I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to be a youth speaker at the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention this year. I was asked to talk about the loss and hardships in my life and how adults could've helped me in these situations.
There is an awesome quote by Catherine M. Wallace that I think is so important for every parent to hear. “If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when your children are little, they won’t tell you the important stuff when they are big, because to them, all of it has always been big stuff”.
I understand where you might be coming from as a parent. You are struggling and trying to figure out how you are going to make your house payment. Then your 14-year-old daughter comes home crying because her boyfriend broke up with her. Yea they have only been dating a month but she was so in love and is so heart broken. Look, right now high school is her life and all that she can see. This is her whole world and all she knows. If you want to keep her trust and want her to talk to you about her life then you have to let her know that she is important and her situation is understood.
That is not an example of me. But here is a recent one. My senior homecoming was in October. I don’t go to the public high school anymore, but one of the locals asked me to the dance. When it comes to the Instagram post, I’ve had the perfect caption picked out for months now. “Black dress, white nails, and a love that will last forever🖤🤍”. That’s been my fantasy of the perfect situation from way before my date even asked me to homecoming this year. Then there was a traumatic situation. There was some miscommunication between my nail technician and I on the date of my appointment. I did not get my white nails.
My poor mom must have thought she failed as a mother when she walked in and saw her 17-year-old daughter crying over nails. But when she saw how crushed I was she dropped everything she was doing to try to find someone to do my nails. I wouldn’t let her make an appointment for me. Because I realized that life isn’t a fairy tale, it’s messy and that’s ok. My mom didn’t know about this fairytale that I had dreamed about. She just saw that I was upset. And of all things over my nails. But instead of making me feel even worse about the silly situation I was crying over she understood that I was upset and looked for a way to help. We have a super good relationship and it’s because of things like that. My poor mom knows more about me than anyone should know about their daughter. But I love the trust we share with each other
I am 17 years old and I feel like I have been through a lot of different things and I can relate to a lot of different people. I have way more in common with people my age. So that is the voice I am being here today. I’m here to talk about the things I have been through that maybe you or your family is going through. And to say where and how I needed help. I know that my mindset is different from a lot of teenagers. What I say won’t work for everyone. This is just for me to talk about my experience and what I think could have helped me.
One of the hardest things in my life has been loss. It is something everyone goes through at some point. It is a pretty vague word. Maybe you lose a state championship, lose your job, or loose a loved one. I went through a couple of months where I dealt with so much loss in so little time. I lost one of my best friends to suicide. That is still one of the hardest things to cope with every day. He was 14 years old. I loved him so much and I felt like I let him and his family down.
After the loss of my friend my community was a wreck. We are a rather small town and had never experienced something like this. It was obvious that the adults in our school didn’t know how to handle the situation. You can’t blame them. They were not expecting this to happen… ever. But it was really hard for the kids who were close to this boy and we didn’t get the help we needed.
The boy was in middle school. In the high school I will say that I am appreciative that they had professionals come in to talk to some of us. How they picked us was weird though. The counselor poked her head in class rooms and whoever looked sad got called out into the hall. Then she told us to go to the library. I could not believe the people who were chosen to be in that room. I kept waiting for my boyfriend at the time to show up because they were such good friends. The little nerds played x-box together every single night. But he didn’t look sad enough so they didn’t let him come to the library.
The therapists did a really good job at letting our support group cry and reminisce of the times we had. I think that they helped us and did all they could for us. But after the teachers made us go back to class and that was it. No check up from the counselor, nor did we see the therapist again.
As I said we were a grade a part so we didn’t go to the same school at this time. I spoke to a few different kids from his class and their experience in the middle school was way different from mine. One of his friends told me that she will never forget the therapist that she talked to. The therapist asked her simple questions and then told her the effects and stages of grief. The girl said she couldn’t express how much that helped int the long run. As time went on she was angry at the world about her friend passing. And because the therapist told her it was ok, and that it was normal to deal that way, she didn’t feel like she was losing her mind or being effected differently than others with his passing.
Another girl I talked to from his class said a good thing was that all the teachers and staff taught them that it's okay to be sad and to mourn. It’s important to go through that process. And then they showed the students that by example and were very patient with them the next week knowing what they were going through and encouraging them to feel those emotions. One thing that she thinks could have been better is talking about it more as a school or in class. She feels like that would have given everyone a little more closure.
I was a wreck from the unexpected loss of him. A little bit after that happened, on a cold morning in September I went out to feed my horses and my horse Rudy couldn’t walk. He was a horse that I could do anything on. I had won the state in breakaway and won a bunch of money running barrels. He was just so dependable and one I could always count on. He had more personality than any horse I’ve ever been on. I get that you might not know much on horses so the easiest way to describe it might be to say I turned down $50,000 when he was a baby and wouldn’t sell him. Well, that cold morning he bucked while playing in his pen and shattered his leg. We had a vet come from Vegas to x-ray it and they said it was impossible to repair. They couldn’t make him comfortable. The only option we had was to put him down.
