BLOG: Dear Struggling Teen

Katherine Ranzenberger
York Dispatch

Note: This post contains issues that may make some people uncomfortable, including suicide and cutting.

Dear Struggling Teen,

I know you're out there, and I know you're hurting.

I'm going to say that stereotypical "adult" thing and say "You're not alone." And you're going to sit there, Struggling Teen, saying "but I really am!" or "You don't understand."

But I insist, my friend, you really aren't alone. Hear me out.

I was that emo kid in seventh and eight grade, black shirts and dark eyeliner-rimmed eyes. Fall Out Boy T-shirts were my standard, angsty wardrobe.

Katherine Ranzenberger, circa. 2004 at age 13.

When I was 12, I started cutting in an effort to relieve some of the inner pain I felt from years of depression and anxiety. I figured I could release that pain through physical wounds. I wore jelly bracelets up the wazoo and a black and white studded sweatband to cover up the deep cuts on my arms.

By the time I was 14, I had literally carved the word "DIE" into my left wrist because that's exactly what I wanted to do then.

You can see the bracelets along my wrists I wore even as a freshman in high school.

I know right now it's hard, Struggling Teen. I know in the impossibly small worlds of middle and high school, who is dating whom and what happened last Thursday in the cafeteria rules everything. Your problems are just as valid as anyone else's.

It's hard being surrounded by the same group of people day in and day out. Rumors spread easily and everyone knows nearly everything about you. These people can find the exact buttons to push to make sure you're hurting, whether it's in person or on the Internet. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and all sorts of social media have made it easier to target people. When I was your age, it was MySpace and LiveJournal.

But Struggling Teen, this is only a small portion of your life. These people will be around you for a couple more years, and then you're able to get away, go to college, start working or find something you're passionate about and share that with the world around you.

Over the last decade of my life, I've accomplished many things, made many memories I'm grateful for and cherish.

I toured Europe with a fine arts camp choir. I sang in Carnegie Hall with my best friend and platonic wife for life. I went to state finals for marching band three times in high school. I met absolutely incredible human beings in marching band in college, and even started dating one that I've fallen head over heels in love with.

I've gotten a bachelors degree, which is something I never thought was possible for me.

This is the face of one survivor.

These are all things that wouldn't have been possible had I actually taken my life like I had wanted to when I was an early teenager.

Yes, Struggling Teen, those years are hard. Even at 24, I struggle right along with you, with rumors flying in my hometown about things that may or may not have happened. I still fight those monsters called Depression and Anxiety on a daily basis.

But had I given up when I was your age, I wouldn't be where I am now.

There are people out there who understand, who relate and want to make sure you're OK. There are people whose entire jobs revolve around helping you, and they choose to do that job every day.

If you are ever feeling like you can't make it through the day or through life, call someone. It doesn't have to be a friend or your parent or whatever. Sometimes it's so much easier to say something to a stranger.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is there for you with people to talk 24-hours a day, seven days a week. They're a free phone call way at 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat with them online.

There are local resources in York County, too, including the WellSpan Health suicide hotline at 717-851-5320 or 1-800-673-2496. TrueNorth Wellness Services are affiliated with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and has multiple locations throughout York County, including Hanover and Shrewsbury. They can be reached immediately for help at 1-866-325-0339.

People care about you, Struggling Teen. I care about you, and I want you to be OK. You need to know you're not alone.

I don't want to read another story like Shania Sechrist's. I wish I could hold her hand and tell her it's going to be OK eventually. Through all the crap that is middle school and high school, she could have made it and made a difference in the world. I feel for her and her family. That sort of loss is never one someone should go through, and I am so sorry.

Things really do get better, though, my friend. Give it time.


Someone who's been there

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at or on Twitter at @YDKatherine