We are all rebellious teenagers. Sometimes we grow out of it, and sometimes we don’t. ~ Kelly Asbury 

My parents and I never really saw eye to eye about anything. They called me a rebel.

I have been called a rebel most of my life. I wear that badge proudly. Not paying attention to your inner voice makes it impossible to know what you want to create. Or to create in a way that is uniquely yours. What’s more, not listening to your inner voice makes you a prime candidate for creative block. Do you know who will show up when you don’t check in with your inner voice? The Inner Critic. And you can bet the critic will be spouting that list of ‘shoulds’ when they show up.

It was just one day after returning home from having run away to attend Woodstock, which was a rebellious act. The attack came. My brothers were told that I was a troublemaker and would be going away for a while.

We have been taught since we were tiny kids to stay in line, keep our mouths shut and do what we’re told. Out in the real adult world, many tend to do the same thing. That’s not always a great idea!

There are real advantages to speaking up when you feel strongly about something.

There are advantages to speaking your truth even when people around you don’t like it.

You won’t gain more latitude with anyone else by staying quiet when you want to speak.

We often think that a troublemaker is a negative influence, however, that is not always the case.

It was just after breakfast, Al had left for work, and the attack came.

I had been getting ready to shut myself in the privacy of my room when I heard Dotti walking towards the door. She opened the door with a wide fling, stepped in and firmly shut the door behind her.

Dotti was wearing one of her, “Don’t mess with me because I mean business” looks, so I turned immediately to face her and braced myself for the worst. My ‘warrior” was standing in place, waiting for what was coming next.

I expected her to grill me about running away, lunge at me, hit me, throw something, however, what she said was much worse.

“I have called the police and they are on their way to take you to Juvenile Hall.”

I shut my ears to her voice. Looking down, I saw that my hands were beginning to shake.

I concentrated on taking deep, steady breaths until I could hold myself upright without trembling. I let her go on for several minutes, hoping this would all just disappear.

I calmed down, and then my mind began to race again. What was God and life asking of me now? What had brought this on in the first place? Running away? I had run away before for a day or two and all I got was a beating. I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans and did my best to look her in the eye.

She settled back against my door frame, seemingly satisfied with herself. The anger began to boil up inside of me. Who was she to send me to Juvenile Hall?

“I’m having a rough time. If you think I am such a troublemaker here in this house of craziness, then let’s just do it. What does dad say about this decision?” I asked.

No response. She stayed in my room until the police pulled up in front of the house, as if to guard me from running away.

I was arrested in my bedroom and handcuffed on a disobedient runaway charge.

Dotti made it seem to the police like I was this bad kid.

She told then I was rebellious, a troublemaker and uncontrollable. I just wanted to go to Woodstock and have some fun. Why did I come back? Because of my brother George.

Dotti’s form of discipline was just to get rid of me. She had tried before. My father would not let George and I go live with anyone else. He kept us for what seemed like selfish reasons. Or was he feeling guilty? It made me mad he was not there while this was happening. Once again he choose to leave the situation. I ended up spending two weeks in Juvenile Hall in San Jose.

When I arrived at Juvenile Hall, I was expecting guards, watch towers, basically the setting of the adult prisons I had seen on TV. The police took me to a small waiting room just off the lobby, which separated me from the outside world. There they took off the handcuffs and told me to sit and wait. They left and the door locked behind them.

While waiting, I saw a few other kids in another waiting room across from me.

I wondered what these kids did. I looked at each one, trying to guess their crime.

Maybe they robbed a store, maybe they beat up somebody, maybe they were selling drugs, maybe they ran away like I did. Who cares? I decided this is what happens to kids who didn’t have direction or anybody who cared, who had to learn about life the hard way. Rebellious kids. Troublemakers. After about 15 minutes a social worker came into the room. She told me she was there to guide me through the facility and be present during the psychiatrist interview and medical check up. The psychiatrist interview was five minutes. The medical check up was peeing into a cup to see if I was pregnant.

