A Ten-Year Old’s Letter To Santa

I have been an avid fan of Reader’s Digest for forty years. I was looking over the December/January issue yesterday at the public library, where I work part-time, and decided I just had to share something I read with my followers. Keep in mind, I did not write this article. It is the property of the Reader’s Digest Magazine. I think you’ll enjoy this item. Please note: The original Reader’s Digest article had illustrations, and the wish list sometimes refers to the pictures, so I modified the text to make sense without having to see the illustrations.

A Ten-Year Old’s Letter to Santa, By Raquel D’Apice.

Dear Santa,

I am a ten-month old baby, and I am writing to you because my mother has been sending out my Christmas list to people, and her list does not in any way represent the things I really want. I don’t really want stacking cups!

And before you say anything, I know you’re ready to make the joke about ten-month-old babies and how all we want is the wrapping paper and the boxes. Touche´ Santa. Touche´. We do, of course, want those things. But I have a number of additional things that I want very badly.

My list is enclosed. Have a lovely holiday.

– Baby

  1. I want a laptop cord more than I have ever wanted anything. Please. I also want the power strip with the orange on/off button and the white label on the end of the cord. I would love these specific cords located behind my mother’s desk next to the air conditioner (whose cord I also want).
  2. I want the wall-mount entertainment center in the bathroom. (He is referring to the toilet paper dispenser.) I have no idea why my mother does not want me to play with this thing, as it is obviously a child’s toy. I would like one for my room.
  3. I would love a whole set of house keys. To eat, obviously. Only metal house keys will do. Please do not bring me plastic ones. I am not an idiot – I know that plastic house keys are not real keys.
  4. I want everyone’s eyeglasses. I pull these off the face of every person I meet, only to have them pried from my fingers and reclaimed by their original owner. I would love to have a pair of my own. Again, these are going to be for eating.
  5. I want the entire contents of the bathroom garbage can. I would love for this thing to be emptied out on my bedroom floor – particularly things like used wet cotton balls and discarded pieces of floss. If you would like to just take the contents of this bin and transfer them directly into my stocking, that would be fine.
  6. I want handfuls of the dog’s hair. This stuff is the best. I keep trying to pull it off her, but she moves frequently, making collection difficult. My favorite thing to do with it is put it in my mouth and then immediately realize that I didn’t want it in my mouth!
  7. I want the hole in the hallway floorboard. I spend hours looking at that hole. I keep poking at it. I know I cannot “have” a hole, as a hole cannot be had. A hole is an absence. Yet this is a list of the things I want, and I want this hole the way Gandhi wanted peace. The way the dog wants to lick my face. The way my mom wants me to stop pulling off her eyeglasses.
  8. I want the stuff that is all over the floor of the apartment. I have no idea what this stuff is. All I know is that i want it in my hands, and no sooner have I grasped its sweet, delicate softness my mother comes running over yelling something like: Stop touching that – how often do I have to vacuum the dang hallway?”
  9. I want the dog’s food. Every time I get close to it, someone pulls me away from it. If they don’t want me to eat it, why is is on the floor?
  10. I want a cell phone. I have no idea what these do, but it’s clearly a lot of fun, given that my mother never stops looking at hers.
  11. I want bobby pins. These are my favorite! If I had a nickle for every bobby pin I found on the floor, I’d have double the number of little metal things that I could put in my mouth because, go figure, I also totally love nickles.

Raquel D’Apice. The author works for Huffingtonpost.com.

You can follow her blog at: www.huffingtonpost.com/author/raqueldapice

Christmastime

So sorry this reblog is late. I wanted to get it up on the site by Christmas Eve but forgot all about it. Although Christmas was yesterday, I hope you enjoy this nostalgic tale about Christmas as a young boy sees it.

The Accidental Poet

Wow, only four days til Christmas Day. The last year went so fast I almost forgot there were twelve months. Sometimes the days seem to run together. Partly because of the limited daylight. It’s typical for office workers this time of year to go to work in the dark in the morning and come home after work in the dark. Add to that all the rushing around as Christmastime draws near. Time slips by without seeming to move the hands on the clock.

