Tag Archives: Depression

Anxiety, Depression and the American Adolescent

teen-suicide-note

The first time Faith-Ann Bishop cut herself, she was in eighth grade. It was two am, and as her parents slept, , she sat on the edge of the tub at her home in Bangor, Maine, with a metal clip from a pen in her hand. Then she sliced into the soft skin near her ribs. There was blood – and a sense of deep relief. “It makes the world very quiet for a few seconds,” she states. “For a while i didn’t want to stop, because it was my only coping mechanism. I hadn’t learned any other way.”

Adolescents today have a reputation for being more fragile, less resilient and more over-whelmed than their parents were when they were growing up. A closer look paints a far more heartbreaking portrait of why young people are suffering. It’s a phenomenon that cuts across all demographics – suburban, urban and rural. Also those who are college bound and those who aren’t.

Adolescents today have become the post 9/11 generation, raised in an era of economic and national insecurity. They’ve never known a time when terrorism and school shootings weren’t the norm. They grew up watching their parents weather a severe recession, and, perhaps even more importantly, they hit puberty at a time when technology and social media were transforming society.

Self-harm, which some experts say is on the rise, is perhaps the most disturbing symptom of a broader psychological problem – a spectrum of anger, worry, apprehension that plagues 21st century teens.teen-pills

“We’re the first generation that cannot escape our problems at all,” says Faith-Ann. “We’re all like little volcanoes. We’re getting this constant pressure, from our phones, from our relationships, from the way things are today.”

“If you wanted to create an environment to churn out really angsty people, we’ve done it,” says Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self – Injury and Recovery. Sure, parental micromanaging can be a factor, but so can school stress. Whitlock doesn’t think those things are the main drives of this epidemic. “It’s that they’re in a cauldron of stimulus they can’t get away from, or don’t want to, or don’t know how to,” she states.

It’s hard for many of us adults to understand how much of teenagers’ emotional life is lived within the small screen on their phones. But according to a report done by CNN in conjunction with researchers from the University of California, Davis, and the University of Texas at Dallas who examined the social-media use of more than 200 13-year-olds, they found that “there is no firm line between their real and online worlds.”

Phoebe Gariepy, a 17-year-old in Arundel, Maine, describes following on Instagram a girl from L.A. whom she had never met because she liked the photos this girl posted. Then the girl stopped posting. Phoebe later heard that the girl had been kidnapped and was found on the side of the road, dead. “I started bawling, and I didn’t even know this girl,” said Phoebe. “I felt really extremely connected to that situation even though it was in L.A.”

That hyperconnectedness now extends everywhere, engulfing even rural teens in a national thicket of Internet drama. Montana’s kids, for example, may be in a big, sparsely populated state, but they are not isolated anymore. A suicide might happen on the other side of the state and the kids often know about it before the adults do.

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Parents are also mimicking teen behavior. “Not in all cases, but in many cases the adults are learning to use their phones in the way that the teens do,” says Megan Moreno, head of social media and adolescent health research at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “They’re zoning out. They’re ignoring people. They’re answering calls during dinner rather than saying, ‘O.K., we have this technology. Here are the rules about when we use it’.”

In the CNN study, researchers found that even when parents try their best to monitor their children’s Instagram, Facebook or Twitter feeds, they are likely unable to recognize the subtle slights and social exclusions that cause kids pain. Finding disturbing things in a child’s digital identity, or that they’re self-harming, can stun some parents.

For some parents who discover, as Faith-Ann’s parents Bret and Tammy Bishop did a few years ago, that their child has been severely depressed, anxiety-ridden or self-harming for years, it’s a shock laden with guilt.                                                                                          every-day

Self-harming is certainly not universal among kids with depression and anxiety, but it does appear to be the signature symptom of this generation’s mental health difficulties. It’s hard to know why self-harm has surfaced at this time, and it’s possible we’re just more aware of it now because we live in a world where we’re more aware of everything.

