First of all, simply feeling blue, sad, morose, listless or disinterested should not be referred to as depression. Even in your own head it’s best to know the difference between when you feel a mood swing coming on and the actual medical term called ‘adolescent depression’. Even casually telling people that you’re depressed, when you’re not, wouldn’t be a very good idea. This will make you more prone to depression in later life, and to avoid that you need to be clear about what depression really is.
1# Get your facts right
The internet is one of the most amazing doctors, I’ve ever met. No flirting, no you-shouldn’t-have-done-thats and no bitter medication. So first of all, go online, type adolescent depression, and click on the first link you get. Read everything from the chemical changes that take place, to the outward symptoms and signs in teenagers that manifest during depression. Read from several different sources, and keep a mental check list of all the symptoms that do, or do not coincide.
My suggestion, is to try out the Online Wakefield Questionnaire – a simple multiple choice page, that will inform you whether you have a certain or vague chance of depression.
#2 Medical History
You should voluntarily give some blood tests to check the general nutrient value in your body. There are several important vitamins that affect the hormone levels, in a way that the mood-cheering hormones are not secreted properly leading to mood fluctuation and other depression-like symptoms.
Also you should find out from your parents or other family members, about the genetic history. Depression can also be a hereditary trait which may have been an otherwise dormant gene in your body suddenly activated for many reasons. If you know of someone closely related who suffered from a more severe mental illness, then it certainly makes your more prepared to deal with this. Sometimes, even before the actual depression sets in, you can avoid it.
#3 Physical Illness
In adolescents, Depression is more often a phase rather than a disability that you will carry over to your adult life. Sometimes, any physical illness, that seems to be prolonged and/or restricts your life in several ways will inevitably start affecting the way you think. Certain things may not be easy to achieve and it is best to lower your expectations of yourself a bit and take enough treatment for the actual physical illness. In this case, it is imperative that you be clear that as soon as your recover, your depression will also most certainly disappear.
#4 Emotional Trauma
Premature development of emotions, inculcating sensitivity and perception at an early age, any form of abuse, shock, abnormal incident or trauma, that has altered you significantly, can take it’s toll. The thing is, your brain deals with a lot of things that cause unease, but it never feels the strain. Embarrassing episodes, failures, trials, suffering, squabbles, and other painful memories, will be resolved by a healthy mind. But if for some reason, you’re exposed to an abnormal person, or an unnatural environment, then you might not be able to handle it for long. Everyone has a different capacity for emotional trauma or simple emotional problems. In this case, it’s good if you have someone to confide in. Friends, parents, teachers, coaches, anyone who can give you a more mature, reassuring and comforting point of view.
This is probably one of the biggest causes of Adolescent Problems. Stress can actually damage basic functioning to a very large degree. You can either be a stress retaining personality by yourself, or people around can be anxiety-prone, which may influence you in a bad way. The fact is whenever it gets too much, you need to start delegating stuff. The best way to deal with stress, is to either start writing in a diary or keep post-its on your walls to remind you of important things. Scribble notes in a special notebook that keeps you aware of your goals. Just don’t take the burden all on your own, to do things. If after all that, you feel nightmares, sleepless nights, restlessness, and anxiety attacks coming on; meditation techniques, and simply letting go of things that cause you stress can help. Remember, like in physical sickness, you have to wait till your’re working on all engines- similarly Depression is sickness of the mind and time-off and reducing pressure always helps.
One of the biggest problems in Depression, is that your spirit is deadened to large extent. The will to live, need to live, starts weakening very quickly after depression hits, and it’s best not to fight it because it isn’t a case of mind over matter. It’s more biological than that.
Instead of forcing yourself to do things that you liked to do before, just pick up new hobbies. Learn to play a new instrument, join a soccer team, or a choir group, start a travelogue or a diary, listen to different genres of music- the ones which are appealing in certain moods, discover new landscapes etc etc. Your flexibility or adaptability will be your greatest ally so try to re-orient yourself with your current condition. In the beginning, you will feel like giving up and letting go, because that’s exactly what depression does, but if you persevere, you might uncover hidden talents and interests that you hadn’t tried out before.
As a part of the adjustment phase, it’s important you have a routine. For that you need to give the responsibility to either your parents, or your roommate, or whoever you live with. Setting up a routine all alone during this time isn’t easy. A wake up time, a go-to-sleep time, a breakfast, lunch and dinner time, internet time, reading time, all of it will make you feel organized, as if you are in control of things. The best part about depression (You heard it right- best part) is that you get to reassemble yourself completely, pick up the dismembered remains and piece it back together the way you want. People who have successfully managed to fight through this, often emerge as completely transformed. It works if you take complete charge of things that are possible to control. The first lesson, is to regain control of yourself. If you have a routine, a purpose, a have-to-do-this-next thought, the mood swings will start ebbing away, because you won’t be willing to give them much attention.
The biggest change appears in terms of inclination towards people. Before, you might have thrived in a different kind of social group, but now, you prefer an entirely different kind of crowd. Maybe people you liked before, have suddenly become obnoxious, which makes you withdraw from them. The changes in people around you, aren’t completely imagined, as people find it very difficult to tune themselves with the changes in you. With that in mind, allow yourself to switch crowds, even though you might feel like meeting and talking to no one at all. Loneliness is the worst, most mind-numbing aspect of depression. It never lets you feel like you have people to fall back on, whereas in reality there are people who may want to assist you. But your mind doesn’t see it that way, and therefore, the first sign, will be to cut off from people in general, avoid the public and other populated areas. Meeting people, even those you know well enough- will make you uncomfortable and anxious. In spite of that, you have to make a point to go out. Even alone, looking at people, seeing them talking and laughing will make you feel lighter. Avoid that total recluse path. The benefit, that comes out later, is an ease in talking to absolute strangers, because then you don’t feel judged.
Depression, may have originated from a lot of pain, sorrow, and despondence in life. Big disappointments, death of a close one, series of failures, very low self worth, esteem issues, whichever may have first triggered this problem, now needs to be annihilated completely. It is a beautiful time in life, to look back, to look forward, to just look. No decisions need to be taken, no deadlines must be met, no results produced. It is a time to give yourself a much needed time out, that will allow you to reassess your situation. What you want in your life, what you see ahead, your experiences and analyzing them in a better way, all of it will make you a much calmer person. Avoid panic, and mayhem at all costs. Life is NOT a race, and depression is simply life’s way of telling you, that you’re doing way too much, even for a teenager.
Finally, the decision to inform people close to you, about your current state, after a psychiatrist has given you a ‘you’re depressed’ chit, needs to be well thought out. People who care, should be clued in on what’s happening. The last thing you need, is to deal with people who feel they were misused or cheated, by not being told in time. Parents, need to be told about this, because they’re the ones who’ve probably noticed it in the first place. Friends, who can probably partake in the recovery attempts, and give you a lighter view of life, also need to be informed. But as I said before, this is a decision that must come from you. If you don’t want certain people to know, or less to know, or more to know, you need to tell your parents about that. Depression isn’t a disadvantage, or something that can be mocked by others. It is a very, very painful cry from the mind, asking for immediate concern and attention, emanating from a very traumatic or very long periods of intense suffering. No matter how others feel, you need to be sympathetic to your own self. Don’t restrain emotion, and don’t bite your lip. In fact this is a good time to develop some back-off skills. If you’re struggling to keep your self protected, any one who tries to step on your toes should be given a hearty smack.