Unlike other forms of mental illness, depression sneaks up on you. It doesn't get in your face and scream at you like other forms of mental illness. One day you feel a little sluggish but you’re still able to function normally. Another day, you may find you have a headache that eventually transforms in a migraine. You may find yourself sleeping more or longer yet still feeling tired and unrested. Any of these symptoms and many more can appear to have logical causes preventing one from assessing them as signs of depression. After all, everyone experiences depression symptoms without having depression or being depressed. This means it often isn't discernible that what you're going through is depression until the symptoms have taken hold.
When symptoms can creep up and build slowly especially with logical reasons for what you’re feeling, it can be hard to recognize until it’s suddenly there. Don’t be fooled by the symptoms. Tiredness, sadness, physical aches and pains such as headaches, stomachaches and more, may seem like minor symptoms. However they and others can become overwhelming when they hit full blast and you no longer have interest in things, you no longer care about life or have the ability to push through the day, only able to lay and suffer in the silence and fog that envelopes you. At this point in the symptoms, you likely don’t even know why you are sad, or why you feel this way. There’s no reason, just darkness, hopelessness, lifelessness.
This can be extremely dangerous in teens and anyone with issues of suicide ideation. Many teens who hurt themselves through cutting or commit suicide often do so because of depression and mental pain. Thinking no one understands them, or cares what they are going through is to them powerful motivation to take drastic action. Parents, be aware of changes in your child’s attitudes or behaviors. Talk to your kids and really listen to them. Don’t dismiss what they are feeling as trivial kid stuff. It may seem minor to you, but could be the decider between life and death.
I personally suffer from various forms of mental illness, which include Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Number 2, Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic Anxiety Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They all suck, each having their own ways of debilitating me and taking me out of The Game of Life. Let's talk depression though.
In the past 3 months 6 young beautiful people, ages 17 through 28 have taken their own lives in the county I live in. We moved here about a year ago to the Midwest and I am without words as to the prevalence of suicide that exists with the young people in this area. Four were overdoses from drugs and or mixed with alcohol, one hung themselves and the other shot himself in the head. Although I have suffered from suicide ideation my entire life, I've never really had the courage to follow through with the deed, which is why I get to write this blog today.
I have been thinking and praying about what it is that is making these precious young people abort their lives at the very beginning of what life has to offer. The thing I know about depression, is that when you are sucked into that dark hole, it seems inescapable, suffocating, you come up for air and you feel a gasp of life and then you retrieve back into despair that is so overwhelming it is palpable. People who have not suffered this journey do not understand the extreme mental pain and anguish that comes with it.
People tell us to take a walk in the fresh air, call a friend, take a hot bath, read a good book, snap out of it! These benign responses only serve to render the sufferer more anxiety and despair as we can barely make it out of bed or to the bathroom. Because of working with NAMI, and being a mental health advocate, I hear many stories from those who suffer from depression. One friend shared with me that she was in such a depressive state that she couldn’t even leave her bed to urinate. She went in the bed, three times. I understand that. I completely get that. My husband and I once discussed getting plastic sheets for the bed to use during the times when I am in this condition, and he is not around, and I am incapable of even pulling my body out of the bed. She lives alone and therefore has no one to help her during this time. Do you find this disgusting to read? Appalling? Shocking? This is the type of mental anguish depression brings to its sufferer.
I have spent days in bed, sometimes weeks. When I think of the days wasted because of this insidious condition, the anger raises up inside of me against what depression has stolen. There are days the sun comes up and night falls and I am still in the bed. I watch the shadows grow longer from my window and realize that another day has been spent and lost. If you ask someone that truly suffers from depression, they will tell you that at times it's even hard to breathe. We feel we don't have the strength. It is all we can do to take the very breath needed to keep us alive.
