My Eating Disorder – a Story of Fear and Faith

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It is easy to look back and see I how got there.  It is easy to look back and see how I started the journey back.  Although at the time, I didn’t see the signs that led me in, or led me out.  Somehow when you are in the midst of a struggle, all signs seem to vanish.  Continue reading

How my Parents Aided in my Battle with Depression

walking manAccording to the National Institutes of Health, one out of every four emerging adults (between 18-25) will experience depression in some form (some seasonal, short-term, or long-term).  In our Facebook world, everyone seems happy and active, but hidden below those pretty profile pics can be a world of hurt and pain.

When an emerging adult is dealing with depression, they are not the only ones to suffer.  Parents carry a great weight of responsibility during the battle.  Many wonder what they can do to help.

I recently interviewed an emerging adult about their struggle, and how their parents helped them through their battle with depression.  The writer wished to remain anonymous partially because of the stigma that still exists within the church over those who struggle with depression.  Unfortunately, the judgement of others leads people to isolate themselves, and aggravate the problem.

I hope this person’s words can encourage you and your emerging adults.

How long have you been struggling with depression? 

I’ve been dealing with clinical depression since I was 15 (7 years now).  I don’t know what for sure triggered it, but depression does run in the family.  The roughest years were when it first started (age 15), my senior year of high school, and the first two years of college.

How did you get better? 

A lot of my depression was fed by my high level of perfectionism.  If I didn’t meet my expectations, it would cause me to feel down.  I finally realized that I couldn’t continue as I was (sophomore year in college at this point) and took some time off school to give myself a break and focus on what I needed.  I spent the first three months of my first semester off sitting on my butt and doing absolutely nothing.  This was just what I needed – emotional rest, physical rest, spiritual rest.  I hadn’t experienced any of that for far too long.  During this rest, I saw a therapist, took medication, and had a good support group.  These things all contributed to the healing process and I slowly went upwards from there.

How did you parents help in the process?

My parents did their best to educate themselves on depression and tried to be understanding even when they really didn’t understand everything.  Over time, they learned that it was ok to not always understand but just to accept what I was feeling was valid and deeply affecting me.  They also learned to ask me what I needed from them rather than try to guess – which was the best thing they could do.  I knew what I needed, but was unable (or uncomfortable) to ask for it. 

They served as an advocate for me in high school when teachers didn’t understand why I wasn’t getting better.  My dad researched and then personally called a therapist who wasn’t taking any new clients at the time, and at the end of their conversation she was willing to see me.  My parents went to bat for me in the areas that I was too exhausted or felt too hopeless to fight for myself.

young beautiful woman with probing, slightly sad glanceIn what ways were your parents NOT helpful?  or even hurtful?

The hardest part for my parents was that for a long time they didn’t know how to help me, and I know that made them feel so impotent in the face of watching their daughter struggle with so much pain.  At times, they would enter the “fix-it” mode, which is the last thing I needed from them. Depression isn’t a problem that has a simple solution and then it’s “fixed.” 

Sometimes they would get really frustrated with me when they didn’t understand my lack of motivation and physical energy to do what they thought was a simple task; they just couldn’t empathize, because they hadn’t experienced it.  Feeling their frustration and disappointment on top of my own (because I was already beating upon myself) led to many meltdowns.  I know now they weren’t so much frustrated with me than at the situation, but I desperately needed steady patience and understanding and grace, because I had none for myself

 What advice would you give to someone who is currently struggling?

1.       Know that you’re not alone—far from it! 

2.      Seek counsel from someone who has struggled successfully with depression; they’re great for understanding exactly what lies you’re telling yourself and helping you hear the truth when you can’t preach it to yourself. 

3.      See a therapist.  I gained the tools I needed to battle the depression and come out healthy on the other side.

4.  Try to give yourself grace.

 

What did you or your parents do that helped you through depression?  Please share your thoughts to encourage others.

When Your Child is Depressed

pensive EAAccording to the National Institutes of Health, “One in four emerging adults will experience a depressive episode between the ages of 18-25.”  Depression among emerging adults can be caused by economic uncertainty, changes in relationships, seemingly endless decision-making, or any number of other challenges that they face.  Some depressive episodes are short-term caused by circumstances (like seasonal depression, or a traumatic break up), while others are long-term.

When depression comes, it does not just affect the child.  As a parent, it affects you.  If an Emerging adult that you love is suffering with depression, here are a few words of encouragement to help you through.

1.  You, as a parent, will experience various emotions.

Don’t be ashamed or shocked by your own struggle over their depression.  Watching our children go through pain causes us pain of our own.  Here is an example of a parent’s varied emotions when dealing with a child who is depressed.  “I worried all of the time.  I kept blaming myself.  I tried to be in control of things I had no control over. I experienced fear.  I experienced God’s presence.  I wanted my child to know the peace of God, but I couldn’t make it happen.  I felt helpless.  I turned off my feelings to be strong for my child (which was very exhausting).”  These mixed emotions can play havoc on a parent’s emotional health.  As a parent, you will learn to control your own emotions as you listen to theirs.

It is okay to know and admit that you are hurting.  Take time to ensure the health of your own emotions so that you are able to give to your child.  No one can give without also receiving and being recharged.

2.  You begin helping when you stop fixing.

Most parents when they hear about depression rely on a list of solutions so that it can be solved.  You might even be reading this article hoping for the perfect solution.  However, depression is not easily conquered.  One emerging adults said, “At times, my parents would enter the ‘fix-it’ mode, which is the last thing I needed from them. Depression isn’t a problem that has a simple solution.”  Seek to end conversations not with a list of action steps, but a hug and simple words of hope like, “We are going to make it through.”  Or “I love you.”

One parent shares that, “You can’t FIX them.  Don’t take over their lives.  Help them make decisions but don’t make decisions for them.”  Even during times of depression, it is important for emerging adults to retain their personal autonomy.  Taking over their lives could cause emerging adults to revert back to earlier stages of development.

3.  Listen to them and learn. 

Once leaving the role of fixer and advice giver, a parent can begin to listen.  Many times parents struggle with understanding because they are listening only for the reasons their child is struggling (still hoping to fix it.)  As a parent, you are listening for how they are feeling, and what they most need from you in the moment.  One Emerging adults said, “My parents learned to ask me what I needed from them rather than try to guess – which was the best thing they could do.”

As you listen, you will learn how to better help your child.  One parent expresses what she learned during the process, “I learned to listen and ask open ended questions.  I learned not to judge.  I learned to discern what to look for as in signs they were in trouble.  I learned that it’s okay to snoop into their lives to know where they are mentally.”  Every child is different, and learning new skills and acquiring new tools is a must.

girl-woman-hair-1276336-l[1]4.  You are not alone. 

Many parents feel as if their child is the only one who is struggling.  Mental illness is often accompanied by public shame especially in the church where everybody should be happy.  This guilt and shame can cause parents to isolate themselves, and not have the support network they needs as parents.  One parent says, “Talk.  Talk.  Talk.  Find support.  Don’t try to cover it up like it’s some terrible, horrible secret.  Your child should NEVER be ashamed of this disease.”   Neither should you as a parent.  It is not your fault.

If you are like most parents, this is probably not the first or last article that you will read, trying desperately to get information, help, or encouragement for your child.  Depression is not a sprint, but more of a distance race.  You will make it through, but it is so important that you make sure of your own emotional health while trying to care for your child.

Remain hopeful in our Lord’s great love for you and your child.  “Because of His Great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning;  Great is His Faithfulness.”