  There the men and women were separated.  Otto Frank, Anne's father, never saw his family again. 

In October 1945, Anne and Margot were transferred to a different camp, Bergen Belson. Edith Frank was sick and stayed in Auschwitz, where she died.   Anne and Margot are both believed to have died in February or March of 1945 from typhus.

Otto Frank was the only member of the Frank family to survive.  After the war he returned to the Netherlands where one of his helpers had found Anne’s diary scattered on the floor of the annex.  “I want to go on living even after my death,” Anne wrote. She does. Today her diary, that of an ordinary 13-year-old girl living in extraordinary times, is one of the most famous books in the world.  It has been translated into over 60 different languages and serves as an essential reminder of a terrible time in our history.

LET'S TALK ABOUT DEPRESSION

Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 11.41.39 AM.png
Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 11.44.48 AM.png

STRONG'S Clinical Social Worker Jillian Desiderio talks to us about keeping our minds strong.  In last Fall's issue, Jillian responded to Lindsay Wheeler’s article on depression, which we posted to our blog on May 11th. 

 

 

 

In Lindsay’s article, she showed us that with the right support and help she was able to overcome and fight against her depression. I want to make sure that you know that you can do the same.

There is always help and there is always hope.

So what is depression? Depression is a serious mental health problem that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities. It affects how you think, feel, and behave, and it can cause emotional, social and physical problems. Depression is different than just feeling sad, and it’s the prolonged or persistent feeling that makes it different. 

There are many reasons why someone might become depressed. As an example, adolescents can develop feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy over their grades or overall school performance.  Social relationships and social conflicts as well as family strife can all have a major effect on how an adolescent feels.  

It is important to acknowledge that being an adolescent comes with many changes. Not just the obvious physical changes such as growing breasts and starting your periods, but emotional changes as well. It is very normal to feel sadness, confusion and irritability, and to have shifts in your moods when you’re a teenager. It’s certainly not easy navigating school, family, and friendships, so you may experience a mix of feelings on any given day. When these feelings become persistent and negatively impact your ability to function then you may be suffering from depression. 

The following are a list of possible signs of depression in adolescent girls:

 

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Poor school performance
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you are experiencing any of the signs above you MUST seek help. You may feel embarrassed or scared to talk to someone about depression. You might also feel like it’s your fault that you are depressed. I can promise you it’s never anyone’s fault when they become depressed. It’s something that just happens and you are not to blame. You are worthy of help and support. 

For some reason, talking about depression has always been taboo. Luckily, people such as Lindsay are becoming advocates for mental health and helping erase the stigma associated with depression and other mental health issues. It is absolutely OK and totally understandable if you feel embarrassed, ashamed, or scared, but please know it will be worth talking to someone and that sharing how you feel with someone is an important first step towards feeling better.

You can and you will feel better, but you will need support and help to get there.

 

Sometimes it’s just about finding the right person to help you. Finding an adult who you can talk to is not always easy. A good place to start is with one of your parents or your guardian. Talk to them about your feelings and tell them that you’re concerned that you may be depressed. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your parents or guardians then there are plenty of other adults who you can talk to and share your feelings with. Talk to a teacher at school that you trust, or make an appointment to see your school counsellor or your guidance counsellor. Other adults you can approach are a school nurse, your pediatrician, or a coach. Whether it be a parent/guardian, someone on this list, or another trusted adult you know, please talk to them. If they don’t listen, don’t understand or don’t believe you, keep talking to an adult until someone listens and offers a plan for help and support. 

Sometimes, the road to feeling better might include talking to a therapist. Some people are daunted by the prospect of talking to a stranger about their problems. You should know that a therapist will keep what you talk about confidential. This means whatever you talk about stays between you and them. The only exception to this is if they believe you are in danger. They are trained to help people who are struggling like you are and can help you develop skills and strategies to help you cope with your depression.  

Some people find they need to be prescribed medication to help improve their mood. This is something you would discuss with the doctor as well as your parent/guardian. Medication is not always necessary and a doctor will help determine if it is something you need and monitor if it helps. It is never OK to take medication without permission from your parent/guardian and a prescription from a doctor. 

