Depression Is Real
The first thing you need to understand is that depression is a very real illness. There are various forms of depression, and many times more than one coexists. Depression may also coexist with a form of anxiety. If you’ve read “I Am That I Am: The Outcast“, you know that I have three forms of depression and two of anxiety.
Depression can be caused by absolutely nothing and sneak up on the sufferer seemingly out of nowhere or it can be caused by various life events and experiences. Depression as an illness is far different than the temporary feeling of being depressed. Feeling depressed may be brought on by:
- A death of a loved one (which could become a full blown depression illness)
- A loss of a job
- Losing your home
- A car wreck
- Various other incidents in life
But this feeling generally passes over time as you pick up the pieces. Depression the illness, on the other hand, is not a temporary feeling. It’s often times a lifelong feeling that needs to be dealt with day in and day out. The sufferer is often times battling in their own head against various thoughts of worthlessness, failure, self doubt, wondering what others truly think of them, questioning if their a burden to loved ones, and countless other thoughts.
This battle is usually unseen because the sufferer wears a smile, some crack jokes constantly, and makes every attempt to hide what they’re feeling and going through. Why? Because they don’t want to burden others with their problems. Sufferers worry that their problems or thoughts will seem miniscule to others, or that it’ll scare off friends and loved ones by talking about it. I’m guilty of this myself, and am only now trying my hardest to speak about it so maybe my story could help someone else. If my story saves just one life, it will be well worth the potential ridicule from those closest to me.
Even if someone appears happy, says nothing is wrong, and constantly makes wise cracks, it doesn’t mean everything is ok. In fact, these are the people that are most likely suffering the hardest. Remember Robin Williams? Amazing comedian, always seemed happy, and yet he committed suicide because of his inner battles with depression.
Depression Doesn’t Have An Age Requirement
Despite what many believe, depression does not have an age requirement. Yes, it’s true many will develop a depressive illness in their 30’s or older as a response to their lives at that point in time. But many types, including Borderline Personality Disorder and BiPolar Disorder, can start in the teen years or younger. This largely depends on genetics and their environment they’re growing up in.
Again, if you’ve read “I Am That I Am: The Outcast“, you know I have memories of my depression starting as early as the first grade. Though it could have began earlier; however, that’s the earliest I remember that the signs really started showing. I’m not going to go fully into my story now; but my depression was caused, in large part, by my home life. As I said, my earliest memories showing signs of depression was the first grade. But I’ve heard stories that go back to my infancy that could have began my road to depression – especially if my entire early childhood was the same, or worse, as the part I remember.
Most people believe, no matter how wealthy or poor, they’re doing the best for their children. But you need to understand the mind of a child. A child learns from what they see, hear, and experience. It’s your job, no matter what, to show your child love. Make time for your child. I don’t care how long your work day was, how stressed you are, or how upset you are at your child, make time for them. In most cases, a child that is doing poor in school or is acting out, is craving positive attention from their parents.
Early on I was doing fairly well in school, and I looked up to my dad. He was my superhero and I wanted to be just like him. I did everything I could to get his attention. But by third grade I gave up on school. Why? The only attention I received was negative.
Now, before I continue, I need to say that we have spoken about the past and we have a much better and healthier father/son relationship now than we did when I was young. I love my dad, and I understand now why certain things were the way they were; but that unfortunately doesn’t change what happened, my memories, or my thoughts that I battle in my head. It’s also important to note that my dad isn’t the sole reason for my issues, nor was my home life. Though it did play a big part in it.
More often than not, when my dad was home, he wasn’t in a good mood and everyone was walking on eggshells. I’d hear all the time how he’d come to my baseball games, boy scout tournaments, and karate classes, but I don’t remember him showing up at all. That bothered me. When I did do bad in school, rather than try to understand why and help me the best he could, I’d get yelled at and punished. No matter how perfect and quick chores were done, they were never perfect enough or quick enough.
My mom wasn’t really any better. She seldom helped me with my school work when I struggled with it either. She was usually off in her own world. There was much more going on too, but I didn’t realize these other things until I was older so I’m not going to mention them now.
Getting back to what I was saying earlier, kids learn from their environment. From the little I just exposed, do you get the impression this was the perfect loving family? How is a child supposed to learn love, learn how to deal with emotion, learn coping skills for different aspects of life, if the only thing being taught is either anger or to completely ignore it as if it doesn’t exist? These things may seem like no big deal to you. And as an adult, it really isn’t a big deal. As an adult, we have more serious issues to deal with. And the common thing said is “you don’t understand” or “you’ll understand when you’re older”. This is true. A child doesn’t understand work-life balance. A child doesn’t understand the stress revolving around keeping your job or keeping your business afloat. A child doesn’t understand the stress of figuring out how you’re paying all the bills. And it’s not their job too. That’s what you need to understand. It’s your job as their parents to teach them how to deal with things like this.
No matter how stressful life gets, it’s your job to make time for them and show them you love them. Hearing it or saying you pay the bills, etc isn’t showing them anything. All that’s expressing is you care more about your job and money than you do about them. By the time they’re old enough to understand otherwise, the mental damage is already done. Yes, you can repair the relationship. But you can’t replace the lost time or erase the damage that your child now has to suffer with for the rest of their lives.
