Friday, July 22, 2016

I'm Going Traveling!

Hey everyone,

Starting today (Friday, July 22nd), I will be out of the country.

Yep. You read that right. THE COUNTRY!

I know. I'm still having a hard time believing it myself. I'm going to be in Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day and then Rome afterward. I'll get back the second week of August.

I'll have limited access to email and social media, so if I don't respond to your messages, it's because I'm not able to see them. I've written ahead for some of my social media and scheduled to post them on certain days so we can still feel connected. And, my mom has been so generous to step in again to answer any questions or just talk to you--because you know how much she loves posting on social media (sarcasm there). If you'd like to email her, please send your message to and write "For Carol" in the subject line.

I'll do my best to update y'all while I'm abroad, but for now, I must bid you a farewell.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The 5 Main Points of the New 2015 CDC Survey

The CDC just released the new "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2015" report! This assesses the types of dangers that high school students face. You can find the 2015 report here and 2013 report here if you'd like to take a look at them yourself. But I've broken down and compared a few aspects of the two reports for you so you don't have to look through these lengthy (180 pages) documents if you don't have time.

1. Percentage of Those Depressed - 29.9% - Page 12
This is the first item that I looked for, and I thought for sure it'd be higher than the past report. I was somewhat surprised, however, to learn that the number--29.9%--is the same as last year. And at first, I was elated to see that it wasn't higher, but then saddened to realize that the number is still far too high. Almost 1 in every 3 of our teens are clinically depressed. Let that sink in for a moment. Other facts in this category, like the prevalence of having felt sad or hopeless for two weeks or more (which is generally when someone is considered clinically depressed), were higher among female (39.8%) than male (20.3%) students.

What you can do: Educate yourself and be open about what depression really is, and if you ever notice the signs in your friends or children, say something to them or someone you trust.

2. Attempted Suicide - 8.6% - Page 13
This is the next important stat I was interested in. Unfortunately, we saw a 0.6% percent increase from last year's 8%. This means roughly 1 in 12 teens have tried to kill themselves. I know that a 0.6% increase might not seem like much, but out of the 19.8 million students enrolled in high school last year, that means 118,800 more teens attempted suicide, which makes a grand total of 1,702,800. Almost 2 million precious lives in danger! NOT good.

What you can do: Follow my suggestion in #1 above and also take every threat or hint of suicide seriously. If you're ever worried about someone, don't be afraid to ask the question, "Are you suicidal?" If you're a teen and your friend admits to having thoughts of self-harm--or even if you are still concerned for his or her safety after a denial to the question--notify a responsible adult or call 911 immediately.

3. Current Alcohol Use - 32.8% - Page 19
I'm including this category on my list because a common question I'm asked is whether addiction causes depression or the other way around. Unfortunately, it depends on the situation, and we really just don't know. But I firmly believe that the more we decrease teen drinking, the more likely it is that depression and self-medicating will decrease proportionately. But that's just my opinion. The good news is that the numbers have dropped from 2013 (34.9%) to 2015 (32.8%), and significantly from 1991 (50.8%) to 2015 (32.8%). Finally, some good news.

What you can do: If you're a parent, talk to your kid candidly about alcohol and the dangers of abusing it. If your teen is already drinking, take them to a therapist for a mental health assessment to make sure that's not the root of the problem. And if you're a teen, get out of bad situations before you lose control or become addicted. If you have an underage friend who drinks regularly, talk to your parents or a school counselor about the best way to approach the situation.

4. Sexually Active - 30.1% - Page 27
This is of particular interest to me because I recently began speaking on chastity and how it affects mental health. If you disagree with me, I'd love to hear why (and if you agree with me, I'd love to hear your voice, too). More good news is that this stat has decreased significantly from 2013 (34.0%) to 2015 (30.1%). Another fact from this section that you most likely don't know or want to hear is that 3.9% of high school students had sexual intercourse for the first time before they were 13 years old. That's middle school! Luckily, this has decreased from 5.6% in 2013.

What you can do: If you're a parent, educate your kid early about the beauty of sex and how it's perfected when inside of marriage. The Chastity Project by Jason and Crystalina Evert has great resources on this topic. Definitely check them out. And while you're over there, you can read the article that I wrote for their blog.

5. Body Image - Page 42
Another interesting (and saddening) section was about body image ("Obesity, Overweight, and Weight Control"). It states that 16% of students are overweight, yet 31.1% describe themselves as overweight.

