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5 things I learned about coping with depression in my teens

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Five things I learned about coping with depression as a teenager

Recovery Note #4

~ Emma Edwards


1. It’s okay to not be okay

It is not a weakness to experience depression, anxiety, and other forms of distress as a teenager. It is quite common! Society tells us that we should look and behave in certain ways, and that we have to fit a certain stereotype in order to simply be accepted. I didn’t think it was okay to be struggling with depression when I was a teenager. I thought it meant I was weak and worthless. But admitting that I was not okay and that I did not know who I was took me on a journey of incredible discovery. I came out the other end of the dark tunnel with strength, purpose, and value for my life. I wouldn’t change a thing.

2. Connection is the key

It is incredibly lonely when experiencing depression – and I almost think it is more lonely when you experience depression as a teenager, during the life-stage in which you are trying to figure out how and where you fit in the world. At a time in your life when you are trying to fit in, you fall into a dark hole that isolates you – giving you no opportunity to find your place in the world. I isolated myself and was anxious to interact with anyone. However, the most useful thing for me was the one thing I did not want to do – it was to spend time with friends, family, and people who understood what I was going through.

 

“When you are at the bottom of the dark hole, it feels like every movement causes you to fall deeper. It is extremely difficult to see that each step actually takes you closer to the light of day.”

 

3. Asking for help actually helps!

Looking back, I had friends around me going through similar struggles, and I wanted them to be honest, ask for help, and let me support them. I saw them as courageous when they confronted their fears, darkness, and failures head-on. I learned that it takes more courage to be vulnerable, ask for help, and accept others’ support than it does to wrestle alone in the dark. I learned that friends, family, and professionals actually wanted to help me. Each time that I reached outside of myself and asked for help, my burden was lightened a little bit because it was shared with another. Even if the problem was not solved by the other person, at least I felt more understood, more loved, and less alone.

4. Balance between trust and supervision

I am sure my adolescent self would not admit this, but I’ve learned from looking back at my experience that it was helpful to have a balance of trust and supervision from my parents. I think this balance is largely determined by what is safe for us. As I built up trust with my parents, the amount of supervision I needed decreased. I found that, as my parents trusted me more, I learned to trust myself more – giving me confidence in myself. From my view, the helpful parent provides love, encouragement, support, practical help, and compassionate supervision.Blaming, minimising, or not being taken seriously are not helpful. Being listened to, provided with appropriate help, and shown compassion are essential.

5. It is never the end

There is always hope. I know clichés like “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel” often don’t provide much reassurance at the time, but it turns out they are actually true. When you are at the bottom of the dark hole, it feels like every movement causes you to fall deeper. It is extremely difficult to see that each step actually takes you closer to the light of day. But others can see it. Others can see the bigger picture because they are not in the dark hole with you. In these times, when all hope seems to have escaped you – I learned that I could rely on at least one person around me to hold the hope for me. When I could not see it, they could. When I could not believe, they believed. They held my hope, and gave it back to me when I could hold it again. It is never the end. There is always hope.

 

Emma Edwards
Treasurer, Community Mental-Health Resources Trust

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About the author: Emma Edwards is currently completing her doctorate degree. She was previously a registered mental-health professional, working in youth and adult mental-health settings. Her own service-user and family experience with mental-health struggles sparked her passion to support others and make a difference to those struggling to cope with difficult times.

Read more Recovery Notes here

Recovery Notes is an Engage Aotearoa project that asks people to share the top five tips and insights they have learned from or about their personal experiences of mental-health recovery or being a supporter.

Write your own Recovery Note

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Copyright (c) Engage Aotearoa, 2014

 

Keep Learning with the Updated Online Resources Pack

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In support of this year’s Mental-Health Awareness week theme, ‘Keep Learning’, the team at Engage Aotearoa have added two new pages of links to the Online Resources Pack for you to explore. Find new online sources of distraction/entertainment, self-help tools, information, support and recovery stories – and keep learning for Mental-Health Awareness Week and beyond.

Click here to browse and save a copy of the updated file

New links include…

  • All Right Canterbury
  • Beyond Meds
  • Coming Off
  • Conversations that Matter
  • Depression is Not Your Destiny
  • Everybody
  • Guide to Psychology and its Practice
  • Intervoice
  • Like Minds, Like Mine
  • Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse NZ
  • Mental Health News Hub
  • Mind Share
  • Open Culture
  • Reasons to Go on Living
  • Recovery Notes
  • SPARX CBT Computer Game
  • Support for Parents of Suicidal Teens
  • Support Page for Anxiety Depression and Mental Illness
  • The Depression Center 4.0
  • The Peaceful Parent
  • Worry Wise Kids

Find more Recovery Information Packs on the Engage Aotearoa website.

 

5 things I’ve learned about surviving my darkest struggles

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Five things I’ve learned about surviving my darkest struggles

Recovery Note #3

~ Taimi Allan


1. De-claw the Bear

Talking about the most difficult stuff (the unwanted thoughts, the frightening images, fears, guilt and panic) takes their power away. These things are waking nightmares designed by my brain to purge the rubbish and if I don’t find a way to let them out and dispose of them they become a self-destruct mechanism. Speaking them aloud to someone empathetic and non-judgmental I can trust helps me to challenge their hold on me, come up with more balanced perspectives and talk through cause and solution.