Taking something that has not been prescribed for you could not only make your depression worse, but could also lead to serious problems. 

Most importantly, please hear me when I say this...

 

YOU CAN FEEL BETTER. 

 

Depression does not have to last forever or hold you hostage. With support and guidance you absolutely can and will feel better. Although it may not be easy to open up and ask for help, it will be worth it. You may feel alone, but you are not alone. You may feel hopeless, but there is always hope. It just may take a little while to see that for yourself!

 

 

CAUSES OF DEPRESSION

Teenage depression can be a result of many factors. For example: verbal or physical abuse, bullying, or the death of a loved one.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Depression affects around 20% of adolescents before they reach adulthood.

RISK FACTORS

If you are under stress, or have attentional, learning, conduct, or anxiety disorders, you are at higher risk.

WHO’S AT RISK?

 Gay, bisexual, and transgender teens are at increased risk of depression.

 

IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION

 

The National Suicide Prevention Line:

    1 (800) 273-8255

 

NAMI The National Alliance on Mental Illness:

    1 (800) 950-6264

 

Or text “NAMI” to 741741 to find help near you.

 

OK2talk.org Forum for teens to share their feelings and discuss mental health

YOU HAVE POWER!

Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 9.54.25 AM.png
  STRONG’s Clinical Social   Worker, Jillian Desiderio, talks about the power you have to keep you body clean, healthy, and SAFE!

STRONG’s Clinical Social Worker, Jillian Desiderio, talks about the power you have to keep you body clean, healthy, and SAFE!

Did you know that YOU are very POWERFUL? Well, you are! You have the power to protect and care for your BODY!

Okay, I know that might sound a bit silly, but it’s true and it’s also incredibly important. From the time you are able to keep your body safe, clean, and healthy—you are in charge of your own body. Now...don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you should run out and get piercings or tattoos. Things like that require parent/guardian discussion and permission. But I am talking about your RIGHTS to keeping your body safe, clean, and healthy. 

STAYING HEALTHY AND CLEAN

Keeping your body clean and healthy are probably the easiest two pieces of protecting your body.  It is important to pay close attention to your body’s changing needs. Regular showers are a must! In addition, teeth brushing, using deodorant, and making sure your clothes are clean and free of odors are all great ways to keep your body clean. Being healthy includes getting the right amount of sleep, eating proteins, vegetables, and fruits, and getting adequate exercise. 

STAYING SAFE

Keeping yourself clean and healthy are important aspects of protecting your body. But you also have the power to keep your body safe!

Some obvious ways of keeping your body safe include wearing a helmet when you ride your bike, wearing sports gear when you’re playing a sport, or wearing a seatbelt in the car. 

You also need to keep your body safe from other people. This means understanding what your personal space looks like, what boundaries you want to set with people around you and making sure you understand the meaning of consent.

PERSONAL SPACE

Let’s start with personal space. The amount of personal space people need differs.  Some people are very touchy-feely people, and some aren’t. The thing that remains the same is that personal space, no matter how big or small it is for you, needs to be RESPECTED by others. Part of keeping your body safe is identifying what your personal space boundary is and then making it clear to others when you feel they are invading that space. You don’t have to be rude or hurt anybody’s feelings. But it can quite simply be saying to the person “You’re just a little bit too close to me.  Would you mind moving over a bit?” or “I’m not really a hugger.”

The idea of telling someone else they’re in your personal space, especially if they’re an adult and you’re not, can be intimidating. But think about it, if you were giving someone a hug and it was making them feel uncomfortable, you would want them to tell you so you could stop.  It’s understandable that as an adolescent female you may feel uncomfortable speaking up. But remember, you have the power to protect your body, and if you’re not comfortable, you should say something.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!