We then walked outside and sat down on a bench in the middle of the yard. She told me that high-risk offenders wore orange shirts and I needed to avoid them, and those wearing gray and yellow shirts were minor offenders like me or those who violated their probation. I was given a gray shirt. While we sat talking, a few teens walked by with a guard, their heads facing the ground and their hands behind their backs. I watched them walk across the yard. Then one of them turned to look at me, and I turned my head to avoid eye contact. I didn’t want to be looked at by anyone. I felt ashamed. Life was asking more of me than I felt I could give.

I felt uncomfortable that day, like I didn’t have any clue what these kids had been through. With my mirror neurons firing all day long – feeling and absorbing the fear, stress, and sadness of the kids and people working there – I started to feel flooded and overwhelmed. I was soaking in all the suffering.

Here’s the thing about intuitive empaths: the emotions of others are contagious.

When our empathetic “immune system” isn’t robust, then the boundaries between ourselves and those we are exposed to may become very blurry. And at some point, we may not be able to feel the difference between what someone else is experiencing and what is happening in our own bodies. We feel it all.

Did I feel sorry for them? The kids? Not right away. I was surprised by the innocence of their faces, like they didn’t belong there. I was really shocked when I saw a girl who looked like she was about 11 walking in a line with other kids, wearing yellow shirts.

I didn’t know what to expect. Would I cry? Would I be angry? Would I rebel?

Though I had no emotional outburst, some questions during the interview caused me to pause and hold in my emotions while thinking about painful memories.

The first two girls I met at lunch were Jennifer and Michelle. They were two feminine and pretty girls. What could they have done? Both were smiling and saying hello to me.

They seemed calm and laid back. Though they were the same age as me, they seemed older in their ways. They had experienced a lot and you could see it in the way they carried themselves.

Jennifer was more to herself, the day-dreaming type; Michelle was tougher, more independent. Jennifer was a little heavy in size, yet you could see the sensitivity in her eyes; and Michelle was thoughtful, no doubt. They both had drifted into a negative lifestyle at a young age. It seemed as if it was impossible for them to overcome their problems. The two girls said they had been physically and sexually abused by family members. Both said that leaving home at a young age was the only thing they could do to save themselves from future torment. They had run away and managed to stay on the streets of San Jose for about a year. Jennifer said she wanted that wild lifestyle of living on the streets and they both felt they could manage all on their own. Michelle confessed to having been ignorant and making bad choices.

What I learned from talking with them is that there are some things we have no control over—our families, where we live and who we know. It was simple for me to see that all of us had no control over our lives at this young age. Or did we?

Life as a teenager can be chaotic, especially when needing to balance a long day at school, extracurricular activities, relationships with friends and family, and homework.

To gain some control, it’s important to manage your time and maintain your health.

Keeping deadlines and schoolwork organized is essential. It’s also key to understand the changes you’re going through, as well as how to keep your body energized as it undergoes those changes. Finally, living a well-rounded, balanced life will help you establish healthy habits that’ll get you through your teens and keep you in control of your life far into the future. I got sidetracked, lost my focus, and put things off until the last-minute. I had no back-up plan, and almost always set myself up to be overwhelmed.

I did not get the recommended amount of sleep, which is at least nine to 10 hours a night for a teenager.

Jennifer and Michelle said they just did whatever felt good at the moment. That meant being a rebel and a troublemaker most days. They did what life asked them to do so thay could survive.

There are a lot of negative aspects about Juvenile Hall, yet some positive things can come out of being locked up. There is a lesson in everything that happens to us.

Juvenile Hall, for many out of control teens, is stopping them in their tracks so they don’t go further with a criminal and violent life. Juvenile Hall allows these teens to stop and think. My time in Juvenile Hall allowed me to figure out that I was a “really cool person.”

I don’t think the system expects or encourages kids to change their lives around.

Talking to Jennifer and Michelle, I realized they had many problems growing up and they had both been in Juvenile Hall before. Jennifer had no friends at all, and both, like me, had dysfunctional families. They were strong and I saw them as warriors.

After three days in Juvenile Hall, it’s just you and time. Six o’clock in the morning we get up. We keep our clothes outside the room in a bin. We have to get up and grab our clothes and put the PJ’s in the bin. We have about 4 or 5 minutes to go the bathroom and get ready. Breakfast is at 7 o’clock. That’s usually disgusting. Powdered everything.

