Mental Health Advice from Teens
Ever wish you knew then what you know now? What would you say to someone like yourself, when they are just starting out, as a miserable teenager or adolescent suffering from an eating disorder? In a creative exercise, as part of their path to long-lasting recovery, eating disorder survivors sometimes write anonymous letters to their younger selves or other people that are just beginning the journey. The results can be quite revealing, and also, very encouraging. As one young woman writes, “I was stuck in a pile of hopelessness and didn’t even want to recover. But that’s because I didn’t know what I was missing.” While these may seem like notes from hell or heaven, they demonstrate to anyone just beginning the process that they are not alone.
What Would You Want a Letter From the Future to Tell You?
Imagining someone in their shoes, who is entering treatment, one young person says, “I know that sometimes, you may feel simply hopeless. Just hopeless. Sometimes you just think, ‘Anything would be better than being me.’ Sometimes you just want to leave your life and never have to think about your problems. Should I recover? Is it worth it? My ED is such a big part of me…How can I let it go? You just feel stuck.”
In popular forms of entertainment, such as fiction or nonfiction, in movies and TV shows, due to time constraints, the happy ending or resolution to a story can often happen very quickly, within an hour or less. But in real life, it usually takes a lot longer to wrap up the lose ends to a big problem. Understanding this, a young woman writes to a person entering treatment, “So right now, you’re probably either (a) really angry, (b) really depressed, (c) anxious, or (d) all of the above.”
The Power of Confession
“I was all of the above,” the young woman admits. “Treatment can be hard, and it is not fair. If someone were telling me this when I was new to recovery I wouldn’t have believed them. As crappy as is it is to be forced into recovery, I’ve found that it is actually worth it. I’m getting my life back and I never even wanted that, but now that I know what it feels like, I never want this feeling to leave. I’m sick of being a slave to my own body.”
“I know exactly how you feel because that was me a few weeks ago,” another young person adds. “But you want to know something awesome? That can change! You deserve that change. For the longest time, I didn’t believe that. Now, though, I know that I do deserve recovery. I know I do. I know you do, too.
NO ONE deserves to be stuck like this.”
Tales From the Dark Side
Recovery isn’t easy, these survivors say. One young woman offers this warning: “Your ED will never stop. It will never stop trying to destroy you. Don’t let it!
Never give up. Ever.”
Recovery is attainable, these young survivors remind us, even as they confess their feelings of despair. “There have been so many times when I have thrown my hands up and just said, ‘I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. It’s too hard. I’ll never recover,’” one teen admits about her struggling with her inner demons. But she goes on to add that her attitude changed during her time in treatment: “I can honestly say, I can do it. You can believe me, I’ve been there. Right in your position. It’s possible. It really is.”
From Darkness Into the Light
“The most important thing I’ve learned is that you have to reach rock bottom before things get better,” one confessor shares. “This means that you will be feeling a ton of dark emotions and you’re going to feel completely hopeless. I’m here to tell you that at that point of hopelessness, you’re actually doing the most work for your recovery.”
Accepting Personal Responsibility
“Is it your decision, and yours alone? Yes. But you’ll never be alone.
You make your own path, and people can walk beside you, but no one can create your path for you. You do,” a survivor insists. “And you deserve to go live a life! Your ED will never get you there. It never got me there, or anywhere near it!”
Entering a Treatment Program
“What got me on my way was help,” one teen explains. “Letting people in. Letting them love me. Meeting some of the most amazing people I will ever meet. Helping them on their journey while they help me on my own. Listening to people who really care about me. Just me. Not my outward appearance. Never about that. They just loved who I was. Not what I’ve done, not what I will do. Just me. But you know what? ‘Just me’ is pretty great.”
Words of Hope
Just getting to the point that they felt they deserved recovery was a major battle for some teens and adolescents. One writes, “Recovery is possible. Not easy. Oh no. But so worth it! You are so worth it. I can’t say this enough- you’re worth it. Your ED isn’t. Just you. I spent so long holding on to my ED. So long. It’s time, though. It’s time to go out and spread my new wings, to give life a chance, just being me. Just being you. Life is worth it.”
Taking the Leap
“It’s mostly that leap of faith. It’s so scary, but when you take that leap, the people who love you, will NEVER let you fall,” an ED survivor offers. Stay strong another counsels, adding, “I don’t know you, but I know eating disorders. I know that no matter what, you can overcome this dark time. Because you are strong. I may never meet you, but know that I am rooting for you. Never give up!”
If someone you love is suffering from the symptoms of an eating disorder, Discovery Mood can help. We’ve been guiding families to lifelong recovery for nearly 20 years, and we know that the sooner someone begins treatment, the sooner they can go on to lead rich, rewarding lives.
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Our personalized behavior modification programs are tailored to fit the needs of each family. Discovery Mood provides integrated multi-faceted care options that range from residential treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, to partial hospitalization, for adolescents and teens that suffer from eating disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, self-harm behaviors, gender identity, oppositional defiant disorder, and most major mental health disorders. Call today and you’ll be able to speak with one of our highly trained admission specialists right away. Or click on the link below for a free assessment or virtual tour. All calls are completely FREE and strictly confidential.
National Eating Disorder Information Centre: A Love Letter to Me: Healing an Eating Disorder, by ‘Alison’. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
The Treatment of Eating Disorders: A Clinical Handbook edited by Carlos M. Grilo and James E. Mitchell. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
GoodTherapy.org: Journal Therapy. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
Sober Diaries Author Steve Sundberg on Journaling and Writing, by Dr. Herby Bell. Retrieved October 31, 2016.