One last thing, for now. I wanted to talk to you about depression. This is a sketchy topic for me, because PTSD from war can be put in the same category with depression. I have had symptoms of being depressed (never thought I would ever admit that to anyone), along with more harmful thoughts and fear. A young enlisted guy named Frederick (we called him Freddy) who worked 10 feet away from me every day in Iraq actually killed himself back in the States a few months after we got back, because of the stress of PTSD and anxiety and depression. A horrible permanent solution to a temporary problem, and I am heartbroken to this day that Freddy will never see his kids grow up or hug and kiss them.
Surprise! A note from me. Yes, you and I are a lot alike, in that sometimes (most of the time) it is easier to communicate what I really want to say in writing rather than in person. Not that in-person is bad, and there is definitely more that can be communicated in a moment of face to face than in an hour of writing, but sometimes it is easier to write. So, I wanted to let you know a couple things, some thoughts I had for you.
First of all, I can say that this has been an interesting year. I feel like in some ways it has been a “wake-up call” year for me, in that I am realizing that you are starting to face the world in new ways, and I need to be aware of that and treat you differently because of it. I have sent you more texts and asked you how you were doing more than ever before, and tried to interact with you more this past year than I have done previously. And now I am even writing you what I suspect will be a lengthy letter. FYI, “emails” used to be called “letters”, haha. These are all intentional things I am doing, and I am doing them not as an embarrassed “make-up” for something, or out of guilt or shame for previously not doing them, but just out of a new realization of where you are and who you are now, vs. the little girl I had once.
I realized, and Mom too, the more that we are learning about what you have to carry as you grow up, the more we want you to feel safety, and trust, and integrity/honesty with your parents. The things in your life are not yours to bear alone, and I think after this past year you know that better now. There will be crazy, hard, difficult, ugly things in life, possibly far worse than any situations you have experienced to date, and I want you to be fully secure in knowing that you will never be required or expected to bear things in life completely alone.
There is an aspect of this year that has scared me a bit, and not the way you might think. I am so intent on and empowered to protect and prepare you for life, but occasionally I feel like I am doing neither very well at all. Some adults sometimes think that teenage girls are always in danger of sinking deep into a bad place, not knowing you like they should. Sometimes I am fearful that I don’t know you well enough to pick up on some struggles in your life that I am supposed to help you deal with.
You are not the type to just let something happen without struggle. You are stronger than people would think. In general, it is a pretty common thing for Mom, or me, or perhaps now you, to be underestimated. People don’t know who we really are, or what God has instilled in us, but sometimes they find out. I think the “realness” of your conversations with me and Mom this past year would surprise many people, but to be honest, I already knew your strength and character, and I was not surprised that you were trying to help bear someone else’s burdens while at the same time carrying your own.
I don’t want you to ever think I’ve lost the point, or never knew the point, that you have struggles of your own. You are not totally 100% good or o.k. every moment of every day. You have your own challenges and fears and weaknesses. It is part of who we are, God made us this way, to have things in our lives we can’t conquer in our own ability. Part of the reason we are this way is that it forces us to ask God for help, and trust the Holy Spirit to make things ok and rescue us. My biggest prayer, hope, or desire, would be that you connect into this power now, before one more birthday passes, so you will have the largest advantage on life you possibly could have.
Life is out there, like a monster lurking just outside the door. But we who believe in Jesus have the answer that will make life work. Please, please trust me. The things young women deal with in their teens are actually small “firecrackers” or “grenades”, compared to some big huge “bombs” out there in the world. But we gave you to God from the day you were born, and we believe He was not lying when He said to train you in the way you should go and when you are older you will not depart from it, or when He said that He is a safe refuge in a time of trouble. Life is full of trouble. But we will never quit, because Jesus never quit, and it is already finished and won.
Very honestly, I am disappointed that adults are not as simple and direct as young people sometimes. Thank you for always being honest and saying exactly what is on your mind.
Mom told me that one time months and months ago, Miss Redacted talked to you and your age group in a youth session about depression, cutting and self-harm. While this seems like a good thing, it may have put an idea into some young people’s heads that was not there before. I don’t know this for sure, and I don’t doubt that Miss Redacted was trying to help. Also, with the internet being what it is today, people can learn about many brutally bad things without anyone ever telling them in a youth session. But it was still something I would not have been happy with as a parent, to think someone would be talking to my girl about that stuff without her parents knowing about it.
There is an aspect of depression that could be caused by chemicals in the brain, and is out of a person’s direct control. Another aspect of depression is a person’s willingness to go down a mental path of darkness and sadness and eventually evil.
The reason I am telling you all this, is that it is common to struggle with depressing thoughts and fear and anxiety when you are a teenager and into your adult life. But you don’t have to be depressed just because your thoughts are depressing. You can still be free and strong and secure, if you latch onto God and pray that He will guide you and walk with you through those times. I am totally serious. If Freddy had known what I am telling you, he would still be around today.
The most important thing to know about depression is that it is Spiritual as well, and the Creator of our minds and bodies is more powerful than any depression or fear or harmful thought. HE HAS FIXED, SOLVED, DESTROYED, and COMPLETELY HEALED DEPRESSION. All I have to do is remember that, and my PTSD stuff goes away almost instantly. He shows me in creative ways. Something happened to me at work one day last year, showing God’s creative way of telling me that day He was in control. I’ll tell you about it sometime.
I love you, AC. You are amazingly beautiful, you have a smile that still melts my heart (probably always will) and I am so proud of you for who you are and who you’re becoming. I wrote every word of this letter from an honest and sincere desire to be a good father, like our Father in heaven, and I hope you connect with what I have said and draw it inside you. Always remember that no two people will ever care more for you in the world than me and Mom (your husband may try someday), and God has you in the palm of His hand.
We’ll talk more later. Happy Fifteenth Birthday, Tiger Lily.
Love , Dad