Practice using your voice at home. Parents,  siblings, and extended family can be the first people that you start to talk to and set boundaries with. Maybe your sister always sits up too close to you on the couch, or your mom gives you squeezy hugs that you sometimes want to escape from. It’s okay that you feel that way. Practice letting them know by saying things like “Mom, I’m not in the mood to be hugged right now.” This can help you feel more comfortable when you need to speak up outside the home. If you don’t feel comfortable practicing this at home, ask a trusted teacher or friend. The more you stand up for your right to protect your body and the space around it, the easier it will be going forward! 

CONSENT

If somebody wants to touch or be close to you, even if it’s to give you a hug when you’re having a bad day, they need to ask you for your consent.

Consent means that you have given the person permission to touch you or be in your space. Without consent, no one EVER has the right to touch or be in your personal space if you don’t want them to. 

Let’s use the example of having a bad day at school. Imagine if a male friend of yours came up to you, and, after noticing that you were visibly upset, he asked for your consent so that he could give you a hug and make you feel better. If in that moment you said yes and gave him consent, then it would be okay for him to give you that hug. If you said no though, that you did not need a hug, it would NOT be okay for him to ignore your wishes and hug you, because he did not have your permission or your consent. 

I want to reiterate that if somebody does not have consent to touch you or be in your personal space is not okay and you have every right, no matter what they say, to tell them no. You also have a right to get away from them and tell a trusted adult about what happened. Remember, you always have the right to keep your body safe. 

CONSENT IS LIMITED AND SPECIFIC

Here’s another thing about consent, it is very limited and specific.  Let’s talk about that male friend wanting to give you a hug again. If you said yes, and gave your friend consent for the hug, you were only giving it in that moment for that specific interaction. This does not give your friend blanket permission to hug you whenever he wants! It’s okay to say yes to a hug one day and no the next. You DO NOT owe anybody access to your personal space or your body just because you gave them consent at one point in time. 

POWER PLAY

It’s important to know that anyone who tries to use their power, status, or their age to convince you that they have a right to be in your personal space or to touch you, is lying to you. 

YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO HAS THE POWER to make those decisions when it comes to your body!

#METOO

You may or may not have heard about the #metoo movement. This movement is a worldwide endeavor to help women who have been the victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault, come together in solidarity so that people feel less alone and so that the world can see the magnitude of this problem. 

Many women feel unsafe and have been put in situations where they’ve experienced someone blatantly disregarding their refusal to give consent to that person entering their personal space or touching them. I hope that with this movement which has gained momentum recently, young girls and women will understand that we can set new expectations when it comes it how women are treated. YOU HAVE THE POWER, YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF YOUR BODY. The more you as young women understand that and stand up to anyone who says differently, the better chance those around you will understand and will respect women’s personal space and their bodies.

 

WHAT IS SEXUAL HARRASSMENT?

Sexual harrassment can be a problem for adolescents.  It’s not just a problem for girls, boys can be sexually harrassed as well. If people are bullying you, which means they are engaging in behaviour that is designed to hurt you, and those comments are of a sexual nature, it’s considered sexual harrassment. 

The comments may include references to your appearance, body parts, sexuality and sexual activity.  They do not have to be to your face.  They can be made via text messgage, or as a post on social media. Examples of sexual harrassment include:

  • Spreading rumors about a person of a sexual nature.
  • Commenting on your body parts or appearance.
  • Making inappropriate jokes that make you feel uncomfortable.
  • Showing you inappropriate photos or videos.
  • Posting comments of a sexual nature on social media about you.
  • Repeatedly asking you out when you have said no.
  • Brushing up against you or attempting to touch your body in a sexual way without your consent.

Sexual harrassment can make people feel scared and threatened.  It is not acceptable. If you or a friend have experienced or are experiencing any form of sexual harrassment, you should talk to a trusted adult.

STRAIGHTENING OUT MY SPINE

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 2.16.50 PM.png

June is Scoliosis Awareness Month, so here's our interview from the end of last summer with the brave and determined Tabitha Sullivan, as she talks all about her Scoliosis surgery. 

