Monday, October 20, 2014

Teenage Depression ~ Sometimes You Just Can't Smile & Where's Lenny Lee?

***I have two posts for today, so if you're here to celebrate a fantastic teen's birthday feel free to skip to the latter part of this post. If you're Lenny, QUICK! Scroll to the bottom.

List of Participants
I'm please to be part of this ingenious blogfest hosted by Stephen Tremp, Michael Di Gesu, Diane Wolfe, and Alex Cavanaugh. 

It's meant to bring awareness of disease prevention and early detection regarding medical conditions that may be averted or treated if caught in the early stages. Our desire is to motivate people to go in for early screening, and if a condition is caught early and treated, then our world just became a little better place to live. 

Here's my contribution.


Most everyone knows or has heard the name Robin Williams. He's been in countless films and comedy shows, igniting smiles and lightening hearts in millions over his professional career. He started making me laugh when I was in elementary school, while watching him during his stint as Mork for Ork on the television show Mork & Mindy. His sudden passing stunned many. But the hand he had in his own death was the real shocker. Bewilderment and sadness that a man with the capacity to give such joy to others yet somehow could not feel it himself spread rapidly. It also placed a spotlight on the mental disorder of Depression, how well some people can wear a fake outer skin, and how it affects loved ones of the sufferer.  

All of us can have a sense of being depressed ~ sadness, gloom, dejection. We all have crappy days. Our bodies are chemically engineered with sparks of electricity firing at all angles throughout every day. We are emotional beings, which plays a part in our genetic make up. Events and circumstances can flair our emotions and affect our chemistry. It happens to all of us. But it eventually wears off, after we've had time to reflect or maybe spend time with a friend. Clinical Depression is an entirely different animal. Sufferers can not just make themselves happy or change their outlook. It can be an emotional up and down daily battle. Tell her to just smile, as I've been told, will not work for them. 
 
By collective definition, Clinical Depression: a depression so severe as to be considered abnormal, either because of no obvious environmental causes, or because there action to unfortunate life circumstances is more intense or prolonged than would generally be expected. 
NOTE: I by no means am a physician or councilor, or an expert on depression. However, I've had personal experience dealing with the disorder, suffering from Post-Partem after my third baby (take that Tom Cruise) and taking care of a clinically diagnosed family member for years.
Saying that, my focus here is on our youth, particularly teenagers. I write for children and love seeing the world through their eyes. But their world is not always rose petals and lollipops. Many kids have real life issue to handle. My current young adult project ~ a teenage girl who cares for a severely depressed parent, what she has to sacrifice, what that does to her, and how she deals with it all ~ has lent me lots of research into depression and teenage depression. 

The teenage years are by far the most volatile emotionally. Everything is a tragedy, a calamity. In their minds, no one understand what they're going through. We all remember feeling like that at some teenage point.

These years are the inner battle of adolescent Meism slowly losing ground to the revelation that the world does not revolve around them. Of course, there are loads of variables attached here. Everyone is an individual, different situations, circumstances, environments, etc... Each handles those uniquely. 

Feeling down or 'bad' is real to any of us, but especially during the middle grade and high school years of self discovery. Where do I belong? Who am I? Who do I want to become? In today's world, there's a lot of stress on these kids to answer those questions.  

Yes, there is a difference between feeling down and feeling as though one has been sucked into a black hole. But do not take any sense of depression lightly. You and I do not know the true workings of another's inner mind and heart. Pay attention. A life could be at stake.

Here are a few of the more common warning signs that might give you pause to a teenager suffering from a form of depression:
  • Sleeping excessively
  • Sudden disinterest in food or compulsive overeating leading to weight loss or gain
  • Memory loss
  • Unusual irritability
  • Irrational and/or rebellious behavior - skipping classes, driving recklessly, forgetting regular obligations like babysitting or work 
  • A sense of hopelessness
  • Outwardly feeling sorry for self
  • School work suffering; drop of letter grades
  • Apathetic attitude toward what was normally important to them: grades, athletics, music, etc...
  • Begin dabbling in alcohol and/or drugs
  • Isolate self
  • Disinterest in friends
  • Talk of death/dying
  • Headaches, fatigue, other aches and pains.
  • Overdoing actions or obnoxious in public
  • A heredity edge - (a symptom you might not be aware of: family history of depression)
Here are sites, organizations, articles, and books with more information on teenage depression, how to help, and how to manage it. 