If you go on social media, as I do for research, you will read the stories of those that suffer from depression and how it has robbed them of their ability to live a normal life. I know people that have not showered or brushed their teeth for weeks at a time. Their spouse or caretaker must bring them into the bathroom and perform the very tasks that others take for granted on a daily basis. We who suffer do not like to divulge or discuss the extent to which this condition renders us into such a hopeless state. We hide it well. This is because, if you have not felt how the depressive state of mind can take over your entire body and weaken you, you would never understand. There seems to be a commonly held thought by those who have never experienced depression, that we have the ability to pull ourselves out. If only we could.
Antidepressants do help to a certain point. I've been on them for many years. Eventually your body becomes immune to a particular drug from staying on it so long and it is time to switch drugs. Titration and withdrawal are their own special hell that we must endure in order to see if the new drug will even work. If it does not, then it’s back to the drawing table, and the circle of trying to fix the level and lack of Serotonin in our brains.
Taken from an article in TIME magazine, from 2007 to 2015 alone, suicide rates doubled among teen girls and by more than 30 percent among teen boys. While the suicide rate fell in 2007—3.7 to 2.4 per 100,000 girls and 18.1 to 10.8 per 100,000 boys—it spiked again in 2015 to 5.1 per 100,000 girls and 14.2 per 100,000 boys. Aug 4, 2017.
Our youth are killing themselves and it is a silent epidemic. I told you the statistics that I know of just in my small county alone and I'm sure there are many that I don't even know about. My personal opinion is that we are not teaching our children how to cope with life. We are not giving them the skill set, the self-esteem, or the bounce back ability that they need desperately to survive in today's society. Depression sets in because there is a sense of hopelessness and blankness with regard to their future. They are so used to having everything, instantaneously, 24/7, bombarded by so many venues on a daily basis that they do not know how to process if something does not go their way or they have to wait.
We have negated social skills and relationships to a 10-second text message. The words in the message are even abbreviated because of their length. If you don't like somebody, delete them. If you don't want to deal with someone, ignore their text message. Forget listening to an answering machine message on the phone, which went away long ago. Our youth live cyber fantasy lives, captured in pictures or snippets of video on Snapchat that paint a picture of perfection, happiness and living the life. In reality, their hours are filled with parents that no longer relate to their children, teachers that have given up long ago, and a society that does not know how to get a handle on this generation.
I have found that, with my generation, the Baby Boomers, many have refused to even engage or learn how to utilize these social media tools, so their children are free in the cyber world. Unbeknownst to their parents, the most horrific things are going on, right under their noses, on a handheld device that gives these children access to everything and anything imaginable. It starts at an early age. They become swirled into a circle and lifestyle that does not exist in reality, yet it rules their minds and lives and has more influence over them then their parents.
Back to my topic of depression, I feel that this onslaught of social media and abundance of devices and ways to form a personality “on line” has left our children and even some adults with the inability to know their true selves. When they are faced with the harshness and reality of the real world, they are in for a rude awakening. Is it any wonder why they retreat back into the fantasy land they created. It’s so much easier.
Once depression has set in to a young adult or anyone for that matter, the darkness takes over. If they continue and have the strength to post online, or they go online during the depressive episode, then it gets very interesting. There is a myriad of choices and selections; roads they can go down to move deeper and deeper into the darkness.
They can find things likes “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. The best-selling young adult novel tells the story of Hannah Baker, a high school girl who kills herself, leaving behind cassette tapes detailing the 13 people she blames for driving her to suicide. Because my daughter and son-in-law are in youth ministry at church, they’ve had to sit in and endure watching this series on Netflix about this young girl and how she kills herself. My daughter described the graphic depictions shown throughout the series, down to the young girl cutting her wrists with razor blades and bleeding out in the tub where her mother finds her this way.
I am totally opposed and outraged, that anyone finds this recommended viewing for our youth today. Instead of a Netflix series on self-esteem or how to work through a depressive episode, we are teaching them, I will repeat teaching them, HOW to kill themselves. Is it any wonder as to the spike in teen suicides? We are talking out of both sides of our mouths as adults. Wringing our hands and crying our eyes out as we attend the funeral of another young person and yet creating a series teaching them how to kill themselves. Insanity.