 

Meet 15-year-old Tabitha Sullivan.  While many other 15-year-olds spent last summer relaxing at the pool or on vacation with their families, Tabitha underwent extensive back surgery to treat her scoliosis, a disorder that causes your spine to curve abnormally. Tabitha has come through her surgery and is making a fantastic recovery thanks to a great attitude and the support of her family and close friends. 

 

Tabitha, thanks so much for talking to STRONG and sharing your story. Can you tell us how you were first diagnosed with scoliosis? 

Basically, when I was ten, we went to the doctor for my regular annual physical and they said I had a little curve in my spine. A lot of kids have it and it just corrects, so we weren’t too worried, but the doctor just said that I should get it checked because I was tall for my age.

You went to see another doctor and they started keeping a closer eye on you?

Yes. It just kept progressing though, and every single year I would go back and it would be worse. So when I was 13 they put me in a night brace just to hold my spine straighter when I slept, and they hoped that would move it back into the correct position.

 Tabitha's night brace   

Tabitha's night brace

 

What was the night brace like?

Well, one side is straight down and on the other side it’s curved.  There’s a lot of velcro.  You do it up really tight. It’s supposed to straighten out your spine when you’re sleeping. You wear it every night and eventually it kind of shifts your spine back.  

Was it hard to sleep?

At first it was super hard and I couldn’t sleep at all.  I had to take melatonin. But after a week or so I got used to it.  At first I could only sleep on my back, but then it got so I could basically sleep in any position. 

But the night brace didn’t do the trick for you?

No.  It helps a lot of people, but I wore it for two years and then the doctor decided I should get a day brace as well.  I got that the summer of 2016.  I didn’t wear that as much because it’s really uncomfortable to wear it when you’re sitting down, which obviously you do a lot of the time at school.  So at first I was told just to wear it in the morning and then when I got home. One day I wore it to school and I could only wear it for an hour and then I went to the nurse and took it off because it was just so uncomfortable.

“The first day I wore it I wore a huge sweatshirt because you could see it under all my clothes.”

What was your emotional state like throughout all of this?  It must have been upsetting going through all of this as a teenager?

Yes.  It was horrible wearing it to school. I didn’t have to wear it for that long, but I couldn’t imagine wearing it everyday.  The first day I wore it I wore a huge sweatshirt because you could see it under all my clothes.

How did your friends and other kids in your grade react?

My friends were fine with it because they know me and they knew what was going on. But when other people noticed it they sometimes said “What are you wearing?” because it looked kind of like I was wearing a shield over my body!

Did the day brace make you feel very self-conscious?

I was super self-conscious.  I had a friend in my gym class though who had scoliosis too. Hers was almost as bad as mine, but she hasn’t had to have the surgery yet because she’s still really tiny.  She had been wearing the night brace so she knew how hard it was for me and she helped me with that.  She really supported me.

But ultimately, the day brace didn’t help your condition?

There’s this thing where bracing doesn’t work for everybody. Most people, but not everybody, and it didn’t work for me. So last year I had another appointment and the doctor said I was in the 50 degree zone, which is when you have to start considering getting surgery.

“Basically, if you looked at my spine from behind, instead of being straight it was like a big letter S.”

Can you explain the 50 degree zone?

Basically, if you looked at my spine from behind, instead of being straight it was like a big letter S.  The top curve was bigger and there was a smaller curve at the bottom of my back.  Once you get to 50 degrees on your curve that’s when you’re in the surgery zone.  I was 54 degrees at one point. We were going to appointments every six months during the last year and a half and each time the number of degrees was going up.  You have to wait for it to be more than 50 degrees though to know that surgery is worthwhile. 

Could people tell by looking at you that there was a problem?

Yes. There was a girl at school whose sister’s friend had had scoliosis and she said she could see it through my shirt. My mom said she could tell from my shoulders; one was up, the other was down— and my waist was uneven. 

“Everything’s out of balance, so it affects your joints, everything.”

If you hadn’t had surgery to correct your condition you would have been in a lot of pain when you were older.  What did the doctors tell you about that?

