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Social Issues: Youth and Self-Destruction

Updated on July 09, 2013

Her Story

She is pretty and smart and everyone who knows her loves her. Her life has not been easy. Tossed back and forth between divorced parents, she learned very quickly how to play one against the other. Learning by example, she learned to fight and fight hard. She learned to use anger and threats to get her way. All she really ever wanted was to belong and to be loved.

She turned 20 years old a few days ago and she is breaking the hearts of everyone who loves her. She is surrounded by people who love her; who want her to be happy and healthy and loved. She cannot see it or, recognize the value of those who want her to be more. She could be so much more than she allows herself to be but the survival skills she learned at such a young age defy logic. She is too practiced to notice that she is making all the wrong decisions for such a bright young woman. She cannot see that this path she has chosen is a path of self-destruction.

His Story

He says he loves her but he is incapable of love and his actions say something very different. Mentally, he is not well. He has a diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He is angry and paranoid and she is his security. In reality, she is little more than the one who enables him to dig deeper into his illness. She protects him from the world and provides for all his basic needs. With her around, he has no responsibility and he is fine with that.

There are days when he sees the weariness in her eyes and notices how exhausted she is. Sometimes it bothers him and he will clean the house or cook something. It is his way of expressing love and those days are more rare than common. Mostly, he just gets high and sleeps. He has no job. She thinks he is trying to get well.

It has only been a few months since he was released from prison. He was destined for prison from birth. Born to a single mother with a serious drug addiction and a life on the streets, he never really knew what love felt like. Surrounded by men he didn’t know and passed from one relative to another, he grew up starving for attention. He sought attention and looked for love in all the wrong places. He followed the example set for him by his mother and soon he was making babies with girls who knew no more about love than he did. Drugs and his neglect to pay child support landed him in the lap of the law. He is 27 years old going on 16.

He wears his life experience like a badge. Tattooed with sub-standard prison tattoos, he is a marked man. It is obvious where he has been. He cannot hide it. If there is an element of self-consciousness to him, it is hard to detect. He is anti-social and rarely interacts with the outside world. He has made a nest with her and has no interest in leaving the nest. He is a child in a man’s body and when you look in his eyes, only fear and anger stare back.

Together

Together, they spell dysfunction. She is protecting him from learning to live in the real world and he, in his selfish need, has her imprisoned in the darkness of his world. She feels needed and that fulfills her. In his twisted thoughts, she provides him with a sense of belonging. Together, they are playing house. They are convinced that love is all they need. They have all the answers and rebel against those who try to help them. Their world consists of lies. There is no other way for them. They cannot face the truth and the lies have created a maze of reality that they are lost in. They no longer know the difference in reality and the lies they have told. They are irresponsible, immature babies pretending badly to be adults and are making irrational decisions. They are self-destructing but you cannot make them see it.

The Solution

Although true, this could be the story of many young adults in our society. So many have grown up in broken homes or, homes where parenting did not exist. These babies have never known discipline or consequence. Their “normal” is a nightmare of anger, violence and loneliness. Her desperate need for love is no less a handicap than his mental illness.

Anyone of us, if we took the time, could probably identify someone in our family or neighborhood to be one of the subjects in this story. We read about them in the news every day. They appear to us in stories of prostitution, robbery, drug busts, child neglect, or, in the stories of mass shootings, murder, or suicide. These are the children born of our generation who have fallen through the cracks. We must ask ourselves if we are contributors to the problem or the solution.

So what is the solution? I wish I knew.

“Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.” -―Garrison Keillor, Leaving Home

The Cost of Love

Some will say that tough love is the answer while others feel that it’s not our problem. If asked, some will say let law enforcement or the schools deal with it. Some will say it’s a mental health issue and that we need to reform our attitude and policies regarding mental illness. Clearly that is true but it’s not the only answer.

The common thread between the two young people in this story is the lack of love. Neither experienced love during those early years of childhood development. As a society, we must ask ourselves – would their story have a different feel if just one person had reached out to these broken families in love?