You need to understand that something as simple as trying to understand their school work and helping them with a problem subject, showing up to their sports games, asking how their day was, makes all the difference in their minds. It shows them you care. And in the process, you are showing them how to love, how to deal with life’s problems, how to deal with different emotions. Everything that’s important to nurture a mentally healthy brain.
Your life as an adult is a job and maintaining the bills. But their lives are school and you. The smallest of things, and seemingly insignificant, makes the biggest impacts on a child’s mind. Would you rather your child grow up with warm memories of love and affection? Or grow up angry and not knowing how to love another or how to deal with the real world? How you treat your child, the time you do or don’t give your child, makes all the difference in which outcome will take place.
By the time I got into high school, I was seriously troubled. I got suspended and eventually expelled in my senior year and had to finish school by being home-schooled (my teachers came to my house after school hours). Before the ultimate expulsion, I had several visits to psychologists on the schools demands. All this happened not because I was a bad kid, but because I got mixed up with the wrong crowd and took the fall for them on several occasions. I was ultimately diagnosed in my early 20’s when I went to a psychologist on my own will.
At 16 I knew I was different. That’s when it was bad enough that even I noticed I wasn’t normal, and signed up for psychology class to try and figure out what was wrong with me. That’s really what kicked off my obsession with health & wellness. I already felt like an outsider my whole life as it was. Can you imagine how much worse I felt realizing I wasn’t normal? That really only made things worse, because now I was purposely trying to act normal; which only made me look that much weirder. There’s a world of events to explain this, but that’s a story for another time.
Pay Attention To Your Kid
Can you imagine how my life might have been if my home life was just a little different? If my dad vented about work but then helped me with my school work, turned the chores into something fun, and showed up to my after school activities? If my mom showed a little more concern and willingness to help? Oh what a life I could have had.
Now, I’d probably still would have developed BiPolar, as it runs in the family. And the PTSD possibly would have come anyway depending on where my life went after I finished high school. But I wouldn’t have Borderline, Dysthymia, or General Anxiety. I would have known how to better handle different events at school with the other kids. I may have surrounded myself with a different circle of friends. And who knows? My post-high school life could have gone in a much more prosperous direction sooner, completely avoiding the scenario that caused my PTSD.
Don’t get the wrong idea here, I’m not blaming all my life’s problems on my home life as a child. There were many factors at play, that was only one. What I am saying, is if my home life as a child was just a bit more loving and positive, I may have been able to make better decisions than I did. I may have been better prepared for, and cared more about, what life threw at me. But growing up, I was essentially taught to respond by ignoring it or with anger. The only real positive thing I learned, and it was learned from my dad, is my work ethic. Almost to the extreme. I’m a workaholic. If I’m not busy, I don’t feel productive or worthy.
Though, one could also say, that I also learned how to care by experiencing how not to care. The better circle of friends I had always came to me to discuss their problems. I was the counsellor of that circle. I also got really good at detecting when people are upset or when a child is in an abusive situation. These are a few, and possibly the only, positives my life gave me. Everything else a child is supposed to learn from their parents, I had to learn the hard way as I moved through life. I literally had to learn what love felt like in my relationships from school up to now. Needless to say, my first few relationships were train wrecks.
It’s also important I mention that decent lives aren’t exempt from development of depression either. You could be super successful, give your child everything they want, make life super easy for your child, and your child could still develop depression. Simply by your not being around and an active part of their life. Many will jump the gun and say poor families are more prone because the parents are working two or three jobs. But that success you have, whether it be your own business, a corporate position, or even law enforcement, how many hours are putting in to your work to maintain that success? Even when you’re home? All the while ignoring your child. So yes, your child has an easy life but not a good life. It’s not a good life, because despite having it all, they don’t have you – the most important thing they could have.
Just based on the little I’ve exposed of myself and my experiences with depression growing up, do you really want your child to grow up like I did? Feeling the way I did? Feeling as though their parents don’t care about them? Feeling completely worthless? I’d like to hope not.
The next time your child says they feel depressed, or if you took them to a psychologist or psychiatrist, and they were diagnosed with a form of depression, listen to them. Don’t just brush it with a statement to the effect “what do you have to be depressed about?”. Instead, take it as a wake up call or a desperate cry for positive, loving, attention. Think to yourself:
- How much time do we spend together?
- How many after school activities have I missed versus made it to?
- How often do I offer to help with their school work and teach them to problem solve?
- How often do we just sit and talk?
If you’re answers to yourself are that you can’t remember, or seldom, that right there is why your child feels depressed. They feel you don’t care and they don’t belong because you’re not spending enough time with them. Before having a child, your life may be nothing but work and paying bills. But the minute that child is born, your life is forever changed. You are now responsible for teaching that new life how to feel, how to problem solve, how to socialize, and help them be just as successful in life, if not more so, than you.
Very rarely does a parent not care about their children. But unfortunately it’s all too common where parents don’t know how to properly express their care and love. And it’s as simple as just being their for them. Being a positive influence. So please, next time you hear a child has depression, especially your own, don’t be so quick to write it off. Many adults who are finally diagnosed with a form of depression, more often than not, it stems from something in their childhood. Granted, yes many make it to adulthood and eventually get diagnosed and treated, but there are those who don’t make it that far. That is a sad reality. I’m not trying to instill unnecessary worry or concern, but at the same time you don’t want your child to become a statistic. I’d also like to believe you also would rather your child not have to suffer with inner battles everyday for their whole lives either, treatment sought or not.
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