How to deal with Depression.

rain asks:

When I stepped in 9th grade I started having thoughts about death, felt hopeless, worthless, like a failure, I was on edge… I didn’t know what I was feeling I was so confused. One day my friend told me you look like a depressed person so I went home and researched depression.  Almost everything that I was feeling was there but I didn’t want to diagnose myself, so I ignored it. I started being more absent in school, didn’t want to leave my home, but when I stayed home my dad was angry and he said very hurtful things which made me worse.  When I was a kid so many people in my life who were considered family touched me in wrong ways, and my parents fought a lot and they still do, so basically everything that went wrong in my life started becoming a weight on me. I felt like a burden to my family because I scored very low in my exams, so I started cutting myself (I have stopped now). So now three years later I have come to a point where I don’t feel anything. The words that should hurt me or anger me don’t anymore. I feel numb and empty.  I can’t focus on anything. I feel like I’m bursting out of myself.  Nothing feels good anymore and I have no goals anymore. I don’t feel passionate about anything. My finals are approaching and I don’t what I am gonna do. I feel like a huge disappointment to my family, and I have started thinking about ending it all by killing myself. But I’ve realized I need help and I want you to give me advice.

Hi rain –

Let me start with one simple fact.  You have Depression.

Your letter, in fact, is basically a textbook definition of Depression.  Psychologists would give it a more specific name (Major Depressive Disorder for starters), but that’s not that important for now.  What’s EXTREMELY important is three things.

First of all, it is 100% normal for teenagers to go through a depressed time.  Human brains actually need it – your whole identity is changing from being a child to being an adult, and your mind needs to kind of “go into the woods for a while” to transition.  We hear adults complain about “sullen teenagers,” but they’re only forgetting that they went through just the same phase when they were young.  It’s a necessary time, and it can be a very useful time – your growing brain and self-awareness can lead to your gaining awareness about the world, empathy for others, your own moral code.  These are great things, and a beautiful benefit from this experience.  (While there are lots of negatives about this too, such as loss of interest in schoolwork, as you’ve found).

But secondly, your Depression is NOT just a normal teenage phase.  If I’m reading you correctly, you were abused by your family, more than once and by different people.  This has led to a Depression that has gone on for years, not just weeks or months.  And you’ve even cut yourself and reached a point of contemplating suicide.  This is an Emergency – your life is literally in danger from this Depression.  And something has to be done.

The first, and most important, thing I want you to do is to find a professional to talk with about your feelings and experiences.  I don’t know where you live, or what your lifestyle is, but a therapist, a psychologist, a religious leader who has training in counseling – any of these will help.  But you need someone, more than just a caring friend, who knows about Depression, and can help you manage it, and eventually work past it.

Secondly, they may recommend some sort of medication to help with the Depression.  I’m a big supporter of such medicines, but ONLY when they’re given by a doctor, with someone who keeps their eye on you!  Anti-Depressant medicines are not one-size-fits-all, and a pill that makes one person’s life five times better could make someone else break out in rashes, not be able to sleep, or get even more depressed.

(There’s also a danger you might relate to, that sometimes people feel as low as you do now, and take a medication that boosts their optimism just a little, to where they don’t feel good yet, but suddenly believe it’s possible to overcome these bad feelings… and this sense of possibility leads them to commit suicide!  Which of course doesn’t actually make anything better.  You see, when they didn’t see any way out, they were actually safer!  So again, I’m all for medicines, but only when prescribed by a medical doctor, and with someone following you closely to make sure they don’t take you the wrong way!)

And third, at some point, maybe not now while you’re still at home, you’re going to have to do some therapeutic work about what was done to you.  This will be painful – you’ll re-experience some of the trauma you felt as a child.  But it will be necessary, both to end the Depression and to move on into a better life.

I am SO GLAD, rain, that you reached out to me.  It was brave, and I am deeply grateful for your trust.  If I can help you in any way to find the help you need, I’ll be glad to.  But you’ve already done the first step, just by writing this letter.

I also love the name you picked for yourself.  Because you’ve just had three years of rain.  With big dark clouds, no sunshine, no blue skies, no singing birds.

But you know what’s coming?  Once you’re able to take charge of your life and beat this Depression down? 

Oh, your life will be such clear skies, with such beautiful bright morning sun, and all the birds and butterflies in the air, and the little animals running around grabbing food (and yes, us dogs chasing them with such joy!).

And bright green grasses and new leaves on the trees, and flowers – explosive flowers blasting out colors you can’t even imagine – all because of these three years of rain.

It’s not just going to be okay, rain.  It’s going to be glorious. 

Not yet, I know.  But soon.  Once you can move past this awful, awful time.

Let me know how I can help,


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