We may not feel they are our responsibility but if we do nothing, we will continue to be victimized by the crimes of our dysfunctional youth. Wouldn’t it be easier to show a child the attention they aren’t getting at home? Is it that hard to hug one more child getting off the school bus or to invite them to spend an afternoon in a home where love lives? Would it be too inconvenient to take one more child to a ball game or to buy one more present for Christmas? Even an afternoon snack offered to a latch-key kid is a demonstration of caring and could make a difference.

Love is a gift that doesn’t have a price tag. It doesn’t have to be purchased and no one should have to pay for it. It’s ours to give away or not. Do you have enough love to give away to a child that needs it desperately? A hug today just might prevent another young woman from being imprisoned by a false love. A hug today might prevent a young boy from self-destructing as a young man. Sharing your love today, could prevent a crime in the future. Will you make the investment?

© 2013 Linda Crist, All rights reserved

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  • profile image

    JThomp42 4 years ago

    Linda, With all due respect, the story of this young man really concerns me. Is he on medication for his mental illness? These are conditions in which are out of his control. They are chemical imbalances in one's brain that cause these serious mental issues. Can he not get disability for his illness? A very sad situation.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    I'm busy with customers but dropped it all when I saw your hub appear. Why aren't you working????

    Anyway, would you like to know how many times I saw this dysfunctional relationship form when I was teaching? Too many times to mention. Troubled kids find each other; it's like they have built-in radar, and once they find each other the problems usually multiply.

    Love is the answer! Yes, I do believe it is.

    Beautiful, Kindred!

    I hope you are well my friend.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Jeff, thank you. I hear your concern and the answer is yes, he is on medication and she is helping him file for disability. Trust me when I say that there are many eyes and ears on this situation. It is just really sad and I hope by writing about it, someone (including them) will be helped. I intend to share this with them this afternoon and hope that they will undestand that it was written because I care about them.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Bill, my forever friend, yes - I am suppose to be working but felt this one was too important not to get finished today. I have explained it to my employer who understands. Thank you for dropping everything for me. lol

    I knew you would "get it" from the perspective of a teacher. I'll email you tonight. We need to catch up.

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    JThomp42 4 years ago

    Absolutely Linda, I can tell this in your words. Now I am worried about them. I will be praying for them and their situation. God bless you Linda!

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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Jeff, you are precious. Thank you!

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    JThomp42 4 years ago

    You are so welcome my dear friend.

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    Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

    This story seems universal in its depiction of so many kids growing up these days. Knowing it is a true case gives it even more strength and a sense of urgency.

    Your essays deserve a wider audience. I hope you are collecting them for publication somehow.

  • Faith Reaper profile image

    Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

    Yes, love is for sure the answer to all, I really believe this in my heart and understand from where you are coming. This is a sad reality all around us it seems. Thank you for sharing your heart here and I will pray for this situation. Wasn't sure if you were writing from a real situation you know of, but now from reading comments, I understand it is so. You have a precious heart.

    Voted up +++ and sharing

    God bless you. In His Love, Faith Reaper

  • MartieCoetser profile image

    Martie Coetser 4 years ago from South Africa

    Every Jack has his Jill at a specific time. When one grows up faster than the other, one, or both, might find a Jack/Jill who suits them better.

    Self-destruction very well described and presented. Thank you, Linda!

    BTW, I know people who are 60+ going on 16.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Linda, this story makes me first say boo hoo. Then it makes me think of your truth that love can prevent this kind of horrible situation. And then I think it is not too late. And then I think to myself, is this the path that must be taken by these two?

    Survival through this stage is not a high probability. But if in the dysfunction and disease, true love that stands the tests of time prevails what marvelous help these folks can give to others -- especially hope.

    If I had them in my charge, I would intervene with continued undeserved random acts of kindness.

    You did a very good job with this hub. The entanglements, judgments and dangers are laid bare very well. I have given them names, Dick & Jane and will pray for them, for I have no answers.