That it impacts everything. They told me when I was older it could affect my lungs.  Some people can’t get air in, some can’t get air out because their lungs are all messed up and they have to be on a machine to help them breath. Also if I were to have children it would make it difficult. Everything’s out of balance, so it affects your joints, everything.

Could you feel that there was something “different” about your spine?

 An X-ray of Tabitha's spine before she had spinal fusion surgery

An X-ray of Tabitha's spine before she had spinal fusion surgery

I couldn’t when I was 13, but this past year when I walked around a lot I could. For example, we went to New York for the day and at the end my back really hurt. 

“I think it had been going on so long that we just never thought it would actually happen, so although the angle had kept on getting worse we were still in shock.”

What was it like the day you found out your were going to need to have the surgery after all?

My mom was with me.  They took an x-ray, which they always did just to see what angle my spine was at.  Then the doctor, Dr. Smith, showed them to us and we knew right away that I was going to have to have the surgery.  We didn’t talk to him too much more about it that day because we were just so upset. I think it had been going on so long that we just never thought it would actually happen, so although the angle had kept on getting worse we were still in shock.

I was really upset when I got out of the appointment and I was crying and stuff, but then after that day I didn’t even think about it. It still seemed so far away! It was March and we knew they would perform the surgery over the summer because otherwise I would have to take six weeks off school.  I had finals and end of year stuff to think about and I was in school mode. So I didn’t really think about it again until June.

And the date for your surgery was?

July 24th.

Did you do lots of reading on the internet to find out about the surgery?

No! My parents didn’t let me look on the internet at all.

Did that actually stop you?

No! I looked on it once, but then I actually got really scared because it’s a really big surgery.  My mom said please don’t look on the internet again!  We went to an appointment later that month with Dr. Smith and he explained the whole thing.  He showed me the rods and told me the whole history of scoliosis surgery.  We’re lucky these days because things have changed so much. In the past, people would be in a hospital bed for a whole year having their scoliosis corrected.  He showed me the screws and stuff and showed me how much it’s improved.  I also saw pictures of scars so I had a good idea what mine would look like.

It sounds like he did a great job of preparing you and making sure you knew what to expect.

Yes, I did. But I also have a really low pain tolerance, so I was really freaking out about how much it might hurt!  The doctor didn’t really know what to say because whenever he asks the kids about the pain they don’t remember it because they’re on medication after the surgery!

The surgery is called a spinal fusion.  Can you tell us what it involved?

Basically, they had two titanium rods that they put down either side of my spine.  There are 24 screws holding them in place. But before they did that they had to break my spine in lots of places.  Then I have these freeze dried bones that come from a donor. Over the course of two years those bones will grow over the rods so it becomes like a new spine.

The worst bit was that I had to give a pint of blood. It was honestly like one of the worst things, because I hate having shots!

Wow, that’s quite a major surgery.  Did it last a long time?

It was nine hours.  We went in really early in the morning.  My parents didn’t see me for 11 hours though because I had to wake up afterwards and everything.

Is your back much straighter now?

Yes. Now I’m only 13 and 6 degrees —you can see the difference. Also, I’m taller! I grew an inch after the surgery. When I stood up to leave hospital my brother and my dad were like “You’re so tall!”

What was it like when you first woke up after having had the surgery?

Well, when I woke up I wasn’t really with it.   I was on a lot of meds.  I didn’t feel any pain for the first three days.  Normally they do the surgery on a Monday and you leave the hospital by Friday, but I had a complication.  Before you leave the hospital they like you to be able to walk the ward and also climb stairs, but I kept getting these horrible headaches, and I got really nauseous. 

I know it took them a while to find out why you were having the headaches.

Yes, my mom kept saying I seemed fine apart from the headaches and in the end they gave me an MRI, and that’s when they found that there was a spinal fluid leak.  They had nicked the spinal cord a little during the surgery.

I understand that’s pretty uncommon and that that’s why it took them a while to figure it out.  What did you need to do to recover from that?

I had to go on bed rest, which is not what I was supposed to be doing for my scoliosis, but they had to let the spinal cord heal first.  It healed quickly and they gave me some medicine that I had to put up my nose. It tasted horrible, but it made me not feel the headaches anymore, and after that I could walk just fine.