The Idea that self-harm is tied to how we see the human body tracks with what many teens are saying today. As Faith-Ann describes it, “A lot of value is put on our physical beauty now. All of our friends are Photoshopping their own photos. It’s hard to escape that need to be perfect.”

Fadi Haddad, a psychiatrist who helped start the child and adolescent psychiatric emergency department at Bellevue Hospital in New York City states that for parents who find out their children are depressed or hurting themselves, the best response is first to validate their feelings. Don’t get angry or talk about taking away their computer. “Say, ‘I’m sorry you’re in pain. I’m here for you.’” This straightforward acknowledgement of their struggles takes away any judgement, which is critical since mental-health issues are still heavily stigmatized. No adolescent wants to be seen as flawed or vulnerable, and for parents, the idea that their child has debilitating depression or anxiety or is self-harming can feel like a failure on their part.

dealing-with-depression-and-anxietyFor both generations, admitting that they need help can be daunting. Even once they get past that barrier, the cost and logistics of therapy can be overwhelming. Some of the treatment for self-harm are similar to those for addiction, particularly in the focus on identifying underlying psychological issue: what’s causing the anxiety and depression in the first place. And then teaching healthy ways to cope. Similarly, those who want to stop need a strong level of internal motivation as well as a strong support system.

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What Parents Should Do

If you are worried about a child and aren’t sure what to do, heed the advice of Fadi Haddad, a psychiatrist and the co-author of Helping Kids in Crisis.

  1. Talk about the real stuff: sometimes conversations between parents and teens can be all about achievements, schedules and choices. Go beyond that. Find out what keeps them up at night. Ask – “What’s the best part of your day?” Become attuned to their emotional world so that you understand what their dreams are, what they struggle with and how their life is going.
  2. Pay attention, but don’t smother them: give teens space to grow and separate from you. Also watch for changes in their behavior. Are they giving up activities the used to enjoy? Are they staying up all hours of the night or has their appetite waned. Are they withdrawn, lethargic or do they get angry at nothing. If you are worried, say so. Show interest in their internal life without judgement.
  3. Resist getting angry: when parents find out a teen has been hiding something or is having behavior issues, the response is often anger or punishment. Instead, find out what is going on. If a child is acting out, say: “It seems like you are having trouble. I’m here to help. Tell me what’s happening to you.”
  4. Don’t put off getting help: If you are worried about an adolescent, talk to a school counselor, therapist or doctor. It is better to get help early rather than when trouble has firmly taken hold.
  5. Treat the whole family: When a child is in a crisis, many times it’s not enough to just treat the child. You have to change the family dynamic. It’s possible that something about the home environment was causing stress for the child, so, be open to acknowledging that and getting family counseling if needed.

Look, I’m writing this because I’ve spent a lifetime depressed and anxious. According to several psychiatrists and psychologists, I was born depressed. Yes, depression is inherited. Especially if the birth mother had a stressful pregnancy.

So please, don’t take this blog lightly. Find out what’s going on and do what you can to help the child cope with what he/she is going through. And like Dr. Fadi Haddad has stated – “Be open to acknowledging that there is a problem and get help.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pressure to Succeed

So how do I start this story? My heart is racing. I am getting heartburn. I’m not shaking outside, but inside I could make a milkshake. I’m nervous. My mind is going a million miles an hour, yet I am lacking as to what to put down on paper. I feel hot and my palms are sweaty.

I want to write something that will be of help to others, but what do I say? How do I explain my life of failures because I am a people pleaser that wants to be accepted and liked for who I am as well as what I am able to accomplish? If you were to look at my résumé, you would probably shake your head and throw it into the trashcan. More jobs than one should have because I “wasn’t perfect enough to accomplish what was expected of me”, so I gave up.