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    MizBejabbers 4 years ago

    I'll say a prayer for these people and hope they can work out their situation. I dunno Linda, we have a situation in our own family where a much-loved person went wrong. He was born head-strong and foul-tempered. His at-that-time wife made the statement that he said he had received little affection as a child. That I know was wrong and I've never figured out why he doesn't seem to remember all the affection that was showered on him by his parents, grandparents and uncles and aunts. Sometimes I think it is a chemical imbalance and there is nothing we can do to help unless the right medication if found and the person stays on it. I know there are a lot of neglected children just like you described, though, and for them I am sad.

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    carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

    This is not a new story and I think families today are either neglectful or over indulgent. and I know mental illness has been around for a long time, but it seems to me that there are so many sick teenagers and young people. We used to be afraid for our kids and today maybe afraid of them. I grew up quietly with a nice family though dysfunctional as all are in a way. They loved me and were there so I was free to go out and check out the world. My husband and I were talking about our easy childhoods..we went to school, made friends, made decisions and knew we had to be responsible for ourselves..somehow knew that instinctively. This is a sad story and thanks for sharing...Prayers and good thoughts..where there is love there is hope.

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    Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Linda, this hub is captivating and I especially clung to the obvious jailhouse tattoos. Most of what you say is true, and certainly lack of love and bad examples lead to troubled children who grow into adults who know no better. But there are exceptions.

    My son's father, who died 6 years ago of cancer did 19 years of a 25 year sentence in Montana State Prison. I met him via phone calls he made to a roommate I was living with at the time. We became pen pals for years and one thing led to another. He was released, I brought him to Florida, got married and had our son. We divorced 6 years later mostly because my husband could not move himself out of the prison mindset - that of distrust and having to always be on the defensive.

    My son's father was one of 8 children. He is the only one who did time. All other siblings are successful and the family ties are very strong. Montana chose a different route and it had nothing to do with lack of love or care.

    Sometimes people make choices of their own.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Jim, you are far too generous with your compliments. I do have my stories saved but honestly do not know what to do with them. Maybe one day it will be revealed how to use them to do more good in the world. For now, I am just a caring observer who is trying to learn from the experience and use it for a higher purpose. Thank you so much for the support and encouragement. These young people in our world have such a hard road ahead of them that it makes my journey through the 60's seem like a walk in the woods. Pray for them and I will too.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Sweet Faith, there you are with your tender heart and your generous prayers. With you on the side of these kids (yes, they are real), they have a better chance of overcoming their challenges. Thank you so much.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Martie, my friend, I too know of some who are 60 going on 16 and it still surprises me, although it shouldn't. The Jack/Jill analogy is a good one. Been there, done that and thankfully, I grew up (to some extent). lol But then, I had a ton of love all around me and that is what I am hoping will bring these kids through too. Thank you for being here today.

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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Eric, your comment is just awesome. Dick and Jane works for me and I am sure they will benefit from the prayers. I am a neighbor and am close enough to show them love often and in abundance. But I also have to let them make their own decisions which is sometimes hard to watch. I wrote this because these two are representative of many of the youth in our society and, in hopes of creating awareness. It is so much easier to turn our heads and then complain about the ills of society and that makes no sense to me considering how inexpensive love is to share. Thanks Eric.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi MizB... hope you and Mr B are doing well. I am saddened too by your story of your own family. Making excuses or blaming someone else seems to go hand-in-hand with kids like this. My reason for writing this was a hope that by bringing attention to situations like this, more of us would be able to determine how and who to offer love to. Some will not accept it even when it is offered. Mental illness is a real danger to our society today, both in the social and the financial aspect. When one refuses to seek help and continues to endanger another in the name of love though, we have a responsibility to do what we can to help. Love and light is the best solution I know of. I wish it for your relatives too.