Then we go to school for a couple of hours, go to lunch, go to school again, come back, eat dinner, we get one hour of recreation, take our showers. Wake up, wash up. Same thing, different day. That’s how it is. All kinds of things were going through my mind. Just like shock. I couldn’t even cry when I met with the Social Worker. I just sat down quiet.

It’s really boring in Juvenile Hall. We rarely even got to listen to the radio at all. TV, we get only one hour a day with no choice. We didn’t get the news so we didn’t know what was going on in the world. Life asked nothing of us other than to follow the rules.

From Woodstock and a man on the moon to the Manson murders and the Stonewall riots, the summer of 1969 was a tumultuous and eventful time.

During a two-night rampage, pregnant actress Sharon Tate and seven others are killed by Charles Manson and his “Family.” Manson and four others — Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Charles “Tex” Watson and Leslie Van Houten — were later convicted of murder and other charges. Their death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment in 1972.

The New York Mets fall nine games behind the Chicago Cubs in the National League race but, led by future Hall of Fame pitchers Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver, stage a comeback in the months that followed to capture the pennant. They went on to defeat the Baltimore Orioles for the Word Series title.

More than 250 people are killed in Mississippi and Louisiana when Hurricane Camille strikes the United States mainland. At its peak, Camille was a Category 5 storm, packing winds stronger than 200 mph and leaving tides measuring higher than 20 feet in its wake.

Having my freedom taken away while being in Juvenile Hall was the worst thing that ever happened to me. For a while I didn’t know when I was going to get out. It felt like the whole world was going on without me, and I was stuck. I made a promise to myself that once out, my goal was to get out that house, legally in some way. I would create a back up plan. Al came out to see me and the Social worker on day five. It was mandatory that a legal guardian show up at least once a week for a therapy session. Dotti never adopted George and I, as Al never let her, and so she was not a legal guardian.

Thank goodness.

The three of us talked for about 45 minutes.

‘What’s going on in your life?’ she asked me. I was just trying to figure out what was going on. I was asked if I regretted running away to Woodstock.

I said “No. It was fun. I felt free. No one asked anything of me.”

I told the Social Worker and Al that Dotti tried to control me all the time. That she hit me.

She hit me with anything she could find. After she hit me or whipped me, she would tell me don’t cry, why are you crying, I’m going to hit you harder. I had to hold it in, I couldn’t cry because she’d hit me more. So I had to hold my tears in and it built up.

I couldn’t let a woman like her take control of my life. I said I would have liked for my father to do something. He did nothing. I would like for him to stick up for me. I felt too grown. I was too stubborn, hardheaded. A rebel. Al just sat, denied the abuse, said I was a troublemaker in the home and he needed me to learn a valuable lesson before returning home, and then I was asked to leave the room. The social worker said we would meet again next week.

I didn’t want people to see me cry so at night when nobody could see me, I would cry into my pillow. I needed my mother. I needed when I went to sleep to have her next to me and tell me everything’s gonna be okay. I prayed for that. I was kind of scared.

As an empath, hypersensitivity and awareness are pulled inwards, and a protective shield came up to block out the never-ending waves of hurt, worry, despair, anger, and other emotions that slammed into me each and every day. I felt like I had only two options in this situation: put those walls up, or burn out completely. Being an empath has its benefits, and it also has an enormous cost: when you’re so attuned to what literally everyone else is feeling, conditions like severe anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and even physical pain can manifest on a constant basis, and none of it originates inside you!

It’s like a thundering torrent of external influences thumping into you from all directions and it never seems to let up.

When you’re dealing with that kind of situation, withdrawing and creating a protective cocoon just seems like the smartest and safest bet, doesn’t it? That is hard to do in a Juvenile Detention center.

Shutting down and retreating inwards is just as dangerous to one’s emotional and psychological wellness as being a raw, exposed nerve that’s constantly zapped by everyone else’s energy. Sure, it might feel safer and more comfortable to go numb, however, you’re doing yourself more harm than good. I started withdrawing into an apathetic cocoon to spare myself pain and emotional overload.

There is nothing great about going to Juvenile Hall. I took the experience and learned what I could and made decisions about my life going forward. Everyone there is labeled a troublemaker. No one believes that it’s going to be a fun experience. No matter what, the fact that you’re in juvenile detention means that something has gone horribly wrong.

