I Need Someone To Talk To

Published: May 24, 2016
Dear TeenHealthFX,
Hi, I've been dealing with what I believe is anxiety for a really long time now, but I can't bring it up with my parents or most of my friends. It's not because they're bad people, it's just, their too innocent, you know? And they wouldn't understand. None of my relatives or friends have ever experienced Someone with a mental illness (to my knowledge). Plus, I have been going through a lot of confusion with my sexuality and my gender identity (and I can't tell them about that either, I wouldn't know how they'd react, and I'm too afraid to find out). I have been looking for someone just to talk to, to understand what I'm going through, but I always get so afraid someone will find out or I'll screw up. But that can't really be helped, I suppose. Anyway, after that long intro, really all I'm looking for is someone who I can talk too and relate to. And if this helps, I'm 13, bigender/androgynous (for now, my brain can't make up its mind), and I live in the US. I hope that there really is someone I can talk to about this without anyone knowing, but if you can't find anything that's ok.
Signed: I Need Someone To Talk To

Dear I Need Someone To Talk To,

Our friends and family members will not always be able to personally relate to things we are going through, and they will not always know exactly what to do to address the issues we are struggling with. But when family members and friends care, they will make the effort to learn about our struggles and educate themselves about the help that is available and how they can help. For example, a parent may come to learn their child is diabetic. They might not know anything about what diabetes is, how to treat it, how they can be helpful and supportive, and what this will be like for their child. But they can take time to talk to their child and talk to doctors so that they can educate themselves about those things. And the same goes for mental health issues. Your parents may not understand anxiety disorders and how to treat them at this point in their lives. But that does not mean they are not capable of learning more about it between conversations with you, and especially conversations with a mental health professional who can provide them with the education they need.

That said, TeenHealthFX would like to start by encouraging you to speak to your parents about your anxiety. You could always say something like, “I know it might be hard for you to understand what having anxiety means to me, and maybe you aren’t sure of the best way to address this problem, but I’m really hoping that we can meet with a therapist who can help us all to learn more about this together.” If having this conversation on your own seems daunting, you could always speak to a school counselor or school nurse who could help to facilitate this conversation between you and your parents. Once you are in therapy, you could use the space to discuss the anxiety and gender identity issues in individual sessions, and participate in family sessions where your parents could learn more about these issues and how to be helpful to you (at a pace that feels comfortable for you – these family sessions don’t have to happen right away).

If you feel uncomfortable giving any indication of why you want to see a therapist you could say something to your parents like, “I have some things on my mind and I would like to meet with a therapist so that I can talk with someone about them. I would eventually like to be able to discuss them with you, but right now I just need to start sorting them out with a therapist. I’m hoping that you can help me to find a therapist and that you can be patient and understanding with the pace I need to go at with this.”

If you are really, truly unable to communicate any of this to your parents at this time, then FX recommends you start by speaking to a school social worker or school psychologist. Let that person know about your desire to be speaking with someone about some private issues, as well as the concerns you have about your parents knowing about this. A school counselor should be able to provide you with support and guidance in figuring this out.

FX thinks that it is a wonderful idea for you to talk to someone about your anxiety and gender identity issues. For one thing, reputable mental health professionals can provide treatment which can diminish your anxiety, as well as help you work through whatever issues you are struggling with related to gender identity. A reputable mental health professional can also address the concerns you have about your family members and friends finding out about these issues. But even more, a reputable mental health professional, such as a clinical social worker or clinical psychologist, can provide you the support and guidance you need so that you are not alone in dealing with these issues and in trying to figure them out.   

FX will end by saying that we can’t imagine anything you might do to “screw up.” You are trying to figure some things out and to get help – that is an admirable and respectful thing to do. You may not do everything perfectly, but then, who does?? But if you are really concerned about the idea of “screwing up” then FX thinks that is even more reason to meet with a therapist. So that you can get the help and support you need to have more patience and compassion with yourself.

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or school psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

You can also find helpful information, as well as resources to help access health professionals across the country who are trained in dealing with gender identity issues, at: https://www.genderspectrum.org/explore-topics/teens/

Signed: TeenHealthFX