When I was young, time seemed to stand still on Christmas Eve. About six o’clock on WNEP 16 out of Scranton, PA, up-to-the-minute tracking of Santa Claus on radar would begin. It always felt like bedtime would never get here. And when it did, I would never be able to get to sleep. It’s Christmastime, I would think. Santa’s coming. If I go to bed. If I…

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Dream On

Some people go their whole lives
without ever writing a single poem.
Extraordinary people who don’t hesitate
to cut somebody’s heart or skull open.
They go to baseball games with the greatest of ease
and play a few rounds of golf as if it were nothing.
These same people stroll into a church
as if that were a natural part of life.
Investing money is second nature to them.
They contribute to political campaigns
that have absolutely no poetry in them
and promise none for the future.
They sit around the dinner table at night
and pretend as though nothing is missing.
The family dog howls at night,
lonely and starving for more poetry in his life.
Why is it so difficult for them to see
that, without poetry, their lives are effluvial?
Sure, they have their banquets, their celebrations,
croquet, fox hunts, their seashores and sunsets,
their cocktails on the balcony, dog races,
and all that kissing and hugging, and don’t
forget the good deeds, the charity work,
nursing the baby squirrels all through the night,
filling the birdfeeders all winter,
helping the stranger change her tire.
Still, there’s that disagreeable exhalation
from decaying matter, subtle but ever present.
They walk around erect like champions.
They are smooth-spoken, urbane and witty.
When alone, rare occasions, they stare
into the mirror for hours, bewildered.
There was something they meant to say, but didn’t:
“And if we put the statue of the rhinoceros
next to the tweezers, and walk around the room three times,
learn to yodel, shave our heads, call
our ancestors  back from the dead -”
poetrywise it’s still a bust, bankrupt.
You haven’t scribbled a syllable of it.
You’re a nowhere man misfiring,
the very essence of your life, flustering
nothing from nothing and back again.
The hereafter may not last all that long.
Radiant childhood sweetheart,
secret code of everlasting joy and sorrow,
fanciful pen strokes beneath the eyelids:
all day, all night meditation, knot of hope,
kernel of desire, pure ordinariness of life,
seeking, through poetry, a benediction
or a bed to lie down on, to connect, reveal,
explore, to imbue meaning on the day’s extravagant labor.
And yet it’s cruel to expect too much.
It’s a rare species of bird
that refuses to be categorized.
Its song is barely audible.
It is like a dragonfly in a dream –
here, then there, then here again,
low-flying amber-wing darting upward
and then out of sight.
And the dream has a pain it its heart
the wonders of which are manifold,
or so the story is told.

James Tate

I Crave

I crave interaction.
I want it, desperately,
But it requires conversation.
And conversation requires words.
But here it is,
My dilemma, my handicap:
You know that feeling you get
In your throat when you haven’t
Had a drink of water for an entire day?
It’s like that.
I can’t swallow, or think, or speak.
I know what I want to say,
And I know to whom I want to say it,
But there’s no lubrication in my mouth.
No moisture in my throat.
I have no courage in my belly,
Waiting to be the propellant for
What needs saying.
Here she comes, the whom, the object,
close enough now I can hear her breathing,
Labored from her quarter-mile climb
Up the tree-lined hill.
She stops at the park’s entrance.
I’m standing there, talking to Theo,
A gorgeous man
Who looks like a John Everett Millais painting.
Again I try to swallow. She turns to me.
Steven, she says, and smiles.
Deep within my throat is that arid, fruitless,
Empty cavern from where
Only monosyllabic, moth-eaten words
Crawl out, desperately wishing to be brought
To life, tickling the ear drums of a
Curious, passionate, full-of-life gal.
I long to hold her attention,
Even if only for a moment,
But who am I to be given
That which I crave?

©2016 Steven Barto

Why Do I Freeze Up and Go Silent? Move Beyond the Separating Power of Shame

The following is an excerpt from “If the Buddha Got Stuck: A Handbook for Change on a Spiritual Path,” by Charlotte Kasl, Ph.D.

Shame is a great paralyzer. To become unstuck we need to explore this troublesome feeling. When people are left, excluded, shunned, or abused, they often slide into persistent shame, which can result in depression, isolation, anxiety, and illness. Shame is a mired down, wretched feeling that arises in response to believing we are intrinsically bad, worthless, and defective. It can become a visceral, hardwired reaction that stems from having been humiliated, degraded, embarrassed, and diminished into an object for someone else’s use.

Shame is like an old experience ready to be resurrected when someone talks or responds to you in a way that echoes an earlier shaming situation. For example, if someone in the past frequently implied or referred to you as stupid, feelings of shame can be instantly triggered in current time when anyone so much as implies you’ve done something wrong. When this happens, you are basically reliving an experience from the past and falling into a child state. The reaction is often a wish to disappear, hide, punish yourself, retaliate, defend, or give up on yourself. When this happens, we tend to avert our eyes, blush, collapse in the chest, close the heart, isolate, and sometimes slink away as if in disgrace. The flow within the body becomes constricted.