I said earlier that I have suffered from suicidal thoughts and ideation my entire life. When I was in my teens and twenties and under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it gave me the courage and the lack of moral consciousness and even physical feeling that is necessary to stop these acts. Wasted and numb, I would cut myself with glass and watch the blood flow down my arm oblivious to the pain. I would put pills my mouth that I didn't even know what they were, where they came from or what they did. I will stop there as my point has been made that when these kids of ours blend in the use of drugs and alcohol, with a depressive episode, the knowledge of how to kill themselves, we have the perfect storm don't we? I was blessed and lucky in my day in the 1970s, that we really only went so far. A girlfriend or boyfriend would stop me, or, I would realize and snap out of it. There does not seem to be a down volume switch on these teenagers today.
Solutions. What do we do? I believe the first thing is that if you are a parent you have the absolute necessity to educate yourself on the social media scene. You must know the difference between Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Musical.ly, and all the other various forms of media out there available to your child. I know you work a full-time job. Guess what? Parenting is also a full-time job. You need to know their passwords to the social media sites they frequent. Check their cell phones regularly. After all, who pays the bill? Where did we relinquish our rights to inspect something that we provide out of our paycheck and give to our children? You need to know whom your kids are hanging with and where are they going? These are such obvious things that have been tucked under the rug of “I don't have time” or again my generation refusing to make the time because it is too hard to figure it all out. Poor baby. You have to learn new technology. Get over it!
I know of a beautiful teenager, blonde, blue eyes gorgeous figure, who acts like the girl next door, goes to church, holds a job AND has a porn site where she takes off her clothes for men and performs sexual acts and even meets up with some of these men online at places to have sex with them. Her parents are clueless and have absolutely no idea that she is doing this and has this secret life that she leads. She told me her story and confessed that she is a complete pornography addict because her female babysitter sexually molested her since she was young child. A trusted friend of the family, who is still in her family circle, a friend of her mothers who is a predator and has ruined this young girl for life.
Take your children to places like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narconon, and have them sit in with you on a meeting to hear firsthand the stories of the irreparable damage of substance abuse. Get involved in the ”Let's Stay” movement for kids who are committing suicide. Even if you think they don't need it, bring your child to a knowledgeable and respected therapist or counselor who is well versed in this field and let them attend a half a dozen sessions with the counselor. Flush it out. See if there's anything going on. How about communicating and knowing the parents of the other kids your children are hanging around with? When was the last time you checked your child's backpack or purse. Does that seem intrusive? When did we stop doing that?
My husband and I always had complete open door communication with our daughter. That meant that no matter what she did or got herself into, we would not judge her or condemn her, we would teach her and mentor her back to the path of the right way. I remember many occasions when she was going down the wrong road. The tough conversations that had to be had. The intervention that had to be done. Communicate openly with your child.
If you find your child is suffering from any of the symptoms of depression described above, it cannot be ignored. Unless you, the parent, wish to suffer the consequences on the other side of the depression coin. Suicide. They need help. They need counseling, a check up with a psychiatrist and to be payed attention to, listened to, physically touched and held by their mom and dad. They need a shoulder to cry on if things get rough. They need a safe place to turn when they are out of options.
This is more than a soap box message. It is a plea and a cry from someone who has by the grace of God survived this road and I have the right to talk about it. Truly, I should not be alive today. I feel I am supposed to do what I am doing, advocating for the mentally ill and trying to educate as much as I possibly can to those who do not understand what we live with.
Turn a blind eye if you will, but deep down you will know that you are a hypocrite when your feudal tears cannot resurrect your child or loved one that takes their life from a depressive episode. After all, if you do not get involved, someone else will certainly fill that void, and you may not like the consequences.
With you on the Journey, Alice