Teen Depression Is Real
Most of us get up every morning wanting to live life to the fullest; we give it all we’ve got and have expectations of how far we can go. The steps between require experience and insight to understand and acquire the skills needed to navigate our path.
There is a fascinating trend in today’s youth that has become a significant hindrance to achieving what have traditionally been considered milestones to maturity.
At a recent conference discussing changes in the mental health field, the topic of trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) came up. What qualifies as trauma has changed significantly in the current version of the diagnosis. In what used to be "being involved or witnessing" an experience that is life threatening, we now include "having heard" about trauma as justification for the diagnosis.
The first rule of golf is a simple one. When aiming at a ball that is 3 inches in diameter that sits on a ball 24,000 miles in diameter, try to hit the small one.
I find this to be a great explanation of the locus of control we are given in this world. As we go through the stress of winter, it is important to remember that we only have the ability to control our own actions and emotions.
During the holidays we interact with people; sometimes when people interact conflict ensues. As we deal with the stress and emotional turmoil of dealing with other human beings, our self-control is tested. We often fantasize about fantastic acts of drama in which we openly declare our “rightness” or throw the our opposition from a window. As in golf, we fantasize that every strike will be straight and 250 yards down the center of the fairway. We often play the perfect game before actual tee off.
Yet self-control filters these thoughts as they travel from our imagination to our mouths. This visualization is a very important aspect of learning about self-control, the idea of a filter that “catches” as much of the negativity that it can. The problem being, much like a filter on a fish tank, the muddier we make the water the less this filter is able to strain from passing through and we often express ourselves in ways we regret when the water settles again. Practicing patience is much like hitting a ball in the pond, we don’t know how deep in we are until the water settles.
Often time the practice of being right instead of being kind is like practicing only from the bunkers. While it is an important skill to have, if it is the only tool we have we will end up in the bunkers on every shot. While focusing on bunker to bunker golf does give you easy targets to aim for on the course, you often miss the best places on the fairway and end up with sand in your crack. We often focus more on being right than we do on being happy, these two ideas are often mutually exclusive. This means at times you cannot be right and be happy. When we focus on the ideas of being right, we often neglect the idea we are then putting the other person as wrong. We develop a dynamic of imbalance that prevents us from being happy.
Educate yourself to deal with the hard shots when they come but focus on the enjoyment of the game, participate in every shot, and hope you don’t end up in the bunkers at all.
Evolution is an important part of the game that we must bring to our daily lives. While in golf we continually try to improve and lower our score to par, most the time in life we aren’t even sure what par is.
On a course the designers set the score to aim for, in life we often lose sight of the bigger picture because it’s not as easily defined. In golf we never question par but in life we often feel dissatisfied with what we can attain and see others as the par setters for our life.
There is a bigger picture and we feel lost at times because we are not the painter. We lose faith in our role and feel we are an insignificant mark on a canvas much larger. Finding balance and meaning can help us learn to identify our goals, make our mark, and set par. When comparing ourselves to others it is important to remember that while some are able to break par no one has shot an 18. Sometimes the greatest players are the ones that realize the value of “par anyway day”.
Beaver is a mental health professional who works at Key Peninsula Counseling Center, Lakebay
There was once a boy who lived with his father. Daily the boy felt upset and angry and lost his temper. The boy felt alone, scared, disoriented and at times simply needed to test the boundaries of the system he was in.
The father had tried everything he knew to correct the boy. Finally one day when the boy came home, his father asked if he had lost his temper and when he said he had, his father gave him a nail and said to drive it into the fence.
Every day for weeks when the boy lost his temper, his father gave him another nail and had him drive it into the fence. Finally the boy learned to control his temper and one day came home without a report of losing his temper. The father instructed the boy to pull a nail from the fence.
For every day thereafter, the boy controlled his temper and the father told him to pull a single nail. The day came when the boy had pulled the last nail. The father then told the boy, “Look at the fence” and the boy noticed that for every nail he had driven, there was still a hole in the fence. His father explained that even though he had learned to control his anger, simply pulling the nails he had driven in anger was not enough.
This story has been a moral for many people in treatment and has helped to demonstrate the boundaries of respect, communication and value that is our personal fence with which we surround our family and loved ones. Even as we have built these fences strong and stable, as we lose our temper and make choices that drive nails into these fences, we create holes that cannot be fixed by simple changes in our behavior.
We continually strive to build a structure of safety and security around our loved ones; however, simple acts can create gaps in our communication, mistrust and troubled family dynamics. When we yell, scream, hit and handle our emotional turmoil in a manner that is inappropriate and harmful, we create holes in the feelings of trust, intimacy and love; ironically these feelings are often the very things that cause us to lose our temper and feel the stress in the first place.