Beyond the Blues by Lisa M. Schab
Anxiety Workbook for Teens by Lisa M. Schab
Mindfulness for Teen Anxiety by Christopher Willard

Thank you for reading, and please take this post to heart. Depression can happen to anyone, even those least likely to fall victim. Don't be afraid to ask questions, be attentive. You're not nosy. You care. <3


original image credit
I first met Lenny Lee through the blogosphere, while reading a post written by the fabulous Candace G. Her admiration for this young eleven-year-old kid struck a cord inside my heart. I then followed Lenny's trail to my amazing writer pal Sharon Mayhew and discovered Lenny's courageous journey and battle with cancer. 
Most of you will remember Lenny for his blog Lenny's World and from his imfamous sunshine logo. 
Dear Lenny,

You are one of my heroes. Your resilience amazes me. The way you see the world through hope-filled eyes and recognize the glass as half-full comforts me. There really is a better tomorrow. Thank you for being a light in my life and in the lives of your blogging buddies. 
We HEART U!
Happy 15th Birthday!!!
 photo Sheri2.png

53 comments:

  1. When I was a foster parent, I saw first hand what depression can do to teenagers. One of our kids was a cutter because it was the only way she knew how to deal with the pain.

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    1. Oh, that's so sad and tough. Glad she had you. ((hugs))

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  2. HI, Sheri,

    This is a very important topic. Many teens do have to content with so much in their lives. Your book sounds intense and real. Something teens who are experiencing a similar situation need to read. I wrote my second novel about a teenage boy's abuse by his drunken father. Real life issues. Sad but true.

    More stories like ours need to be out there for these teens to read. They need to know they are not alone in their situation.

    On a lighter note... HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Lenny! He is a special kid and one who deserves to be happy and healthy.

    Cancer is such a terrible condition and inflicts so many, but to see it in a child is just heartbreaking. Thankfully these kids have a light so powerful within them they overpower the physical condition.

    HAVE a WONDERFUL DAY, LENNY!!!!!

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  3. Happy Birthday, Lenny. As a former high school teacher, I know how dangerous and sadly common teenage depression is. Good choice to highlight.

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  4. I used to be a high school English teacher, and yes, the teenage years are just crazy. Every day is = one year of drama. Good and bad. Makes a great setting for a book, but it's a tough time for so many. We definitely need more resources to help those with clinical depression.

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    1. Every day is = one year of drama is a perfect analogy! And saying that is not making fun of them. It's real. It was real to most of us. Thank you for sharing from your wisdom and experience.

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  5. Wait, half of those depression symptoms go with pregnancy... Not saying anything here, it just gave me a chuckle. Depression is definitely a serious thing, and I think as adults in these kids lives, we have a responsibility to notice the symptoms and lift where possible. Too often we sit back in our pretty-pretty lives and ignore (or remain oblivious to) the suffering happening around us. I think it's that apathy that leads to many of the problems society faces.

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  6. YaY Lenny. Happy birthday, buddy. We all miss you! And we all love you!!

    I know a kid who is depressed. He carries a knife in his boot. Both his parents have never engaged with him. The kids want to call social service in hopes of getting him into a great foster home. I don't know. It could make matters worse. *sigh*

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  7. Happy Birthday Lenny!!! *hugs*

    Great post on depression. As a teacher, I've known lots of kids who've had difficulties in this area. Helping them out has become a big part of my job these days.

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  8. This is such an important topic--thank you so much for highlighting it!

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  9. Wow, two important posts in one day, Sheri. Your post on depression is chock-full of helpful advice. It's so true that clinical depression is different and way more serious. Medication and therapy are usually the only way to combat it. Several members of my family suffer from this and it affects all of us.

    And then... Happy Birthday to Lenny! How amazing is that kid? I can't believe he's 15! And I love how we're all doing something slightly different today but with the same warm feelings.

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    1. So true that it affects the entire family, friends, etc... Saying that is not a shameful thing. (From my experience most people think that.) It's simply the truth, just like how any other illness affects the sufferer's loved ones. For some reason, mental illness is looked upon differently. We are the ones who can change that stigma.

      Thank you for commenting, and YAY for Lenny, right. Can't believe he's 15.

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  10. There's so much observant parents, teachers and friends can do to help those with depression. Great reminder here today.