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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Carol, I could not agree with you more. I too grew up at a time when parents were allowed to parent and teachers were allowed to discipline. We understood consequences. Today, things are very different but so are our food sources and I cannot help but wonder what responsibility that has on the ever inreasing numbers of mntally unstable youth. It's a huge problem. Thank you so much for a comment worthy of thought and sharing.

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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Shauna, my sistah! I hope my writing did not insinuate that I am judgmental about tatoos. My intent was only to paint a visual picture of this young man. Your story of your son's father is not surprising. I have stories of my own. (I doubt that will surprise you) Still, prison has changed with time too and the environment is quite different than it was 20+ years ago. The prison industry is cyclic. About every ten years it flips between punishing and rehabilitating. They were once full of criminals and now they are full of gangsters. There is a difference and they are managed differently. This kid has learned how to make everything someone else's fault and you're right, it is a choice. However, his mental illness adds another dimension and that is what creates fear for the safety of his girlfriend. It is also what creates the dilemma of whether or not to interfere or let them make their bed. Either way, it is sad and most likely willnot have a happy ending. But, if I may borrow your rose colored glasses, I will keep hoping. :-)

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

    Linda I will add this couple to my prayer list. How sad for them, but lucky they have someone like you looking out for them. How easily some people throw love away instead of giving it to their chidren. Remember the Pepsi song? "I'd like to teach the world to sing"...we need to change that to love. God bless you and this couple, praying that they accept the help others are offering.

    Voted up, useful, and interesting.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Dear Mary, you are always there and I know your prayers will benefit these kids. They are my neighbors and although I keep a watchful eye on them, I have to be careful not to infringe on their right to choose. I agree about the Pepsi song. Wouldn't the world be a happier place if it was that easy? Thank you Mary!

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Linda, I decided to watch your responses and the comments. Allowing us to see the general rule in a specific non guilt assigning method is awesome I suppose that is why you are a master. You have just helped hundreds. I am in awe!

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Oh Eric, I am no master. I think that most of us are free of judgment when we can talk about things openly and as adults. And, when we remove the fear of things we do not understand. Mental illness is a disease, just like cancer or diabetes. Kids make poor decisions because they haven't been taught to make good ones or, because they are angry, scared, or hurt. If we can start the dialogue, I think we can overcome many of the things that haunt us. These folks on HP are incredible and I expected no less than a fair discussion from them. I try never to write from a judgmental view because should I judge, I too will be judged. I have my share of faults but I am always trying to be/do better. Why? Because people I love believe in me. It makes a difference.

    Thank you Eric. I hope with every article that I can help at least one.

  • ImKarn23 profile image

    Karen Silverman 4 years ago

    Linda...i know this couple only too well - in too many variations..

    we are all products of our youth - and the older i get - the more i understand this..

    co-dependency can be totally destruction when 2 needy souls have nothing to give but need so much..

    i am having a low time at the moment - and this touched me deeply..

    Your insight is borne of experience, me thinks...

    up and sharing, my friend..

  • profile image

    Vickiw 4 years ago

    Hello Linda, any early childhood educator would agree that those first years are so crucial to a child's later years. It is always a source of sadness to so many of us these days to see what has happened to so many of our young people. It is a case of closing the barn door after the horses have gone out. I wish any of us had an answer to the problem, but it seems a really huge challenge to society. I simply can't look at it - just focus on doing whatever I can in a small way and hope it creates circles of kindness. This is a great Hub, and really brings focus to this very painful and sad topic. After all, these children are our future.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Leslie, you thinks correctly. lol We all have low times but I'm sorry you are having one now. You are such a brilliant writer and I admre your courage and "care not" attitude about what society expects. Don't ever change that. To answer your burning question - yep, been there. Age was my friend though and I am well on my way to conquering codependency. It took the demise of one very painful relationship to make me see and now, my eyes are wide open. But, we are all a work in progress, aren't we?

    Hang in there girlfriend. The unverise ain't done with you yet.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Vickiw - thank you for the comment. It is sad and the answer elusive. Like you, I also hope to create those circles of kindness. It rarely seems like enough but we have to keep trying.

  • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

    Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

    Unfortunately it is like steel attracting a magnet. You're right that love and understanding are the way to the healing. Passing this on.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Linda, I didn't take offense to the tattoo comment at all. What you say is true. You can tell who's spent time in prison by the poor quality of the tatts.

    Did I not send you a pair of cyber rose-colored glasses. Forgive me - they're on their way. You should have them by the time you read this!

  • Lipnancy profile image

    Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

    We all know the solutions, unfortunately we lack the time or the money to make them happen.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Gypsy. I agree with you and really appreciate your visit and the share.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Shauna, could the world stand it if both of us wore those glasses? Maybe...maybe not. lol

  • picklesandrufus profile image

    picklesandrufus 4 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va

    Like you, I believe the lack of love can cause nothing but problems and it is sad to see kids who are true victims. That is one reason I volunteer in the non -profit world...just trying to do something to help. Really helpful hub.

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

    Hi, I have seen this too, many times. I may live in a so called 'posh' town, but at night, beneath the underbelly of our town there are many kids who are on drugs, stagger together for comfort and are just wrecking their lives, its so sad, they really need help, but never get it, voted up! nell

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Pickles! This is a sad sector of our society but with people like you who give of their time and love, I continue to have hope for the future. I applaud you!

    Nell, posh towns are not immune, as you point out. There are plenty of kids from good homes that are still starved for love. Thank you for sharing another truth and perspective.

  • wildove5 profile image

    wildove5 4 years ago from Cumberland, R.I.

    Irc, I just read a story about my daughter and her boyfriend. The only difference is, I LOVED my daughter, my only daughter. I was a stay at home mom till she was 5, then worked part time evenings. I coacher her cheerleading squad for 12 years. We danced, we laughed, we were close. I also disciplined. I remember one of my finer moments when I removed her bedroom door because I was tired of her slamming it. lol I agree, that something was missing in my daughter, love or discipline surely wasn't the reason. Only she knows and she's not saying anything. So I continue to love her, albeit tuff at times, but mostly, I pray! She's also 20 now so I can no longer throw her in the car and drive her to the counselor anymore. Thanks for the story!

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    OH wildove5, you are not alone. I know it feels that way sometimes. I was your daughter, once. I had a great Mom and nothing she did was the right thing, in my mind. I was a rebellious teenager and the harder she tried, the worse I became. I honestly don't know how she kept loving me. I left home when I was 17 and our relationship was not good at all. When I was 28, I married for the second time and created a home of my own. Suddenly, things changed. We became the best of friends and have remained so for the past 3o+ years. To this day neither of us really understand it but we are grateful and more importantly, we are close. Don't give up on your daughter. My Mom will tell you that when we were going through it, she thought she was the only parent on the planet with a daughter like me. I regret those days deeply but thankfully, Mom doesn't hold it against me. Keep praying and loving and this will one day be your story too.

  • wildove5 profile image

    wildove5 4 years ago from Cumberland, R.I.

    I knew I felt like I knew you already! lol I know my daughter will come back to me one day, I won't allow her do otherwise. I would give up being right all the time to have her prove me wrong just once. I know that sounds like self riotousness, it isn't. It's what fueled the phrase " Mother knows best" for centuries. lol I sent her this hub today, I asked her if she ever felt I didn't love her, you made me think, that maybe it wasn't enough. It actual opened the doors to a nice conversation, for that I am truly grateful to you. Give your mom a hug for me and I will go easy on my daughter and I promise I won't ever give up on her.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Oh wildove5, this is what writing is all about, in my opinion. It opens doors, heals hearts, and starts conversations that can lead us to solutions. You have made all my work here on HP worthwhile with this one comment. Wow! I will surely give my Mom a hug from you and tell her that our hard times were not in vain. She is a very wise woman and like you, she never gave up on me. Your daughter is a lucky and blessed young lady who will one day look back and see how very much she has been loved. Thank you for returning to share your news. Yes, we know each other. :-)

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