What you can do: Never stop telling your kids (and/or the people around them) that they are beautiful. Of course, don't be weird about it, but reassuring teens and preteens that they are indeed beautiful inside and out is a simple act that can have a big impact. And you know that we're all about small yet powerful kinds of actions here.

So those are my observations and thoughts. I highly encourage you to take a look at the pdf yourself. You can even do a keyword search to find something in the report that you're interested in (Control+F, or Command+F on a Mac, then enter the word or phrase you're looking for). And please don't assume that your children, friends, or even you will never fall into these statistics. I sincerely hope that never happens, but reality says that you will most likely know someone who struggles with one of these issues.

This study also reminds me just how serious this fight is and how much I need your support. I love receiving emails and messages from you, even if it's just a short comment. It really encourages me to keep fighting on behalf of those who don't have the strength right now to do it for themselves.

Live unashamed!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Taking a Stand Against Assisted Suicide

Each life is precious. I've been saying that for a while and will never stop saying it. No matter what stage in life you're in, you matter. And to prove my point, take a look at the new video I filmed with Patients Rights Action Fund on why assisted suicide is still suicide.

I'm so pleased with how this video turned out and the massive response we've had. Over 500,000 people viewed it on Facebook, with most of the comments coming from those who support legalizing assisted suicide. 

And some insult me personally.

No way that's gonna stop me--I'm unashamed and always will be.

Friday, April 8, 2016

What I've Been Up To (aka My First Date)

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been busy. But explaining it all should be as easy as--you guessed it--1, 2, 3:

1. I have new amazing jobs
Not that this "job" of speaking and helping others isn't amazing, but I'm blessed to work at Yellow Line Digital, an agency that specializes in telling brands' stories through social media and video. Assisting the VP of Sales and collecting data from social media accounts has been a perfect fit for me. This job matches up with my career goals after college.

I also was hired as my church's Youth Coordinator. I enjoy interacting with teens, and I'll be doing that a lot with this job.

So, I guess I'm working three jobs now, but I love all of them.

2. Taking on more classes
Fast-track classes. A blessing and a curse. That is all. But I'm super motivated to graduate from college because of item #3.

3. And finally, the big news...
I have a girlfriend.

Yep. Little ol' me. Now, I know to many people, dating isn't such a big deal. But what I've found is that dating (or what I also call "courting") is a serious affair, so to speak. Not that it isn't any fun. Quite the opposite. It's awesome! But what I mean is that the purpose of courting is to find your future spouse, and once we lose that focus, we lose the meaning of dating. That's when it becomes simply hanging out or hooking up, and that's not very fulfilling.

No, we're not married (for the bajillionth time). We both wear purity rings on our left hands in the hope that our wedding rings will replace them one day and also as a promise we make to remain faithful and chaste to our future spouses. This is something beautiful I highly recommend for everyone who isn't married yet. I'm 19 years old, and I'm proud to say that I recently went on my first date ever with my first (and, hopefully, last) girlfriend. We've known each other for years and spent much time becoming friends, so this is the next step in our discernment of whether we would make compatible spouses.

So to focus my attention more on the most important aspects of this mission and my life, I've had to let go of some things.

The first is piano lessons. If you know me, you know I love my piano. I call her my diary because that's how I best express my emotions. I'll still play for fun, but unfortunately, it won't be as often :(

The second and third are Google+ and Twitter. Social media can be a great tool to reach people in need, but with so many accounts, it's difficult to post quality content on all of them. So I'm focusing only on Facebook and Instagram to continue to engage and build great communities online.

Whew! I think you can understand why you haven't "seen" much of me around here lately. And don't worry, my parent's are watching me closely for any signs of burnout, but so far, I'm just a normal busy young adult trying to find his way in this topsy turvy world. I still watch my diet as best as I can and continue to take my supplement regimen that maintains the function of my mind and body.

Thank you all again for journeying with me through the ups and downs of my life. You continuously support me and give me hope that every teen can experience the recovery and healing that I have received.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Has It Really Been That Long?

I can't believe it's been over a month since I've posted here. I'm more active on social media, but I use my blog to bring you helpful information that I can't put in a sound bite. Lately, I've just been, my life to the fullest!

This was fun :)
If you could only see the list of great blog posts I've started and abandoned. I don't just slap words up here. I like to make sure I'm actually bringing you something you want to read, so I take my blogging seriously. Perhaps too seriously.

So, that being said, I will be posting an update soon that will explain what I've been up to, and I'll try to touch base with you here more often, without being so serious all the time. Hope that works for you.