    And what a wonderful birthday present good health is! Happy Birthday, Lennie.

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  11. Hi Sheri, great post! Very well researched and thought out. I'm glad to see the mental aspect of a healthy lifestyle being covered. Often the signs of clinical depression are right in front of us. We just need to slow down, look, and dig a little deeper to find them in ourselves and others.

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  12. Depression is such an important subject and so I'm glad you've discussed it today.

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  13. Depression is serious whatever age and it can happen to very young children. It should always be taken seriously. Thanks for a very informative post, Sheri.

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  14. Factor in teen suicide and you definitely have to watch for the symptoms.
    Thanks for participating today, Sheri. This was important.

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    1. Yes, it was. Glad I muscled out the post, yesterday. What I didn't mention was that two weeks before Cassidy's hayride accident, that same neighboring community suffered a teenage suicide death - a girl jumped of a bridge in my town. The girl was a senior at the same high school Cassidy (a junior) attended. Just awful. I hate driving across that bridge now.

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  15. Hi Sheri - depression is really terrible ... and I have a close friend who gets it ... and I've experienced it family-wise ...

    You've given us a great list of links to follow up on ... I appreciate the learning I get here ..

    And then Lenny - he's just amazing ... we have such a wonderful blogging rapport - he's a delight ... and we email etc ...

    Cheers and having read Michael's post and your comment ... I wish you well - Hilary

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    1. Thanks so much, Hilary! You are so kind. I really enjoy your comments. And I know Lenny has!

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  16. I hate it when I hear "sweet 16". What is sweet about it? You bring up great pointers. Insomnia is also a tell tale sign. The frontal lobe is the last part of the brain to be developed and doesn't full form until a person is 22/23 years old. I found this out when taking classes on dementia and the nurse explained this. Everything in the body is changing and children can be horribly cruel. You give expert advice and always let the child know they are loved and that there are ears to listen with and not judge. Great advice

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    1. Great comment and contribution to this important discussion! Thank you. You are so correct about the sweet part. Who the heck came up with that description? Very interesting about the frontal lobe developing later on.

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  17. Informative post. Depression can by easy to hide. I remember sitting down with several friends and and someone brought up the subject anti-depressant medication. It turned out 3 of the women at the table had been prescribed them at one point in their lives. I was surprised.

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    1. So glad you mentioned this. It's very true. Lots of people at some point in their lives need help. There is nothing wrong with it. (Obviously, I'm not talking about anyone taking advantage of a situation or the system. But someone who has a real issue.) Like I mentioned: we are chemical beings. Those chemicals can fluctuate due to many causes and sometimes for balance to return the body needs help. Once again - there is nothing wrong with getting help.

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  18. There is so much that is not understood about clicnical depression. So many things that many of us can't truly comprehend. But it's good there are places help can be sought for those who recognize the symptoms in themselves or for those who see the signs in those they love.

    And Happy Birthday to Lenny :-)

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    1. True on all counts. My main issue with clinical depression is that many people are ignorant to the true facts, yet judge. That doesn't help the sufferers, their family/friends, or the condition at all. Knowledge is power and it can be comforting, especially to know you are not alone.

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  19. So many teenagers suffer from depression. My daughter told me many of her friends do and her boyfriend's flares up bad at times where we worry about his safety. She just had to temporarily break up with him for a few days because she couldn't deal with it or help him. Thankfully, that was his wake up call to go back into therapy. I'm not surprised that kids get depressed with all the pressure and stress they must live with if they're smart and want to get into a good college. It's too much!

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    1. Oh good! So glad he's back into therapy. You bring up another fantastic point. It's tough to love someone suffering from depression. It's an up and down battle for that person as well. Whether it's a parent, friend. romantic interest, or coworker it can be a struggle and frustrating. Your daughter is a strong cookie. So proud of her!

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  20. I've seen some of my sons' friends go through awful periods. Even if teens aren't depressed, high school can be brutal!

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  21. Thanks for this informative post. As mum to a daughter I always worry when I see her stressed during exams.

    Happy Birthday to Lenny.

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    1. So glad you brought this up! Anything in life can stress out a teen - including their grades. My daughter is a sophomore in high school, and finds nothing but an 'A' acceptable as a grade. Granted, I'm thankful she takes her grades seriously. But sometimes she takes it too far. We only want her to be 'her' best, not 'the' best. I'm always telling her that it's okay, but she has her mind set. Like you, I keep a close eye on this part of her.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  22. Unfortunately, I had 2 teens that suffered from depression. One grew out of it!!! Good Post!!!