While something went wrong, the whole point of Juvenile Hall is to help you return home and have things be better. And you won’t be getting out until they let you out.

83% of juveniles arrested are confined by at least three locked doors. Which is to say, they’re in a locked building inside another locked building that is itself inside another locked building. I actually asked the social worker to not let me return home. I asked to be sent to a foster home and have George go with me. My request was denied. The rebel inside of me grew and became stronger.

At any give time there are over 65,000 minors locked up across the country. There’s a stigma to juvenile delinquency, suggesting that they are career criminals in the making, that they are long-term trouble makers, however, most who go out of juvenile detention across the world don’t come back. I only went once. I wanted to be a warrior and never return. It’s next to impossible to handle juvenile detention alone, and while it isn’t a pleasant place, many who’ve been inside have said that, even just to cut away the loneliness, people managed to establish friendships of varying quality. Us rebels and warriors stuck together.

Jennifer and Michelle were my Juvenile Hall friends. There were my warrior friends.

I never saw them again after I left. They were still there when I left after two weeks.

Many people going into detention think that, due to the social stigma, there will never be a chance they will have a successful life outside. Let me tell you that you and only you are in control of your life. My opinion – children do not belong in lockup, so let’s find another solution. There are lives at stake. The U.S. locks up children at more than seven times the rate of all other developed nations. The U.S. spends more than $7 billion annually on youth detention.

During my time in Juvenile Hall I was entering into an unhealthy belief about codependent relationships. I felt needy. I looked for people who needed me. I wanted to need relationships. I wanted people to need me. This set up a pattern of co-dependence, of becoming a giver only, and of attracting takers (aka narcissistic people) into my life.

I got into a pattern of giving and giving endlessly, depleting myself more. No matter how much I went through for many years, I never felt worthy. You can’t heal unworthiness by reading a blog post, however, you can get a sense of the mechanism of it that keeps you stuck, and the steps required to heal.

When you set out to heal your sense of unworthiness, you will still feel unworthy, and hence will be tempted to give up and give in. This vicious cycle is what often keeps empaths stuck in a wounded healer pattern: able to give to others while not being able to receive that which they need to heal themselves.

You cannot heal yourself through giving. You can only heal through allowing yourself to receive what you need in order to heal. Healing unworthiness happens in steps, in layers. You take action to take care of yourself, you set a boundary with a needy person, you acknowledge the sense of “not deserving support” that gets triggered, and you learn how to let go of that. Then you set another boundary, do another nice thing for yourself, more unworthiness surfaces etc.

The point is, you can start anywhere with breaking the vicious cycle, as long as you understand not to let your feelings of unworthiness sabotage your steps towards better self-care. Be a warrior. We must learn how to take good care of ourselves. Only then can we truly be there for others in a way that is truly supportive (and not enabling). As long as your helping efforts are driven by guilt, shame and unworthiness, you’ll more easily be doing others a disservice.

Being a troublemaker, feeling unworthiness is an experience, not a god-given truth about the nature of your being. It’s a program you’ve got running. It’s powerful, yet it’s not who you are. Be a warrior. Don’t let it take over your whole system. Don’t let it dictate your choices and abilities.

I spent years being overwhelmed by other people’s thoughts and feelings and it took time to learn how to differentiate which were mine and which were theirs, and also to sort out what makes me feel happy, healthy and safe.

We are all capable of adopting a warrior mindset, it’s just a question of commitment.

Most people don’t understand what being a warrior means. They think of it as the sort of thing selfish pricks would say about themselves, the kind of people who need to justify how poorly they treat others. That’s the opposite of a warrior mindset. Warriors put themselves on the line for the people they serve. A warrior is completely focused, disciplined, and aggressive not out of selfishness, rather on behalf of others.

Every movement comes with risk. Every warrior as a ritual they follow before going into battle, and when you find yours, you make yourself that much more likely to emerge victorious. The only thing between you and being a warrior is your commitment.

So commit.

Every great warrior must learn to endure and overcome the adversities of life.
~ Lailah Gifty Akita


What would you stand for if you knew no one would judge you?