Dear GZ Advisor,
I am having a mid-life crisis at age 14! Please help...I feel so depressed. It seems like everyone is moving at a normal pace, except I'm going extra slow. I don't know what to do. It seems like all of my friends are meeting new people, but I am being left behind. It seems like my parents don't care about me, I mean they do, but they hardly spend time with me. I don't know what to do. I am like bawling here, and have no idea what to do. Please help!
Signed Speaking desperately
Dear Speaking desperately,
At 14, and in fact throughout adolescence, it's normal to feel left out at times, and even depressed on certain days. Your body, your emotions, your friendships, and your relationships with family members--almost everything about you--are going through enormous changes. At times, these changes can feel totally overwhelming.
One thing that struck me about your letter is that you said you feel as if you're in a crisis and that everyone else around you seems to be moving at a faster or normal pace. It's very possible that you have a mild form of depression known by experts as dysthymia. The symptoms can include feeling anxious, depressed, hopeless, negative, sad, lonely, and unloved. Many teens get this form of depression, and it can leave them feeling as if they're going through life in slow motion. Do you feel like you're just going through the motions? As if you barely have the energy to get through the day? If this sounds close to what you're experiencing, my best advice is to talk to an adult you trust right away. Your mom or dad, a relative, a teacher, a counselor, or a social worker needs to know what you're going through. Help is available!
If the symptoms I've described above don't sound like you, you may be experiencing the strong emotions that come with transitions. With a new year of school starting you may be worried about the changes that will occur. Maybe you want to talk about those feelings, but as you've said, your friends aren't around and your parents don't seem to have as much time for you as you'd like. It's tough when you feel lonely and mixed up. Is there anyone else you can reach out to? An older sibling? An aunt or uncle? A grandparent? Do you have a mentor, coach, or another adult in your life who may be willing to listen?
It's also important to take care of yourself during this difficult time you're going through. You've already taken care of yourself by writing this letter. That's a great first step! Following are some more things you can try to lift your spirits:
1. Build your self-esteem every day. Take care of the basics by eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising, and avoiding drugs and alcohol--all of which will go a long way toward helping you feel better inside and out. When you feel good about yourself, you're in a better position to reach out to others and make new friends.
2. Remember that friendships change a lot during adolescence--all the more reason to take action in your social life. Can you sign up for some new extracurricular activities or a sport? This will help ensure that you meet new people and have stuff to do after school. For the next two weeks, is there at least one friend you can invite over for some one-on-one time? Talking to someone will help ease your loneliness and may even help you look forward to being at school.
3. Your parents may not be spending enough time with you now, but you don't have to let your relationship with them continue to slide. You can work to try to improve the relationship. I'm guessing they want things to be good between you, too! Set up a time to talk to your parents. Tell them how you're feeling, and ask if they'd be willing to make dates with you. Have some ideas for how you'd like to spend time with them, and acknowledge that you're open to their suggestions as well. See if you can work out a regularly scheduled time to be together that everyone can look forward to.
If in spite of your best efforts things don't improve, don't give up on yourself! You deserve the support of a caring, concerned adult in your life. When, for whatever reason, your parents can't be available to you, find a mentor who can be there for you--someone who can help you work on problems and reach goals. This could be an adult relative, a favorite teacher, a coach or counselor, a religious leader, a friend's parent or someone you connect with through organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, or the YWCA or YMCA. Keep looking until you find someone you trust and can count on.
You're worth it. Take good care, GZ Advisor