2. Look for physical and environmental causes

Sure there are some moments where my distress/depression/mania/psychosis is an equal and opposite reaction to an external, significant, negative event; those moments are really tough and life feels very unfair. The upside of horrible things happening to me though is that it’s easy to see why my brain is in meltdown, and get support and empathy from others. Sometimes, however, it just hits me like a sledge hammer from seemingly out of the blue. In these times my experience tells me there is usually a physical cause, maybe my hormones have gone haywire, I’ve developed a food allergy, eaten unhealthily for too long (or not eaten at all) or typically, I’ve not had enough sleep. I know now that if I address the physical stuff, nurture my temple then my mental health follows.

3. Avoid the Sirens-song of Substances

We all know the myths of sailors lured by beautiful Siren song only to become shipwrecked on the rocks. It is very easy in my darkest moments to reach out for the easiest means of escape. “Self medication” for me nowadays is junk food and wine. In my darkest moments it is tempting to use them, or something more destructive as a quick way of blocking out, avoiding or putting off dealing with what’s really going on. I learned the hard way that even taking a single step in this direction when I’m unwell is bad, bad news. As difficult as it is, I need to remove the temptation completely from my home, my friendships and my life until the moment has passed and I feel in control enough to simply eat respectfully and drink in moderation.

4. Observe moments of choice

Mental distress is like a pot-bellied stove, it gets stronger by feeding on every little piece of negativity and fear and yet it is warm and inviting. It is easy to fall into the comfort of distress, it sounds contradictory but life IS unfair and horrible so sometimes the only thing I really want to do is escape under the bed-covers, take a respite from responsibility and shut out the world. In every single millisecond however I know I have a choice to turn that around. I forgive myself for needing a moment to wallow, then as soon as I notice the moment that don’t have to punish myself or anyone else, I make the conscious choice to do something different.

5. Take responsibility

Here’s the truth as I see it for me; it is not the rest of the world, the people around me, services, doctors or pharmaceuticals job to ‘cure’ or ‘fix’ me. They are helpful aides when I need support, but without my buy-in, they actually don’t have much effect. In fact, if I blame anyone or anything outside of myself I know the situation very quickly deteriorates. That doesn’t mean I need to blame myself, but adopting a radical acceptance of the situation I’ve found myself in and a willingness to do everything I can to improve it gives me back some semblance of control. It’s fair to say that when I’m at my worst, I feel completely out of control, so this step towards autonomy is imperative to becoming whole again.

 

~ Taimi Allan
Chairperson, Community Mental-Health Resources Trust

 

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About the author: Taimi Allan is chairperson of CMHRT and has worked as a mental health consultant since 2009. She is most well known in the field for innovative and engaging health promotion strategies that challenge attitudes, inspire creativity and entertain audiences.

Read more Recovery Notes here 

Recovery Notes is an Engage Aotearoa project that asks people to share the top five tips and insights they have learned from or about their personal experiences of mental-health recovery or being a supporter.

Write your own Recovery Note

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Copyright (c) Engage Aotearoa, 2014

Engage Aotearoa: Update from the Service Director

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week from 6-12 October 2014 and World Mental Health Awareness Day on October 10th.  Seeing as every week is Mental-Health Awareness Week at Engage Aotearoa, now seems like a good time to give everyone an update about what’s on the horizons here.

RecoveryNotesPromo2014Recovery Notes: Recovery Notes is a new series of blog articles by people with lived experience of recovery highlighting the lessons they have learned about or from their experiences. The CMHRT board of trustees are in progress with writing contributions that share the lessons they have learned from their journeys and the first one is out today. If you would like to try your hand at writing a Recovery Notes blog article, submissions are welcome from anyone with lived experience of recovery or being a supporter. Click here to read the Recovery Notes Writing Guidelines first.

Upgrading The Community Resources Directory: Engage Aotearoa went to a LifeHack Weekend earlier this year and got some help to get started with upgrading The Community Resources Directory so you can create a customised directory filled with the services for your region. The web-app is still in development and the volunteer directory editor, Cath, is continuing to add new services to the directory as we work on creating a truly nation-wide resource. You might notice the downloadable document got shorter recently – the team made the font smaller, to fit more on each page, so there’s actually more information listed than there was before. Don’t forget to keep sending your directory additions to Cath by emailing directory@engagenz.co.nz

One Year Anniversary of The Butterfly Diaries Vol 1: It has been one year since the launch of The Butterfly Diaries and the team has distributed over 700 books from Kaitaia to Invercargill and everywhere in between. Copies have been ordered by teenagers for themselves and their friends, worried family members, schools, counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, GP doctors, corrections facilities and universities. With no promotional budget and no funding outside of community donations, the team at Engage Aotearoa are pleasantly surprised that so many copies have already found wings. You can help raise awareness of the books by printing and placing a poster somewhere public or sharing one of the book reviews on social media (find them here and here).

The Butterfly Diaries Vol. 2: Engage Aotearoa continues to work on The Butterfly Diaries Volume 2 and it’s very close to publication. Volume 2 shares the stories of Jane and Tess. Jane has a history of difficult family relationships and intense emotions. Tess has a history of childhood trauma, domestic violence and dissociative identity disorder (often known as multiple personalities). Written by  Genevieve McClean and Maureen Irvine,  Between the Sun and the Moon, and Rebuilding Camelot tell two true stories of surviving the hardest parts of humanity and finding a way to thrive despite it all. Engage Aotearoa needs your help to publish The Butterfly Diaries Volume 2 and keep Volume 1 in print. Make a tax-deductible donation for Mental Health Awareness Week.

The Coping Kit Smart Phone App: It’s still coming! Good things take time.

Recovery Notes Call for Submissions

Engage Aotearoa extends a standing invitation for submissions to the Recovery Notes feature on the Engage Aotearoa blog.

Read the Recovery Notes Writing Guidelines to find out more. 

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