A Lifeline for Young Adults
Is your adolescent or young adult out of control or just not performing at a level you wish they would?
Unfortunately, in today’s society there is no handbook or guide that helps our youth make those tough transitions. There is a solution though and I have seen it work time and again.
From Mediocrity to Success
There was a young man who came to me and said he was sick and tired of living the way he was. He was stuck in a constant loop of having a conviction to do something and it always ending up in no results.
He grew up believing he wasn’t smart enough, which resulted in him not trying his best and just squeezing by. Mediocre grades, mediocre jobs, mediocre relationships.
He always ended up in a place of mediocrity and eventually couldn’t keep ignoring how frustrated he felt. He couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t getting better results.
Over time, this road block led him to feel disconnected and alone and eventually it turned into nightly drinking and drug use, academic failures and an overall “white flag” state of mind. Instead of studying, he began to drown out it into Netflix, video games, or the internet.
He woke up every morning with this overwhelming feeling which he couldn’t identify. It was as if someone was stomping on his chest and he could hardly find the air in his lungs.
All he knew was that he didn’t look forward to any part of his day.
Apathy became his mantra. In his mind, if he didn’t care about anything, then nothing could hurt him, so he walked around pretending that he just didn’t care.
The truth of the matter was that he did care. Finally, he got a notice in the mail stating that he was on the verge of getting kicked out of school. That was the fire that ignited to get him moving.
He picked up the phone and called me. That was one of the hardest phone calls he ever had to make, but said it felt like a huge relief once he actually made it.
He came into my office and we talked about his history and how he finally wound up in my office. He knew there was a solution, but he seemed so beat down from all his previous missteps that he didn’t see a way out.
In order to find a solution for him, I had to find out a few things. I needed to learn things about him that maybe he never took a look at.
What was his mindset? How long has he been trying to change? What was he doing differently from previous times?
It came down to a couple of things:
- his self-talk was unusually harsh and negative and
- his shame surrounding his failures was getting in the way of him moving forward.
I wanted to start small. Where could we find some small victories in his life?
Well, picking up the phone and showing up was a tremendous victory that he never knew to even look for.
We talked about mental health being a lot like our own physical health. As much as we would love to be able to simply will ourselves into good physical health, the truth of the matter is that doesn’t work. The same is true for mental health. Trying to will yourself into a mental “six pack” is just flat out impossible.
It was going to be a journey, but first he had to answer the question: “Was it a journey worth taking?”
Once he began to embrace – and radically accept – his discomfort, something magical happened:
- He began to get stronger.
- Each week he became more and more mentally tough.
- We began identifying where his pitfalls were and laid a framework that would prevent him from falling back in.
- He learned to identify what his self-talk sounded like, which allowed him to change the script.
The results were just what he had hoped for.
He became one of the top students in his class, he became healthier both physically and mentally. And his overall outlook on his future became much more optimistic.
His daily small efforts led him to a change that he never thought he could get to.
The journey was long and hard, but I bet if you ask him today he would tell you it was worth every bit of it.
As far as my experience goes, I earned my Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Houston in 2007, followed by Master’s Degree from the University of Houston Clearlake in 2013. For the last 10 years I have worked with adolescents and young adults.
One of the things that I found to be true with many adolescents and young adults is that looking at things with a big picture in mind is difficult. It’s the small victories that count. That is what we need to encourage. Being a teen or young adult is arguably one the hardest phases of life to go through. Building skills and strategies to learn how to not get in our own way is essential.
Therapy isn’t supposed to be easy.
It’s supposed to challenge you to do things that you didn’t think were possible. It’s supposed to expand your mind and get you to the places you want to be. That comes with a sacrifice though and that sacrifice is your comfort.
Make that commitment to yourself and you will see how different the world looks.
If you know you can’t keep ignoring what isn’t working in your life, the time to call is now.
© 2016 Tammer Malaty Therapy