A few days before her 17th birthday, Kelsi Budinger’s sermon, in her Seattle area youth groups service for a Unitarian Church, brought tears and applause from the congregation.
This is an abbreviated version: “At my school when you’re a sophomore, you’re required to take Health in order to graduate. In that class, we do something super cool, called panels, where students from the school come in and talk about their experiences with whatever the topic might happen to be. I did the panel for suicide and depression this year and I’m about to do it again this semester.
“One thing I talked about is how to tell when someone is depressed. My answer is ‘you can’t.’ Some of the happiest people around actually may be the ones who are hurting the most. Sometimes they let their sadness show. and when people ask what’s wrong, they just say, “I’m really tired.
“Brave faces have been my life since middle school and possibly earlier. My biological mother left when I was two, and that shook me up. I’ve had residual pain and anger about it ever since, and, though it may be irrational, I wonder if it was because it was I wasn’t good enough for her. I know that’s not the case, but the thought has crossed my mind many times growing up. but I’ve learned to hide it. I learned not to cry about it every time I thought about her. I learned to smile and laugh. But my version of laughter is always the real thing. This isn’t to say that I never feel happiness, or that I never smile for real. I’m saying I know how to hide my pain now.
“When someone hurts me, I don’t let them see it very much, because I’m too proud, or I’m trying to protect them. I know I can turn to my parents or other friends to talk, but sometimes I feel like a burden, or I feel like they’ll think my problems and feelings are invalid.
“This is what people struggle with every day because of the culture we live in, because of the things people say and do. Many people tell those with problems that their problems are stupid, that they just need to get over themselves. It hurts to be that person whose feelings have been invalidated. The brave faces are put on to protect ourselves from further hurt.
“What needs to happen is that people need to let others talk things through. People need to be supportive of their friends and family. So go out and support them. Be that rock, or, if you’re the one struggling, insist that someone be there for you.
“Stand up for yourself. Because you deserve it, and society doesn’t understand that yet.”