Failures! The story of my life. My dad was a good man with an extremely high IQ. The one thing you didn’t do with my dad was to pick an argument with him. You would lose every time. You had better have your ducks in a row or face rejection and disappointment because you couldn’t meet his standards. And they were high. If I got a B, he would want to know why I didn’t get an A. If I got an A, why didn’t I work hard enough to get an A+? A “perfectionist” at heart and that’s what was expected of me.

I got through college on my dad’s tailcoats because he spent almost a life time working the stock market. And yes, he wanted me to follow in his footsteps. But that wasn’t me. I loved the fine arts – classical music, dance, art, drawing. I was not and probably never will be business oriented even though at one time my wife and I ran an accounting and tax business. I started college taking courses for a business degree, changed to the fine arts, failed there and went back to the business administration side with a degree in public administration, recreation as a field. Great. NO JOBS were there, so I went into retail.

The gist of all this is the fact that it was the beginning of a very long journey trying to discover who I was and where I belonged. And yes, I’m still running the gauntlet with no success. Why you ask. Because I fear walking out my front door just to go to McDonald’s to get some milkshakes for me, my wife and step-daughter.

I feel safe inside, to a point. It’s like my safe haven where no harm or faulty expectations or demands can get to me. It’s my fortress, my bastion where I can hide from those with needs and wants I can’t fulfill because their expectations are too high. It’s my blanket that keeps the anxiety and frustrations at bay. Sounds ridiculous you say.

Yes, it does. But how do I explain to you the real feelings that are going on inside me? How do I explain something I don’t really understand the whys and hows of? What is anxiety? What is fear? Where does it come from and why can’t I gain control of it to stop it from controlling me and ruining my life? I am taking medications for depression, anxiety, glaucoma, A fib, cholesterol, restless leg syndrome. I’ve seen therapists, psychiatrists, counselors, etc., but they haven’t really done me any good. I am now fully retired and am taking care (am a caregiver) for my wife who has a degenerative/debilitating back disease and my step-daughter who has Down Syndrome, an aortic heart valve and is on blood thinners, and is diabetic.

They need me and there is no escape. I don’t want to run away because they are me and I am them. But the demands are endless; I can’t and won’t walk away from them. God gave me this responsibility for a reason and I have to believe that He will guide me and keep me strong so I can do what is necessary in caring for them.

Believe it or not, I do love life. The struggle, like all who are in the same boat as I am as far as feelings of anxiety and depression, is to find a balance in life where I can cope and heal from these perplexities. One thing I can say that may hopefully resound in your minds and mine – NEVER GIVE UP!!!

Below you will see four sets of verses from the bible. They are in the New King James Version and the New International Version (in case the New King James Version is confusing to some of you). Both Timothy and Paul are trying to tell us not to give up. We are in a race. A race for peace of mind and a fulfilled and happy life. A race that will take everything we have to run and win. A race in which the winners get to hang on to life, not lose it.

Dare to read them and dare to take them to heart. Know that we are not the only ones to have gone through what we are currently experiencing. History attests to that. The bible if full of desperate, anxious, fearful individuals whom God has used mightily. The point is you and I need to find a positive way to deal with what we are experiencing and not to give up just because we think what we are doing is not working. It is, just not as fast as maybe you or I would like it to.

1 Timothy 6:12 (NKJV)

12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12 (NIV)

12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

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 2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NKJV)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

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 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NKJV)

Striving for a Crown

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)

The Need for Self-Discipline

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

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2 Timothy 2:10 (NKJV)

10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

2 Timothy 2:10 (NIV)

10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

I can’t give up because God won’t let me. Otherwise I would have been dead a long time ago. So don’t you give up either. Let’s together help one another find that balance in life that will help keep us going no matter what we are experiencing at the time. No, it won’t be easy, but know you are not alone. God is there and I am there if you need a shoulder to lean on. I may need one too and it helps to know that there is one I can rely on.

Depression: God Is Not Silent When We Suffer

If we know anything about God, we know that He comes close to those who suffer.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Never has so much been crammed into one word “Depression”. It feels terrifying. Your world is dark, heavy, and painful. Physical pain, you think, would be much better—at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression seems to go to your very soul, affecting everything in its path.