Phew!  That was a complication you didn’t need!

Most people are in the hospital for a week, but I was in for eight days total.

And now you’re four weeks post surgery. How has your recovery been so far?

It’s amazing how quickly you heal! I had a PT person come at the start and they would walk with me--—ten minutes in the morning and ten in the evening—but that’s it.  Now I can go out in the car and around stores and things and I get my walking in that way. I don’t need to wear a brace or anything.  After three weeks I came off my meds and was only taking Advil. I’m sore sometimes, but not in pain.  It’s more because my muscles and skeleton are in a different place and they’re having to get used to being used in a different way.

I just feel really straight when I sit up and stuff!  People keep saying my posture is great because I can’t bend at my back, I only bend at my waist.

Have you seen many of your friends since your surgery?

Lots of my friends have been over to the house to see me. They brought balloons and so much candy! I went out once to a party, but I only stayed about 20 minutes because it was a bit overwhelming. But it was fun to see everyone.  My best friend, Tate, came to the hospital twice, and brought me books and things.

That’s really lovely.  How are you feeling about going back to school?

I like school, so I’m excited to go back!

“You probably think that people are thinking about you more than they do.  They’re not going to look at you differently because you got surgery.”

Your mom says you’re pretty tough.  She says you’ve always been really brave and deep down you don’t really care what people think—you’ll do what’s right. She says that really came through after surgery and it made you strong.

Well, you probably think that people are thinking about you more than they do.  They’re not going to look at you differently because you got surgery. It’s a big deal to you, but no one looks at me differently or anything.  Other people aren’t going to be as preoccupied with it as you are.  It didn’t change the way my friends looked at me at all.  Even when I had the day brace.  No one cared— it didn’t affect them.  To me, I thought everyone would be looking at me, but they really weren’t.

“Everyone else is always very absorbed in their own lives so no one really noticed!”

Were you teased at all, when you had to wear the day brace?  When people knew you had to have the surgery?

No. It wasn’t a problem.  Everyone else is always very absorbed in their own lives so no one really noticed!  In fact, I know now that when I was in 6th grade there was another girl at my school who had to wear a day brace and I didn’t even notice! 

I’m guessing a lot of them didn’t really understand what you were going through either.

Yeah, some people still don’t really understand. Some of my friends didn’t think that it was a big deal.  My closest friends did, but others said things like “Oh I had knee surgery and it was so bad” and I was thinking “It’s not the same thing!”  

I think it was just my closest friends that really looked it up and talked to their parents about it so they knew what I was going through. 

In the future, are there any restrictions or things you can’t do?

Well, I can’t run until the end of winter and normally I play lacrosse in the spring.  I won’t be in shape so I probably won’t be able to play. Also there’s a lot of twisting, so I’m not sure how that’s going to work out.  It’s one of my favorite sports, so that kind of sucks, but maybe I can do cross country or something instead. 

‘It’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be!  I am already so happy I had the surgery.”

Tabitha, there are going to be other girls reading this who maybe have just found out they have scoliosis and are really worried.  What would you say to them?

Firstly, you might not have to have the surgery.  Most people don’t. Lots of people in my family have had it [it can be hereditary] and they have grown out of it. Also, for lots of people, the braces work. If you do have to have the surgery, then this may sound like bad advice, but it’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be!  I am already so happy I had the surgery. 

That’s pretty amazing news after only four weeks!  You’ve been through something most kids your age haven’t even had to think about.  How do you think it’s affected you as a person?

It’s changed my perspective a bit.  I know now that life isn’t always smooth and I appreciate certain things more than I think some other kids my age do.  I was super scared and now it’s done I’ve been through something a lot of my friends haven’t, so it does makes me a little different.

Tabitha, thank you so much for talking to us.  You are a shining example of a STRONG girl.  Someone who has faced adversity, in your case a really major surgery, with an amazing attitude.  We hope you heal quickly and you feel stronger and stronger each day!

 

 

 

It's Great Debate time. Tell us what you think!

Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 9.57.01 AM.png

SPRING'S BIG QUESTION:

SHOULD THERE BE PARENTAL LIMITS ON TECH DEVICES?

 

REAGAN SAYS YES!

Yes, I think that parents should limit time on screens.

STRONG5_015.jpg

Children who spend long periods of time using technology are more prone to obesity. A group of child health specialists have found a link between rising child obesity levels and periodic exposure to social media. According to Dr. Adamos Hadjipanayis, Assistant Professor of Paediatrics, parents should limit the use of computers and similar devices to no more than 90 minutes a day and only if the child is older than four years of age. The average toddler today spends an hour watching TV, says Olivia Petter, author of Parents Should Limit a Childs’ Screen Time. Many children are watching over seven hours of TV a day. Childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking says the American Heart Association. In my opinion, limited screen time will be helpful for children, but there are a few things you should know before cutting it short completely. Chat with your child about what they think is a reasonable amount of screen time. The depth of the conversation will depend on the age of your child. Toddlers to teens will all have their own thoughts; both will likely start with an absurdly high number. But instead of knocking their number out of the way, make a compromise that you both agree to. I agree that limiting tech time will benefit all children and is an action that should be taken. All in all, I believe that adults and children should have limited screen time to benefit their lives as we know it will.

LUCY SAYS NO

Strong5_149.jpg

No, I do not think that parents should limit time on tech devices.

For starters, there’s more educational stuff online than everyone seems to think. Kids on their devices aren’t always playing games. Often, we’re doing something for school or just researching something we find interesting. When we didn’t have phones, people had to go to libraries to find information. Now, we have a more immersive and entertaining way of obtaining that same information, so you can see why we’d want to spend more time on our tech devices. Some adults fail to understand how kids socialize on tech devices, too. They are a way of communicating in a way our parents couldn’t. We use them not only to stay in touch with friends but also to have discussions with classmates, and socialize in other ways. 

Secondly, parents of our generation should be able to trust their kids enough to let them manage their own time on tech devices. They should educate them as to the pros and cons of ‘living’ online, and then trust the kid enough to let them make their own decisions about online activity. 

Finally, managing time, both on tech devices and in real life, is an extremely important lifeskill that kids need to learn. If parents take away the ability to make mistakes online, they take away the ability to learn from them, too. 

This is why I believe that parents, or legal guardians, shouldn’t limit time on tech devices

 

So, the big question is, what do you think?  Share your thoughts in the comments and vote below!

THIS IS WHAT MENTAL ILLNESS LOOKS LIKE

image5.JPG

 

Lindsay Wheeler has battled depression, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders since the age of 15. She was first diagnosed in her early 20s and has since worked to reclaim the years she lost through treatment and reflective writing. Lindsay is passionate about helping others and works to confront the stigma surrounding mental illness. Here, she tells her story

 

Growing up in a small town in New England, I knew something wasn’t right. At sixteen, everything felt so complicated; the pressure in my head would build until an inevitable breakdown. On the outside, I was social, active, and carefree; but inside, this wasn’t the case. I struggled in school despite having the capacity to excel. I had chronic depression but didn’t have the tools to recognize it yet. Without knowing how to manage the issues I faced, I assumed I just wasn’t good enough. Stigma – which is discrimination against particular identities – also made it difficult to seek help. Fortunately, the culture around depression has changed a lot since then. It was a privilege to have grown up in such an affluent town, but as a young person it can seem like these issues don’t exist. Just as depression can live in the minds of troubled kids from ailing towns, it can also afflict someone from my sort of background.

My anxiety was so extreme at the time that I routinely buried my face in my pillow, hoping I would disappear.

My anxiety was so extreme at the time that I routinely buried my face in my pillow, hoping I would disappear. On my worst mornings, I had to be dragged from the school parking lot because I feared being somewhere I felt so alone. 