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  23. hi miss sheri! BIG thanks for doing a cool post for my birthday. it was a BIG surprise that some of my best blogger friends did posts for me. it made me cry for feeling so special and loved. ive got the best blogger friends. and...my blogger friends pull me up when im down and feeling all depressed. did you know one of my brothers works with people that's mentally ill? lots of them are really young and a lot of them turn to drugs for help. the clinical ones need meds and good counseling. im glad you did a post on depression. its just way important to know about it and what symptoms to look for and to find ways we could help.

    ...lots of love and big hugs from lenny

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  24. Thanks so much for bringing this disease out into the open. We have to be vigilant. Thanks for listing symptoms. Hopefully, it will save someone's live.

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    1. Gosh, Diane. At reading your comment my heart skipped a beat. I hope it does help save someone. ((hugs))

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  25. Lots of birthday wishes for Lenny today :) Hope you are feeling ok Lenny.

    Teenage depression is a big problem. I see it as a social worker. This was a great post Sheri.

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    1. Thanks, Donna. I'm sure you see lots as a social worker. Tough job. Kudos to you for all you do!

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  26. Great (and needed) post about depression, Sheri. Thank you for spreading awareness!

    And a huge birthday shout out to Lenny!

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  27. Really great post. I wish we would all spend more time helping each other.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Heather

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  28. Depression is often that silent killer. So the more we talk about it, the better.

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  29. I've worked with teens in multiple facets (school and as a manager at a theater), and I think it's easy for people to forget that teens face very real issues, including depression.

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  30. What an important blog hop.

    And happy birthday to Lenny!

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  31. Crystal - Very true. We just need to pay a little more attention. Sometimes that's all it takes.

    Robyn - Oh Robyn! That is an extremely tough, delicate, and volatile situation all around. It could really go one of many ways. I truly hope he can find someone to look up to, confide in.

    Jemi - Thank God for teachers like you. I live in a neighborhood with a few elementary school teachers. I am always astound when we chat at the things they are doing for kids instead of teaching simply academics. There are plenty of good parents out there, creating solid homes. But for each of those there are a dozen kids/teens who don't have that support. I can't imagine how rough it must be emotionally on some of those teens. :(

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  32. Great post! This is a wonderful resource for people who suffer from depression or know people who do. The teen years are especially tough. I'm watching for these things with my daughter.

    Happy Birthday, Lenny!

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  33. I think we've all dealt with depression to some degree and I have no doubt that it's harder for some people to escape from it than others. I work with teenagers so I plan to save this as a resource – I just hope I never need to use it!

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  34. Sheri, thanks for sharing this important information about depression.

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  35. Thank you for sharing the topic of teenage depression.
    Teens have SO MUCH MORE to deal with these days. And teen depression seems to be on the rise.

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  36. Great post! This is a very serious topic and one we can't ignore. I think the pressures on teens these days are much greater than when I was a teen, and we need to support them.

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  37. Happy birthday to Lenny! Sheri, this is a good post on depression. Such important information.

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  38. Happy birthday to Lenny! Thank you for such a wonderful post Sheri. Depression is a very serious thing that we all need to be aware of.

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  39. It's so sad that people never really think about depression as something to watch out for in teens. It can be so damaging.


    A belated happy birthday to Lenny. :-)

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  40. I, too, was deeply saddened and shocked by the passing of Robin Williams. Depression is real and it's scary. A friend of mine has teenage daughters who have talked their friends out of ending their lives. As parents, I think being in tune with our kids is key, and recognizing those symptoms early so they can receive the help they need. You're right, it's not something they can just snap out of or change with a smile. This was a great post, Sheri! Thank you for raising the awareness!

    And happy belated birthday to Lenny! :)

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  41. This is a very valuable post. It's hard to spot the difference between an actual depressed teen and a teen that's just changing into who they are meant to be. Often, it's a friend that spots it, but that friend is also a teen, so getting an adult to take it seriously is next to impossible. I say this not as an adult now who is throwing down judgement, but as someone who was once a teen and didn't know how to help a friend. Or how to really help, because I did what I could, but I don't know that it was enough. She's still alive, but suffers from PTSD.

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