What’s Killing Our Teens and Young Adults? Hidden Secrets.

This is one of those little things that I created entirely from personal experience.  But it is also the preface to my next offering.

I loved my parent and they loved me. But neither of my parents had a clue about bringing up children. There were three of us and for much of our adolescent and teen life we were latch key kids. But my parents were horrible with communications. I doubt they ever knew what was going on in my life, what I was thinking, what I feared, what I wanted or even what I needed. It’s not their fault. Theirs was the generation of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and I cannot fault them for that. It was all they knew.

What they did not realize is that they had one very troubled child in me. I had been sexually taken advantage of by a couple of neighbor girls who were twice my age, I was 5. I did not recognize it as abuse at the time, and even thought it to be fun. The fun stopped when certain neighborhood boys decided to sexually attack me. It was when I first experienced depression, a depression that lasted for decades. The sexual abuse end when I was 15. I had gotten mad at my mother and decided it time to run away to New York City; we lived near Boston. I was hitchhiking my way there, of course, and was picked up by a man who overpowered me just by his very presence, and my past experiences. He took me to a remote cabin in the woods near a pond and raped me for hours on end. In the morning all I wanted to do was get home.

When I got home my mother asked me where I had been all night and I lied and said I had slept on a park bench in a neighboring city. Not entirely unreasonable since I was a headstrong boy and rode by bicycle everywhere or took the bus where ever. Upon reflection I wondered why she had not bother to call the police to report that her 15-year-old son had not come home that evening. I never did ask her that. But some weeks later I told her of the incident, fighting back enormous fear, only to have her say “boys don’t get raped.” I was brought up Roman Catholic so the next place I sought out help was from a priest at Merrimack College. After I told him what had happened he suggested I ask God forgiveness for my sin.

To backtrack a bit, I had been an excellent student thought my first 5 years of elementary school, almost always getting an A in every subject. In the 6th grade my grades slipped to all Bs and by the 7th grade the Bs and Cs, mostly Cs. By high school I was narrowly avoiding outright failure in every subject.
In the 7th and 8th grade I was the constant target of boys who were looking to make fun of someone. I was actually fairly good at softball but because I could not throw a ball properly, I was always the last kid picked. When high school rolled around I dared not even try out for any of the sports teams, football and baseball I would have enjoyed. Instead, I went where all the other “losers” went, the school band, at which I excelled. In another attempt to be socially accepted, I joined the extremely popular, or so I thought, drama club. I got a speaking roll the first time I tried out and worked my way to the leading roll by the time I was a senior. But my social life still lagged and I had failed to realize that being a member of the drama club was just another collection of misfit toys but still more acceptable than the band.

In the 7th grade we had our first dance. It was held at a student’s house as were the others that year and the following. I didn’t have a girlfriend, I didn’t dance, and I didn’t feel like I fit even. I must have had some sort of self-abuse ideal because I kept going. In high school it was more of the same only worse. Starting in Freshman year my fellow classmates flouted their “steady” relationships. The boys began to brag about all the girls they had had sex with. It was not until my junior year that I had my first date. The idea of asking a girl out was just to scary. When I finally got up the courage, she said yes and not long after became my first, and only, girlfriend in high school. We went to the Junior-Senior Prom together, had a wonderful time, and I thought I was on my way. She broke up with me shortly after that but at that point I didn’t care too much because I had badgered my parents into sending me 300 miles away to a boarding school so I could get into college.

When I graduated from high school I was still a virgin, not a bad thing, but had had only kissed a girl once. I was too fear filled to just try to kiss a girl and anything more serious, which I did daydream about, was just out of the question. I limped through high school with just a few friends and even some of them picked on me, made fun of me. They knew I would neither stand my ground nor fight back.

Shortly after I graduated from high school, with honors, and then flunked out of Boston University, I became suicidal. I didn’t understand there to be any good reason for me to go on living. I had on and off bouts of suicidal ideation, but I never tried to do it. I always felt a greater desire to live, even though life continued to feel pretty miserable.

What was missing from my early years was structure and help from my parents in understanding the basics of living. Everything was trial and error for me. My mother never missed a chance to punish me when I was wrong but never knew how to praise my successes which meant I did not know when I was doing something the right way or that if I made a little correction in my direction, things would work out really well. I don’t blame them though. No one had given them instructions on child rearing. They did they best the could and I loved them just as they were, although I had a strange way of showing it at times. The thing that hurt me the most is that I never as a child heard my mother tell me that she loved me, my father either. My mother could not even show love via a hug which is the one thing my father could do. I later years I learned that both my parents were broken, my mother being the worst by far.

As it turned out, my mother’s secrets became mine, even though at the time I was entirely unaware of them. But what I do not understand, to this day, is how every teacher I ever encountered never pick up on what a depressed kid I was. Or if they did, they did nothing.

I carried a heavy load of secrets into my adult life and those secrets nearly killed me. To mask the pain I felt, I drank to excess. I find it amazing that I did not start drinking in high school considering how miserable I almost always felt. I had all these secrets, none of which I was trying hide, and yet they remained hidden because I knew of no way to release them, there were no outlets available.
An inner strength kept me alive but not everyone has such strength. To many teens and young adults today have secrets they are unable to release. As a society it is our responsibility to find ways, attractive ways, for them to let go of those secrets and kill of the demons inside the before those demons rise up and kill them.