Dead, but walking, is one way to describe it. I felt numb. Perhaps the worst part is that I remember when I actually felt something and the contrast between then and now makes the pain worse.

So many things about my life were difficult. Things I used to take for granted—a good night’s sleep, having goals, looking forward to the future—now seemed beyond my reach. My relationships with others were also affected. The people who loved me were looking for some emotional response, but I didn’t have one to give.

Does it help to know that you are not alone? These days depression affects as much as 25 percent of the population. Although it has always been a human problem, no one really knows why. But what I know as a Christian was that God is not silent when we suffer. On every page of Scripture, God’s depressed children have been able to find hope and a reason to endure. For example, take 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV):

Seeing the Invisible

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Come to God with your suffering

I started to experience an inward renewal that the apostle Paul experienced when I came to God with my suffering. God seemed far away at first. I truly believe that He exists, but it seems as if He was too busy with everything else, or He just didn’t care. After all, God is powerful enough to end my suffering, but He hasn’t.

If you start there, you’ll reach a dead end pretty quickly. God hasn’t promised to explain everything about what He does and what He allows. Instead, He encourages us to start with Jesus. Jesus is God the Son, and He is certainly loved by His Heavenly Father. Yet Jesus also went through more suffering than anyone who ever lived!

Here I saw that love and suffering can co-exist. And when I started to read the Bible and encounter people like Job, Jeremiah, and the apostle Paul, I got a sense that suffering was actually the well-worn path for God’s favorites. This doesn’t answer the question, Why are you doing this to me? But it cushions the blow when you know that God understands. I wasn’t alone. If I knew anything about God, I knew that He comes close to those who suffer, so keep your eyes open for Him.

God speaks to you in the Bible

Keep your heart open to the fact that the Bible has much to say to you when you are depressed. Here are a few suggestions of Bible passages you can read. Read one each day and let it fill your mind as you go about your life. 

  • Read about Jesus’ suffering in Isaiah 53 and Mark 14. How does it help you to know that Jesus is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?
  • Use the Psalms to help you find words to talk to God about your heart. Make Psalm 88 and Psalm 86 your personal prayers to God.
  • Be alert to spiritual warfare. Depressed people are very vulnerable to Satan’s claim that God is not good. Jesus’ death on the cross proves God’s love for you. It’s the only weapon powerful enough to stand against Satan’s lies. (Romans 5:6-8, 1 John 4:9,10)
  • Don’t think your case is unique. Read Hebrews 11 and 12. Many have walked this path before you and they will tell you that God did not fail them.
  • Remember your purpose for living. (Matthew 22:37-39, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 5:6)
  • Learn about persevering and enduring. (Romans 5:3, Hebrews 12:1, James 1:2-4)

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

Try one step at a time

Granted, it seemed impossible. How could I live without feelings? Without them I had no drive, no motivation. I couldn’t imagine walking without any feeling in my legs? It would be impossible.

Or would it? Perhaps I could walk if I practiced in front of a large mirror and watched my legs moving. One step, wobble, another step. It would all be very mechanical, but it could be done.

People have learned to walk in the midst of depression. It doesn’t seem natural, though other people won’t notice either the awkwardness or the heroism involved. The trek begins with one step, then another. Remember, you are not alone. Many people have taken this journey ahead of you.

As I walked, I found that it was necessary to remember to use every resource I had ever learned about persevering through hardship. It involved lots of moment by moment choices: 1) take one minute at a time, 2) read one short Bible passage, 3) try to care about someone else, 4) ask someone how they are doing, and so on.

I needed to do this with my relationships, too. You see, when you have no feelings, how to love must be redefined. Love, for you, must become an active commitment to patience and kindness.