Understand that in our life, we are both the parent and the child, the student and the master. In our actions, we both build fences and drive holes. Fences can be mended and families can be rebuilt. Being able to examine these patterns and find ways to repair our fences is the key to happiness.
Chad Beaver is a licensed mental health professional and can be contacted at Key Peninsula Counseling Center at (253) 884-3644.
There is an old Southern story that says:
In the days when people kept pet squirrels, a lady had a pet squirrel. Every day, she would throw whole pecans in the cage with the squirrel, and all the neighbors would come and thought the squirrel busting the nut and eating all the meat from the hull was the cutest thing.
One day, the lady was walking through the grocery store and saw a 5 pound bag of shelled pecans. The lady thought it would be nice to get the shelled pecans for her squirrel and so she did. About four weeks later the little squirrel got very sick.
When the lady took her pet to the vet, the first question was what she was feeding the squirrel. When she answered that she was feeding shelled pecans the doctor became upset and told her to stop immediately.
In nature, it is the job of the squirrel to break open pecans and this grinds the rodent’s teeth back; without this task, the animal’s teeth will grow into its brain and kill it.
The lady then took the squirrel home and began throwing whole pecans back in the cage; however, after a month of free food, the squirrel refused to eat. The squirrel had become lazy. Three days later, the little squirrel was graveyard dead.
The moral of the story is a simple but true one.
In this life, we are all given jobs to do; we are given talents and skills that if we are not allowed to use, it is just as good as being graveyard dead.
While we receive regular input from media, society, friends and family often telling us what we can and can’t do and things we need and don’t need, the one certainty in life is that there is no such thing as an untalented person.
We all have an innate drive that leads our life forward and a primordial instinct to work toward a goal that is often not spoken aloud. When we listen to those who play on our insecurities and we stop listening to the feelings that drive us, we lose sight of our path and need redirection.
To give up on following our desires and finding that which drives is like the squirrel that gives up on busting pecan shells because there may be an easier way to get something for nothing.
In refusing to aim for our goals and accepting mediocrit,y we become graveyard dead on the inside.
Someone once said that the true tragedy of mankind is not aiming too high and missing; it’s aiming too low and hitting. We should always have goals that are beyond our immediate reach and when we reach our goal, it is important to acknowledge our accomplishment and quickly move on to the next out-of-reach project. This is life and this is how we define who we are and what impact we have in the time we are given.
If you are looking to redirect your current path to seek your bigger goals, there are good mental health counselors and others here in our community who can help. Give them a call and tell them your pet squirrel story.
At a recent conference on suicide prevention I heard one of the best analogies for depression. Understanding depression and isolation is like looking at a spider’s web; each strand of the web represents our social support system.
For the spider to survive it must build a web with many support strands. This allows for a wider catchment area and increases the chances of catching a fly and being able to eat, live and grow. Our lives are much like this; as we expand our support system we develop a catchment area for ideas, experience and growth. Each relationship we develop and reinforce –– such as work, community involvement, volunteering, clubs and activities –– strengthens our web.
Spiders that build webs with only a few strands are more aggressive. They understand that they have to protect the few strands they have and if a strand is broken its chances of falling increase exponentially. It must become angry and mean to keep from being mashed.
People have the same tendencies. If we build our support system with minimal strands we must be hyper-vigilant and stressed in protecting our smaller systems. When our entire system consists of only work and family and we have conflict at work the displeasure often carries over to family, and vice versa.
By expanding the webbing and adding more supports the spider is able to simply move to a more secure area of netting if one of his strands is broken. By expanding our support system we are able to refocus our mindset, focus our efforts on something other than the frustrations we are experiencing, and increase our resources to ultimately increase our chances of evolving beyond our stress.
Simple changes in our daily routines can improve our support system. Find your local resources and find those in need in your community. Socializing at local senior centers or volunteering to pick up litter can be useful ways to improve your weekly routines and improve your community.
In children, an especially important aspect of focus is the distinction between our social media outlets and our social support system.
Often in today’s society, children develop very limited social support systems.
A series of questions I often ask in practice goes like this: “How many friends do you have on Facebook?” Often I get answers in the hundreds to thousands. “What is your neighbor’s name?” Often I’m asked why they would want to know this? “If you have a fire in the night, will you blog about it or run to the nearest house for help? Wouldn’t it be good to know their name?” Often times this is followed by a look of comprehension.
Parents, by showing our children how to build a strong community we not only show them how to build their social web but we build a community that is strong and supportive.
Adding one community activity per week to your family’s routines can have significant impact on the mental health and social mindedness for generations to come. Local community resources include: Key Center Library, the Mustard Seed Project, Key Peninsula Free Clinic, Peninsula Youth Wrestling and many others in our area.