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Secret Pain
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Secret Pain

Dr. Linda Helps - She was 16, depressed, scared and felt trapped. Her secret was too much to bear. Sally is a suburban teen living in middle-class America. Her story begins like this:

They sat in shock waiting for the news. God, let it be OK. Don't let her die. Not yet. Not this young. It wasn't supposed to be like this. She's only 16 with a full life ahead.

What was so painful that would make her decide to swallow a bottle of pills?

The family stared at each other as they watched the nurses scurry around the Emergency Room. They were pumping Sally's stomach. Her life dangled precariously.

Billy, Sally's older brother, huddled in the corner. He and Sally had argued after school. He told her she was weird and needed to get a life. When he went to her room about 10 p.m. and found her lying on the bed listlessly, he called 911. Under her bed, he noticed her diary. The last page read, "No one knows the secrets I hide. The pain is too much. I must suffer for the horrible things I have done. I'm ashamed. I can't face my family. It's better this way. I won't be a burden to anyone."

The ambulance screamed into the driveway. Agonizing moments stretched into an eternity. Sally was fighting to stay alive.

Sally was the best kid. She excelled in most things and was a "straight A" student. Lately though, she seemed distracted. She was irritable - but then, what teenager isn't? She spent long hours in her room and had little to do with her friends. She picked at her food. In the mornings she wanted to stay in bed.

Sally's mom thought the recent changes were related to Sally's breakup with her boyfriend. He called incessantly, despite Sally's efforts to end the relationship. Her dad said it was no big deal. The boyfriend would eventually get over it, so Sally should stop moping around. Mom didn't say much and Billy teased her. What they didn't know was that Sally had a reason to be upset. She was pregnant.

Sally was raised in a Christian home. She accepted Christ at a youth rally at the age of 12. She knew sex before marriage was wrong, but gave in to sexual pressure one night at a party. After all, she rationalized, my boyfriend does love me. After she had sex, she felt terrible. Her girlfriend said it was no big deal. A lot of the girls in her class were having sex with their boyfriends. She shouldn't feel bad. It was just part of what you do to keep a guy interested. How bad could it be if everyone was doing it?

Now pregnant, she didn't believe in abortion. She felt trapped and didn't want to bring shame to her family. She knew how disappointed they would be. Her father would be devastated. Telling her boyfriend was out of the question. He was a senior and on a full scholarship to college. She became more and more depressed until she thought of suicide. It seemed the only solution. She was confused, hurting and alone.

"God must hate me," she thought. "I've let Him and my parents down." Sally looked at the pill bottle in her hand. It's the only way out. I can't have a baby and I can't get an abortion. Again, she stared at the pills in her hand. "It's the only way." She swallowed them and lay down on her bed.

Suicide Was Not The Answer

When Sally recovered from the suicide attempt, she told the counselor she never really wanted to die. She felt trapped and didn't know what to do. Here's what the counselor suggested:

1. Sally needed to tell her family. They would be upset, but they would still love her. She needed their support and help.

2. Sally had to change her sexual behavior. She repented and was forgiven, but she had to stop being sexually active.

3. Sally needed to read her Bible and fill her mind with God's views and ways to overcome temptation. Listening to friends who didn't share her values only got her off the path.

4. Sally also needed to understand God's forgiveness. Sally didn't feel forgiven but needed to accept God's forgiveness. If she didn't, she was saying Jesus' death was not enough to cover her sins.

5. Sally had to fight her negative thinking. She was not worthless. Jesus loved her no matter what she did. Nothing could separate her from God, not even her sin. He didn't condemn her.

6. Sally had to correct her image of herself through God's eyes. Once she understood her identity and forgiveness in Christ, she began to problem-solve about the pregnancy. She decided to have the baby and give it up for adoption. The depression began to lift.

7. Sally needed to recognize the trick of the enemy was to deceive her. She allowed herself to believe lies. Her sin led to consequences, but with God there is always a way out. God is love, not destruction.

Sally is no longer suicidal. She knows who she is in Christ, and the truth has indeed set her free.

Dr. Mintle author, professor, Approved Supervisor and Clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy is a speaker and media personality, as well as a licensed clinical social worker with over twenty years in psychotherapy practice.

Linda S. Mintle, Ph.D. - Dr. Linda Helps

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