A Letter to Any Teen Who's Thinking About Suicide

2012-05-01-meteen.jpgDear friend,

Let me start by telling you that I love you. No, I don't know you at all. I might have passed you at the mall or caught a glimpse of you driving down the road, but chances are you live far away from me, in another state or even in another country. I love you just the same. Even though we are distant, we are not so different, you and I. This is a picture of me when I was a teen. You can tell by looking at me that I felt different, unhappy. You see, like you, I have felt intense pain. I've even had fleeting moments when I wanted to commit suicide myself. I suspect that's something that everyone thinks about at one time or another, if they're honest with themselves. I know that sometimes, pain can become so heavy to carry around that you might just think killing yourself is the only respite from how bad you feel. But don't do it. This is why.

I think what's happening to you is this. You are changing, both in body and mind. You are much like all other living beings. The caterpillar morphs into a butterfly. A crab searches for a new shell when it outgrows the old one. The old you, the one you're used to being, is dying. That's the one your loved ones know, the little boy/girl who sat on their laps and listened to their stories, the one they tucked in at night and took care of when there was illness. They still see you as that person. Now, you're changing, right in front of them. You don't sound the same or act the same. Your likes and dislikes have changed. You used to give that maraschino cherry on top of your sundae to someone else. Now, you decide to eat that cherry yourself. Your family grieves for the person they once knew. All the stages of their grief -- the anger, the denial, the guilt -- are unfolding right before your eyes.

You are changing. Perhaps there is something about yourself that you are ashamed of in some way. Maybe you're gay, lesbian, or feel like you've been born in the wrong body. Or you might just feel like you are weird. Sometimes, especially in our teens, we feel disconnected, like we're watching things go on around us but we're not really a part of anything. I know because I've been lost before, many times. All those feelings, in part, come from shame. You were not born with shame, though, so you don't have to own it. It took years for you to learn that shame is a part of you, but it takes only a declaration from you to release it. You are what you are. Don't make excuses for yourself. Doing so only minimizes who you are now and who you will become someday.

If all this isn't enough, you also have to deal with bullies at school and a bunch of haters who come in all ages, races, occupations, and religions. Maybe you even find them in your house of worship. Some of these people think they have God on their side, as if He chooses one of His children over another. Yeah, it's crazy. If you think about it long enough, though, you can see how people come to believe what they believe, but it doesn't make them right any more than it makes you wrong. Don't take these people seriously. It will only bring you down.

Get used to the new person who is growing inside you. Look for support near and far. The Internet is full of people telling their stories on blogs and discussion threads. You are not alone. You will be amazed by how many people are like you. It's a great feeling when you make a connection to a total stranger. It's even greater when you realize what a help you have been to a stranger. Maybe together you can navigate this crazy world.

Yes, I love you. I want to give you a big hug and tell you that it gets better, because it actually does. Once you accept the person you are and forgive the ones who have wronged you, you will start to grow. Hang on. There are people you may not even know yet who are waiting for you with open arms, and they will love you unconditionally. Trust me. Your life will get better, and you will learn how to love again. Promise.