I’ve learned that “vulnerable” doesn’t equate to “weak,” and that we should never be ashamed. 
image4.JPG

I fought so hard but couldn’t yet see it as the act of bravery that it was. As kids, we like to think we are invincible, when in reality we are vulnerable in certain ways. I’ve learned that “vulnerable” doesn’t equate to “weak,” and that we should never be ashamed. It simply means we aren’t equipped with the tools to help ourselves heal. As we age, we become consumed with adult concerns and can forget how difficult growing up can be. Bullying, which is far too common, can be so painful, and the pressure to be a particular way is crushing. Social media can exacerbate the problem, where we are encouraged to have a persona that’s inconsistent with lived experience. 

But you live in a society that no longer expects us to be silent about these issues. 

I learned that I am enough as I am.

I began to restrict my eating in high school; a common pattern sometimes called “concurrent mental illness.” It felt like a means to regain the control that depression took from me, and life became a cycle of sadness and guilt. It was a dangerous coping mechanism, and I hid in the depths of a full, but very sad, heart. I wouldn’t seek help until age 21, and by then I had done a lot of damage to my body. I was lucky to have finally realized I didn’t need to be ashamed about the hand I was dealt. I came to not fear the judgment of others because I learned that I am enough as I am. Treatment can look very different to different people, and there are so many different paths to happiness. Throughout my healing process, I realized that good did exist within me; it would just take therapy and hard work for me to be led, through a steady process, to my best self. What once felt like a deep void has been filled with the courage I found when I said, “I am better than this.” 

Today, I am proud to be exactly the person I once needed: a role model who seeks to help others navigate some of what I went through.
 "I saved a puppy along the way, who I believe also saved me."  Lindsay with Tubs.

"I saved a puppy along the way, who I believe also saved me."  Lindsay with Tubs.

Today, I am proud to be exactly the person I once needed: a role model who seeks to help others navigate some of what I went through. Slowly, I learned to channel pain in a healthy way, writing openly about my personal challenges. I write through elation, tears, and loss, finding sudden relief after I put my thoughts on paper. Sharing stories of darkness does not smother the light; in fact, I am following my dreams and laugh more than ever before. I walk fearlessly into the places I once walked out of, and for this – not despite it – I am loved. As I progressed, my mind became flooded with ideas, aspirations, and a newfound sense of motivation. I sing often, cook lavishly, eat real butter, and am even in the early stages of writing a book! I saved a puppy along the way, who I believe also saved me. His name is Tubs and he is a little bit emotionally fragile just like I am. Today, I can say that my fragility is my most respected asset. Mental health issues should bring us together, not tear us apart. 

You are not alone if you are afraid that you can’t share both the good and the bad...

I no longer let worry make me physically sick and I fight for people just like myself, who have trouble seeing the light. I’ve been approached for insight on how others can find a voice like I have. They are unaware that they don’t need me; the power lives in us all. I am astonished by the bravery of each individual because years ago, I was in that place of vulnerability. But no other part of my history has been so worth living for. You are not alone if you are afraid that you can’t share both the good and the bad, but I – one who has seen the impact a voice can have – demand your trust. It’s your turn to fight; for your friends and for yourself.

I still have my share of bad days like anyone else, but twenty difficult years later, I am here to say it can get so much better. My hardest years led me to personal accountability and the endless patience and support of wonderful therapists, friends, and family. I would’ve been skeptical reading this years ago – laughing, crying, maybe closing my computer. But let my voice travel through that cold, glass screen of yours, or reach out to you from this page and earn your trust. My world was once a little grayer and I couldn’t conceive of what life through different eyes might look like. If this is something you or a friend can relate to, there are so many ways to get help. I am among the lucky to have realized it.  

 

Lindsay's powerful and honest blog can be found at

 

IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION

 

The National Suicide Prevention Line:

    1 (800) 273-8255

 

NAMI The National Alliance on Mental Illness:

    1 (800) 950-6264

 

Or text “NAMI” to 741741 to find help near you.

 

OK2talk.org Forum for teens to share their feelings and discuss mental health.

Member Login
Welcome, (First Name)!

Forgot? Show
Log In
Enter Member Area
My Profile Not a member? Sign up. Log Out