4 days later another one of my horses was acting weird. We gave him some medicine and it seemed like it might have been working. We went out the next day and he would not eat or drink and he was all loopy and that night he died. Crazy things just kept happening that was out of my control. My best friend was gone, and two of my horses had died. And yes, ladies and gents, it could get worse. A couple months later a guy accidentally killed one of my horses. Yes. It was an accident. He didn’t mean to.
And then a month after that happened, we had another horse get rushed to the vet. They said she had rotten guts. Apparently, she had them for years and we bought her like that. But she just happened to die when she was in our hands. So that left me with four dead horses in 4 months.
That took me to a really low place in my life. I hated horses and rodeo and didn’t want to let anything else into my life that would probably leave me too. I know to a lot of you it’s like umm ok they are just pets. Yea that sucks but it happens. Yes, it does happen but horses are my whole life. Before I became dedicated to suicide prevention awareness my entire world revolved around these animals. I am an only child. I have 2 step siblings that lived with us for a while but the last one graduated in 2013. So, I didn’t grow up with a sister that I could play barbies with, or a brother who I could wrestle. I had horses and they were a part of my family. Then all of the sudden they all decided to leave me at once.
This is where I really needed a therapist or someone who wasn’t related to me to talk to. I had a “best friend” who made me feel so much lower than her. The second I would start to talk about the things that I needed to say this so-called bestie of mine would make me feel so unimportant. How dare I talk about how much all this loss was affecting my mental health? We needed to talk about what shoes she should wear to the football game that night!
My mom was able to see that this girl was not a very good friend. Honestly, I was able to see it too. We will get back to her later, but for now it’s the help I needed we are talking about. My mom is now able to see it and we talk about how she wishes she would have done something to help me. I was going through this hate for rodeo and horses and my mom’s method was to just enter more and go harder. When she was a teenager, she went through so many things and her only escape and coping method was her horses. She thought that’s how it was and that’s what I needed to do. But what I needed was mental help.
Parents I know that you might not be comfortable asking or even telling your kid you are taking them to therapy. But as teenager I have to say I was not comfortable asking my mom to find me professional help. I thought she would think I was dramatic and I was so ashamed for feeling as sad as I did. I wish I would have asked her for help or she would have taken the initiative and helped me in some way. As I said earlier, I might not be your typical teenager. A lot of kids are going through a rebellion and won’t even look their parents in the eye. I don’t know what kind of advice to give here because I have never been this kid.
My mom and I recently talked about my mental health during all this loss and how I wish I had professional help. She brought up a part of my childhood that I blocked out. I grew up with many daddy issues and daddy’s wife issues. In elementary school I had to go to his house every other weekend. I would cry and cry and it got to be such an issue that it was affecting my school. My mom and the secretary, who was so good about trying to help me, decided that I should go to the school therapist. So, every week I did just that. I really don’t remember much of it. I was in elementary school. But at one point that man busted all the trust I had vested in him. He brought my dad in and had us talk together. I felt like the therapist took my dad’s side of the story and didn’t believe me. That started some major trust issues. When my mom brought this up it made sense on why she was hesitant to find help that we could trust and who wouldn’t hurt me anymore.
We are changing pace here and going back to something I brought up earlier. In my last presentation at a high school, I talked a lot about my recent ex-boyfriend. The catch is I have nothing bad to say about that man. He helped me in so many ways. When we talk about the girl that I brought up earlier we have to keep this short and to the point. Environment. Its everything. I didn’t realize at the time that how this girl treated me was only making things worse for my mental game. Since being out from under her influence oh my gosh I have grown into an awesome young lady, I’ve started my own t-shirt company and I am able to have a positive mindset. I’m not constantly being told I’m not good enough.
If you or someone you love in that toxic hold, get out of it, or help them get out of it. You deserve so much better because you are the best. I’m not sure if the combination of her and I created a toxic friendship but I will say we are both better people since our friendship ended.
My final note is rather simple one but broken into two parts.
#1. Express your feelings. I think the for the older generations its hard but even some millennials struggle with it. One of the saddest things I see is when someone loses a parent who wouldn’t use the terms “I love you” or “I’m proud of you”. As a young woman it makes me feel so good when my parents value me. I truly believe the toughest thing you can tell someone is that you love them. Be tough and don’t be afraid to express how you feel. To be a part of someone’s life is nice, but there is no greater feeling than to be valued.
#2. Parents, show up and be there for your kids. Or if you aren’t going to be there at least don’t lie about it. This might not mean a lot to some of your children. But I know there are some people like me out there. In an average household you live with your child for 18 years. Cherish those years. I am so lucky to have one parent who hasn’t missed one part of my youth hood. I’m going to college next year and she will be able to say that she didn’t miss out on any part of me growing up. She changed her plans around and is here today and that means the world to me.
Quote of the Week- "If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the important stuff when they are big. Because to them it has always been big stuff." -Catherine M. Wallace.
Shirt of the Week- Always Forward, Never Back