My memory is not so great. But I remember the moment when I arrived at my local pool club and the diving board was gone. No more, they said. Not up to code. And with that my children’s childhood dream of jumping in the deep end was erased. Yes, they had done it for a few summers, but everything changes, I had learned again. And again. When my friends changed. When my mother died. When I moved. When I had my first child. When the recession hit. When my husband had 12 hour surgery.
Why is change so hard? For the teens and young adults I work with we see not only change but hard luck, lack of support, family dysfunction, addiction and slim resources. So how do you think they handle change? They don’t. Many are stuck in their rooms all summer, on their phones yet feeling alone. They ghost, they bail, but they are, ultimately, bored. Therapists often mistake boredom for depression. We are primed for that. Boredom is not a category in the dsm-v. It should be. Boredom leads to avoidance which leads to an inability to learn new skills. Learning disappointment is part of growing up. When my daughter was last cut from the basketball team in HS it was devastating. But she survived stronger. I would argue, better.
Finding ways to deal with change is paramount to growth even though it is often disappointing. Here are the following tips to make it a little easier.
- Get up and do something, meet someone new, go out of your comfort zone.
- There’s a reason for cliches; they tend to be true. So every cloud does have a silver lining. One door closes another one opens! Etc. Watch and see.
- Because you feel alone with change it seems it will never go away. It does.
- The passage of time is change, you are the change. It’s inevitable.
- You have to work to make a difference. Sitting around doesn’t help anything.
- One patient said she was scared to try a gym class on her own. Do it anyway.
- Express yourself in grief and loss, writing, singing, walking, being, caring, volunteering. This will always make you feel less lonely.
- Recognize impermanence. Even at a young age kids know that nothing lasts forever. Cherish the changes. It means you’re alive…
Break-ups, loss of a loved one or pet, going on a job interview or just starting something new can cause paralyzing anxiety, but what is the alternative? Eventually, boredom will get you. For the teens and young adults I work with, they are learning to be flexible. Unfortunately, we are taught in school only to prepare for the next test. In real life, life is the test. It doesn’t come in neat packets and study sheets and review classes. It comes fast and slow, in random waves of grief and joy. And it comes even though you are a good person. No one teaches us this. Your amygdala, that small almond thing in your brain, is imprinting new emotional experiences; you are teaching it to expand. So, in the meantime, study and learn and grow and mourn as best you can. Then move on. Pain cannot kill you. It is better to change than remain a child. How do I know? I took the last dive…