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Asking for Help with Depression
Q: I am a 16-year-old male who has been severely depressed for the past two months. In early February I lost my grandfather, and I have always taken that out upon myself. No more than two weeks later, I lost my girlfriend. Then my two best friends started dating, which at times puts me in an awkward position. I have attempted many times to "walk away" from my best friends and my past, but I can't seem to follow through with it. Is walking away and moving on the best thing for me?
A: The reason that "walking away" from your losses hasn't worked for you is because your heart and mind know that you must "move through" the emotions of these losses and not walk away from them. You have unfinished work that you must do regarding your relationship to your grandfather, your former girlfriend and your two best friends. I am not surprised that you have become emotionally overwhelmed and handcuffed by this series of losses/deaths. You have suffered major losses in rapid succession and you probably feel like a boat adrift without an anchor. If these feelings have made you "severely depressed" for the past two months, you are not just going to be able to get up one day and calmly walk away from your past and your two best friends because it's the "best thing" for you. You don't just walk away from severe depression. You courageously move up and out of your depression with the help of loved ones and professional assistance.
You say that you have "always taken that out upon myself", referring to your grandfather's death. I don't know exactly what you mean by that, but feeling like that is a burden too large for any one person to carry. Did you let him down somehow? Do you think that you somehow contributed to his death? It's easy to think that in the wake of your grandfather's death, you might experience the loss of your girlfriend as a death of sorts. And then your twobest friends start dating -- you feel like the odd man out, and their dating also reminds you of your recent break-up. So, my friend, you have experienced far too much loss, death, guilt, and sadness to just walk away from it all.
Amidst all these emotionally overwhelming feelings, you also have the ability to summon up the courage that is within you and to ask for the help that you need from family and friends. Keep doing what you are doing right now and you and I both know where that will get you -- worse and worse, right? You also must seek out a therapist/counselor who has worked a lot with kids your age. You may have one session with more than one therapist before you meet someone whom you really click with. Please ask your parents or other trusted family members to help you find such a therapist. You have things that you must say and feel before you begin to step out of this miserable depressed state you've been in for the past months. Even though you might not see a good way out of these feelings now, with the right combination of help and courage you will become better and better. You may even begin liking yourself more as you begin to heal. Please take these first steps that I suggested and then write back to update me on your progress.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.