Meanwhile, I've said it a million times, and I'll say it a million more--if you're a teen experiencing depression and its nasty symptoms, know that your life can be full, too. You probably can't imagine it right now, just as I couldn't, so believe those who love you when they tell you that your future holds incredible experiences. When you're treated and recovery starts to make its appearance, you'll be able to see it for yourself. I can't tell you how much I regret my suicide attempt because if I was successful, I would be missing out on all the amazing and wonderful moments I've had since the day I survived. I know the pain is real and the darkness feels endless, so lean on others until the clouds start to part and you can stand on your own.

Believe me, it's worth it.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Eating Disorders--It's a Guy Thing, Too

Sometimes when we consider eating disorders and self-worth issues, we might think, Those girls and their problems. Right? But did you know that guys suffer from eating disorders and self-worth issues as well? And I think this article with some young men's stories delves into what it's like to be a guy and be afflicted by this illness.

Guys suffer in a special way with anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, or any mental or physical illness. And I'm not saying it's a walk in the park for girls, that's not it at all. But as guys, we have a deep desire to feel like we're stronger, faster, smarter, and overall better than those around us. It's a natural thirst to win at everything. Unfortunately, these illnesses takes away almost all of our self-confidence and makes us believe that we'll never be stronger, faster, smarter, or better than anyone. It makes us feel like we'll never win at anything in life. We feel like a waste.

So if you're a guy and you're suffering from a mental illness, or any illness, don't think that this makes you weak or less of a man. In fact, I believe this only makes you stronger because when you beat it (when, not if), you'll know what it's like to need and accept support and help. You'll be able to be confidently transparent about your struggles, so if you ever fall again, you can ask for help. No one is immune to suffering. It's time we guys accept that and become strong in our weaknesses. Using these experiences to better ourselves and help others.

And if you're a girl and you know a guy who's suffering (maybe your son, if you're a parent), just remember that we experience the world differently than you. What we want is the assurance that we will win. That we will conquer the enemy. Being triumphant is one of the greatest feelings I've experienced. Know these warning signs and help us fight!

Finally, I learned the hard way that you have to talk about your feelings and what's going on if you want to overcome a mental illness as soon as possible. Arm yourselves with the weapons you need to fight off the darkness. Don't make the same mistakes I did. Fight the good fight.

And win.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Depression: A Letter to Those Who Have Never Felt It

Imagine you're in an enclosed football stadium. All's well until everyone leaves and the lights slowly dim until you're in total darkness.

Now you're alone. It's pitch black. You're trapped.

But all hope's not lost. You were told when you came into this place that there's a door to the outside. You must find that door. Crawling in the complete and utter blackness, you search for that door connecting you to everyone you love and everything you know. After months of searching, you finally find it. You're weak from exhaustion, hunger, and thirst. The supplies in your backpack are dwindling, but you find hope again. You have finally found the way out! With a firm twist of your wrist, you turn the door handle.

It's locked.

Full of anger and frustration, you throw yourself against the door, trying to force your way out. It doesn't work. You only bruise your already-weakened body in the process. You try harder and harder to break down the door, but you're only more hurt and frustrated by doing so. You slump to the ground with your back to the closed portal that separates you from the world as you knew it. Despair sets in. Then a thought comes to comfort you.

If the door is locked, there must be a key.

Wearily, you crawl around in the murkiness of the stadium once again, this time searching for something unbelievably smaller. And now, after years of searching, something happens.

You give up.

It's an impossible task. Not only do you have to find this tiny piece of metal alone in a place as big as a football stadium, but now you must again search for the door. It's too much. So you lie there, waiting for your exhausted body to finally stop fighting. And you don't care anymore. Even if you found the key and opened the door, it might just be a black hole on the other side.

This is what depression feels like.

Imagine, for a second, what you can do to help that person who's lost all hope of escaping the darkness.

Friends. You're the ones equipped with flashlights, night vision goggles, and metal detectors. You're the ones who carry your friend when he or she doesn't have the energy to move on anymore.

Parents. You're the leaders in the hunt for the key. You organize search strategies, give hope, and communicate with people on the outside to get out of that stadium. You're experience in overcoming your own struggles is so valuable in this situation. You hold your child's hand in the dark and never leave his or her side.

Therapists and medication.  You hear this dynamic duo on the loudspeaker giving advice. They search for the controls to turn on the lights and find the key that opens the door to break out of this prison.

By drawing a comparison between not having any help to escape and having the necessary tools, the difference is shocking. This is what you can do you to help the teens around you. This is the power you hold in your hearts.

You can be that instrument of hope.

You can help someone escape that darkness.

You can save a life.