salvatore asks: I am a teen. I have been facing anxiety problems for a couple of weeks. I have lost my confidence and self esteem – moreover I feel depressed. I am a topper and I was really good in studies, but now I have lost my concentration. I can’t tell this to my mother or anyone else. Can you please solve my problem of depression?
Hi Salvatore –
I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I do need to ask you one question, but I’m going to then give some suggestions assuming I know what you answered – even though I don’t! So if I’m wrong, please write me back and I can give you some other suggestions.
Here’s my question: Do you have any idea what started this depression? Was there a single event – someone rejected you, you did badly at something, you lost a friend or relative or pet?
If there was a clear “moment” that got all this going, please let me know. But I’m going to assume you answered “I have no idea.”
Based on that, here’s my answer: The teenage years are just about the most difficult time humans ever live through. They shouldn’t be – they should be as fun as the TV shows make them look – everyone’s cute and energetic, you spend your days with other cute kids learning interesting stuff, then go to dances at night… all’s great, right? Well it might be, if your bodies and brains weren’t going through about 70 zillion changes every minute. Your faces are going through changes, your body shapes are going through changes, you’re getting hair all sorts of new places, you’re starting to look at people in different ways, you’re feeling all sorts of new desires, you’re feeling sad and hurt and angry about things that never bothered you before, you’re looking at your families in far more critical ways than you used to – it’s NUTS! And when any brain – human, dog, even smaller – is hit by too much information, like this, it’s going to go down. It doesn’t know what to do.
When Handsome was training me, there’d be times I’d get very confused by the lessons. Why does he keep yelling “Sit” at me and pushing my butt down and giving me treats, and then what does “Stay” mean, and why does he yell “No” when I get up to walk to him?! I was really confused. And whenever the lesson would end, I’d have to curl up in a corner and go to SLEEP! It was the only way I could go down enough for my brain to try to work out all this new information.
Well your depression is most likely something like that. You used to be more directed – you wanted to do well in your classes, please your family, feel great about yourself. But now everything’s all over the place. You might be wondering what good a class does, you might think your dad’s silly and not worth pleasing, you might be wondering what you’re even doing in this life. This is all normal, and part of what will make you a terrific, thoughtful, analytical adult.
You just have to get through it first.
Okay, enough about that for now. Don’t hurt yourself, and I promise you’ll get through this time, and become the great student you were again. And more!
But let’s go after that self-esteem bit. Here’s what I wrote to someone else about that a while back. See if it helps.
Everybody is worse at some things than most people. Most people aren’t the very best at anything. This is absolutely fine, and does not cast any bad light on anyone’s worth. I will never be as fast as a greyhound, as big as a Great Dane, or as smart as Lassie. Big deal! I know I’ve got some worth (at least to you – you didn’t write that annoying collie, did you! You wrote ME!). And I especially know that I have worth to my dearest friends. They don’t want a smarter or stronger or prettier dog – they love ME.
So you’re feeling inferior. Well, look at the two of us. I can almost certainly run faster than you. I’m very sure I can bite harder and bigger than you can! But you can probably talk. You can probably grab things with your hand. You probably can do math. You can probably sing. Well I can’t do any of those – so who’s the inferior one here?!
But you don’t need me to put down your sense of inferiority – if you liked and respected it, you would never have written that letter to me. What you want is to move past it. And the best technique I’ve ever heard for that is to master something. Lots of people never master anything, so they don’t really realize how much they can do! So is there something that you love? Do you love music, or art, or building things? Could you take a class, and learn to play the violin, or make beautiful pots, or rebuild a car engine? Just the act of doing one of those things will make you feel immensely better about yourself. And doing it to the degree of mastery? Oh you won’t believe how good you’ll feel about yourself! Like the day I caught a squirrel and brought it in and dropped it at Handsome’s feet as he was climbing out of the shower! I felt so great! (It was funny, his reaction wasn’t exactly what I expected though – something more like, um, terror!).
The other thing I really recommend is to try to catch yourself when you say things that put yourself down. When you walk into a room of strangers, do you tell yourself “No one here wants to know me, I’m unwantable?” Well, that would be a really good thing to talk yourself out of. How about replacing it with “I don’t know anyone here, but if I’m friendly, probably someone here will like talking with me.” It’s not huge confidence, but it’s the truth, right?
And after all these suggestions, I have one more thing I want you to do. And that’s that I want you to get back to me after you try some of this. Let me know how it’s going. I would love to help you with this, and I’m sure it would do a lot of this website’s readers good to see how you work with it.
Deal? Can we shake paws on it?
Great! Good Luck on all this, Salvatore, and I hope to hear back from you soon!