Consider what accompanies your depression

As I put one foot in front of the other, I needed to remind myself that depression doesn’t exempt me from the other problems that plague human beings. Some depressed people have a hard time seeing the other things that creep in—things like anger, fear, and an unforgiving spirit. I needed to look carefully to see if my depression was associated with things like:

Do you have negative, critical, or complaining thoughts? These can point to anger. Was I holding something against another person?

Do you want to stay in bed all day? These were parts of my life I want to avoid?

Do you find that things you once did easily now strike terror in your heart? What was at the root of my fear?

Do you feel like you have committed a sin that is beyond the scope of God’s forgiveness? Remember that the apostle Paul was a murderer. And remember: God is not like other people—He doesn’t give us the cold shoulder when we ask for forgiveness.

Do you struggle with shame? Shame is different from guilt. When you are guilty you feel dirty because of what you did; but with shame you feel dirty because of what somebody did to you.

Forgiveness for your sins is not the answer here because you are not the one who was wrong. But the cross of Christ is still the answer. Jesus’ blood not only washes us clean from the guilt of our own sins, but also washes away the shame we experience when others sin against us.

Do you experience low self-worth? Low self-worth points in many directions. Instead of trying to raise your view of yourself, come at it from a completely different angle. Start with Christ and His love for you. Let that define you and then share that love with others.

Will it ever be over?

The question I continually struggled with was “Will I always struggle with depression?” That is like asking, “Will suffering ever be over?” Although we will have hardships in this world, depression rarely keeps a permanent grip on anyone. When we add to that the hope, purpose, power, and comfort we find in Christ, people who are depressed can usually anticipate a ray of hope or a lifting of their spirits.

Questions I Frequently Asked God

As a Christian, is it okay to get medication?

The severe pain of depression makes one welcome anything that can bring relief. For some people, medication brings relief from some symptoms. Most family physicians are qualified to prescribe appropriate medications. If you prefer a specialist, get a recommendation for a psychiatrist, and ask these questions of your doctor and pharmacist:

  • How long will it take before the medication is effective?
  • What are some of the common side effects?
  • Will it be difficult to determine which medication is effective (if your physician is prescribing two medications)?

From a Christian perspective, the choice to take medication is a wisdom issue. It is rarely a matter of right or wrong. Instead, the question to ask is, “What is best and wise?”

Wise people seek counsel (your physicians should be part of the group that counsels you). Wise people approach decisions prayerfully. They don’t put their hope in people or medicine but in the Lord. They recognize that medication is a blessing, when it helps, but recognize its limits. It can change physical symptoms, but not spiritual ones. It might give sleep, offer physical energy, allow you to see in color, and alleviate the physical feeling of depression. But it won’t answer your spiritual doubts, fears, frustrations, or failures.

If you choose to take medication, which I did, please consider letting wise and trusted people from your church come alongside of you (see Proverbs 11:14; Proverbs 12:15; Psalms 1:1-6; 2 Timothy 3:16). They can remind you that God is good, that you can find power to know God’s love and love others, and that joy is possible even during depression.

What do I do with thoughts about suicide?

Before I realized my depression, I could not imagine thinking of suicide. But during those deep moments of depression, my thoughts about death changed. I just wanted to get rid of the pain. A passing thought about death, then another, and another, until death became like a stalker.

Know this about depression: It doesn’t tell the whole truth. It says that you are all alone, that no one loves you, that God doesn’t care, that you will never feel any different, and you cannot go on another day. Even your spouse and children don’t seem like a reason to stay alive when depression is at its worst. Your mind tells you, “Everyone will be better off without me.”  But this is a lie—they will not be better off without you.

Because you aren’t working with all your faculties, keep things simple. Death is not your call to make. God is the giver and taker of life. As long as He gives you life, He has a purpose for your life. One purpose that is always right in front of you is to love another person. Begin with that purpose and then get help from a friend or a pastor. Get help!

Depression says that you are alone and that you should act that way. But that is not true. God is with you, and He calls you to reach out to someone who will listen, care, and pray for you.