Teen Health/depression

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Question
I'm 17. The last year and a half has been pretty rough with my parents divorce and I've been struggling with depression for a few years. Soo, I just had a miscarriage like 2 weeks ago. I was 9 weeks, and then 3 days ago found out my boyfriends been cheating our whole relationship. So right now it feels like I'm constantly having a panic attack. I don't really feel like I can take anymore at all. I feel totally absent, like my body's here but I'm not. I don't really know what to do, because my mom isn't ever around and my dad's not in my life. I have no one to go to. I don't really know what I'm asking. Just any advice I guess.

Answer
Sweetie, Iím so sorry to hear that youíre struggling. What a horrible chain of events.
I think I know what you mean when you say youíre absent. I remember walking the halls of my high school and feeling completely removed from all that normal, bustling activity. It was like all the crazy, boiling stuff in my head had built this wall between me and the rest of the world. I could see and taste and hear but everything was muted and desaturated. When people asked me what was wrong, I never knew what to say, I didn't even know where to start.

Firstly, your miscarriage Ė I wish I had the words that would make this less painful. I donít know whether this was a welcome pregnancy or not, but regardless, it is a loss and mourning is a natural and human reaction. I would remind you, though, that many women miscarry, not because of something they did or didnít do, but because their body knew that something was wrong either chromosomally or with the fertilization and the pregnancy needed to be ended. Allow yourself to grieve, but consider that this was perhaps the baby that you were not meant to have.

Your feelings of sadness are understandable, perhaps you are feeling isolated, betrayed and abandoned and while these are incredibly valid reactions to your hardships, you need to seek help in processing and resolving them.

A)   My first recommendation is that you talk to a psychologist. I really cannot emphasize enough how helpful working with a good therapist can be. I know that depending on your momís financial or insurance situation, it might not be feasible, but if it is, this is step number one. Some things to keep in mind regarding therapists: 1. work to find the right fit Ė a therapist is someone who listens, who is trustworthy, who doesnít pass judgment, and is constructive in helping you meet your goals. Donít be intimidated by the PhD, they work for you and you can fire them if theyíre not meeting your needs. You also donít need to commit to the first one you meet. 2. Be honest. Therapy doesnít work if you lie. 3. Clarify specific goals. There are many different types of therapy, and the clearer your goals are, the easier it is to assess what type is going to help you. 4. Donít be closed minded to medication, but know that itís not a silver bullet. I credit medication for helping me remember what ďnormalĒ is supposed to feel like, I had been sad and angry for so long it was like I had forgotten. Iíve been medication free for years, but I think the only reason Iím in a healthy place now is due to the combination of a good psychologist, and a little bump from antidepressants I got when I was younger.

B)   Trim negative people out of your life and establish clear boundaries. This cheating boyfriend has got to go. No second chances. Cheating within the context youíve provided allows me to infer a few things about this guy. Like, he is immature, impulsive, discourteous, uncaring, and probably a liar. I know that when things get hard it can be comforting to have someone around that you have a history of intimacy with, but this person has treated you in an unacceptable way. Unfortunately there are consequences for unacceptable behavior, and one of those is not getting to be around you. Let people know where your lines are drawn. People in your support system are not allow to lie, to belittle, or to abuse you Ė make sure they know this. You have the power to design the relationships you want.  Sadly as a teenager it can be hard to do these things with your parents because of the power imbalance. But know that as soon as you are financially independent, it gets much, much easier. Lastly, people say "we get the love we think we deserve" I think, "we get the love we *tell* people we deserve".

C)   Talk about whatís going on. Reach out to your friends and family. Depression is not something to be ashamed of or a secret you keep to yourself. People canít help you if you donít ask for it. You say your mom is not around much, but I hope that she is not completely indifferent to your feelings and state of mind. You should be one of her first priorities and as a parent it is her responsibility to ensure that youíre happy and healthy. If she needs to be reminded of that fact, itís ok to do so, but remember not to yell or swear when arguing your point because it undermines your truths. Let your calmness and your logic give your position strength.

If your mom completely drops the ball, reach out to teachers, school nurses, mentors, friends, etc. Your sadness and your feelings need to be acknowledged by the people that care about you. It can be hard and embarrassing to say ďhey, Iím not doing so greatÖĒ but saying this is too important to not try. Also know that some people may not react compassionately or correctly when you do reach out. Most will Ė some will not. Be prepared and donít let it get you down or keep you from moving on to the next person. Itís better that those who are not up for the challenge of being a real friend identify themselves so we can let them go. Good riddance.

D)   Be kind to your body and your mind. Being depressed is exhausting. Betrayal and heartbreak is strenuous. It can make your whole body and soul ache, so be nice. Make sure your diet full of real food: meat, veggies and fruit. Eat slowly and savor the ritual of nourishing yourself. Try to move a little. Go for a run or even just a walk. Do some yoga. Talk on the phone, read trashy magazines, paint your nails, whatever makes you smile.

E)   In college once I was so overwhelmed I started crying in a professorís office. I confessed that I knew I had all these privileges but that my constant unhappiness was so heavy and so persistant, that I felt like life had no joy, and that nothing had any purpose. He told me that when he was going through dark times he used to keep lists of things that he was grateful for, and he would write them on the back of business cards and carry them around with him. He gave me a stack of cards and invited me to try. Every day I took out a business card and listed six or seven things either that made me happy, or that I was grateful for Ė for example, ďsparking water, the folders in my email, Friends reruns, my purple shoes, eggrollsĒ Ė just little things like that. At first it was really difficult and I had trouble coming up with more than a couple. Eventually the lists got longer and easier. It became a game, how many things could I find that I enjoy. And more importantly, it really made me mindful that even in the depths of depression I could pinpoint tiny rays of light. I still keep those cards in my wallet and pull them out sometimes, just as a reminder.

F)   Accept that this will get better, but youíre going to have to work for it and you shouldnít have to do it alone. Dig in deep, I know you can get pass this.

If you want to send me a private message, Iíll send you my personal email and we can keep chatting, if you think it would help.

Good luck,
Julia

Teen Health

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Julia Fout

Expertise

I can answer questions about sex/relationships/sexual orientation, HIV/STIs, pregnancy and contraception, nutrition, puberty, how to talk to parents/friends/teachers, depression and anxiety and drug use/drinking.
I think teens need sensitive, practical, fact-based information that's relevant to real life and is drawn from experience - I'm here to provide just that.
Note: I am not a medical doctor, I cannot diagnose illnesses and my advice is not meant to replace the care of a qualified physician.

Experience

I have a degree in Psychology and am working towards my Masters of Public Health with the goal of being a Health Educator. In both of these fields I've spent a lot of time focusing on the needs (mental, emotional, and physical) of teens. My undergraduate courses were heavily focused on the development of the adolescent and all accompanying issues. In my graduate program, I've been enjoying learning about disease prevention/control and behavioral health science, especially as it pertains to sex education. Both in school and out,I've logged many hours mentoring and tutoring kids of all ages; competently responding and reacting to their needs and providing thoughtful direction.

Organizations
East Carolina University
The Brody School of Medicine
Masters of Public Health Program

Education/Credentials
B.A. Psychology with a minor in Education
MPH Candidate

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