Shame keeps us from learning. If you’re taking music lessons, for example, and you translate every suggestion the teacher makes into, “I’m no good, I have no talent, I’ll never make it,” you are creating a lot of inner anxiety, which blocks learning. Shame is like a non-stop negative evaluator that thwarts fascination and curiosity because you’re so worried about being judged as bad or wrong. And, unfortunately, trying to prove you are smart, talented, good, and right won’t counteract it; it will just lead to inner combat.

Shame also keeps us stuck because it stops us from taking action – you don’t apply for a new job, tell your partner you’re upset, take a class, try a new venture, or value your talents because you’re afraid of feeling shame if you’re turned down (which you call rejected), you make a mistake (you’re not perfect), or if someone doesn’t want to spend time with you (they’re abandoning you). To counter entrenched feelings of shame, some people blame, counterattack, change the subject, get defensive, make excuses, become arrogant or cruel, or exert power over others through leadership roles.  They appear in charge, but do great harm with little understanding of their impact on others. Addictions often are a cover for a feeling of deep shame.

SOME SUGGESTED EXERCISES

Easing Your Feelings of Shame

Name it. Observe it. When you feel shame, say to yourself some version of the following: “There’s the feeling of shame. What happened or what did I say to myself just before feeling it?”

Realize you are not your shame. Say to yourself, “This shame is not my essential self. It is an intruder, like toxic chemicals, pollution. It was put there when I was abused, left, hurt, shamed, seduced, teased, neglected, scolded, or not allowed to voice my thoughts or feelings.

Think of what you don’t do for yourself because of your shame, and then give yourself permission to do it anyway. This could include standing up for yourself, expressing feelings, initiating a conversation, asking for what you need, inviting someone to get together with you. Having a feeling of mastery over yourself in current time helps counteract the old experience.

Imagine having a new response to a shameful situation. Imagine being centered, confident, and at peace with yourself in a situation that has previously triggered shame. For example, you could say to someone, “It’s not all right to talk to me like that,” or , “Please ask me what you want without all the innuendos about how I did it wrong.” You could also try, “Something about this conversation doesn’t feel right, and I need to end it for now,” or, “Could you tell me what you meant by that? That feels like a shaming remark. Was that your intention?

REFERENCE

Kasl, C., Ph.D. (2005). If the Buddha got Stuck: A Handbook for Change on a Spiritual Path. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Afterimage by William Kelley Woolfitt

The sun clambers over the husk
of the button factory, brushes
the tarp-roof of our fishing shack.
We burrow under pillows,
mimic stones, sink from light,
like the pink muckets who bedded
in river-cobble until the factory
forked them up, cut their shells
into round button-blanks. Later,
the factory was shut: too much
button-polish soured the water,
softened the mucket-shells
to puce jelly. Spilling in, scalding
our shack, the sun dampens hair,
flushes skin, poultices our bodies
with sticky heat until we pull on
dungarees, slip outside. We boil
horsemint tea, eat bruised apples,
try to net spooneys, flatheads,
relic-fish with no bones, no teeth.
Mile-a-minute vines shallow
the factory, whose afterimage
sheens on the river, ghost-picture
that lingers until a barge glugs by,
churns the water to tatters.

Baa Baa Black Sheep

Image result for black sheep of the family

A black sheep stands out from the flock. In the English language, black sheep is an idiom used to describe an odd or disreputable member of a group. It seems nearly every family in America has one. The troubled child. A lightning rod of sorts. The center of attention. Always in the hot seat. The squeaky wheel in need of grease. Chances are, if you are the black sheep of the family, then you’ll know about it. Unfortunately for you, you were born as the runt of the litter and your family isn’t exactly pleased with your existence. At the very worst, you’re the stereotypical black sheep – an alcoholic, drug addict, gambler, delinquent, and a constant disappointment to your family.

But not every black sheep is as dramatic as that, and it may just take something little for you to set off your family’s wrath. You may be an atheist in a family of Christians, unemployed, a party animal, have trouble in school. Maybe you got your high school sweetheart pregnant the summer you both graduated. All of these attributes can make you the black sheep, and make your parents wonder where they went wrong. However, being the black sheep of the family doesn’t make you a bad person, it just means that you’re different. You see things differently, have you own opinions, and you’re probably the only one on your side, so it feels like you’re fighting a losing battle.

Perhaps some of this sounds familiar:

  • Your parents were more strict with you than they were with your other siblings.
  • Your mistakes were blown out of proportion and/or punished disproportionately.
  • You always carried the feeling that you “didn’t fit in” with your family, and you didn’t develop strong connections with them.
  • You were mocked, ridiculed and/or made fun of on a constant basis.
  • Your family seemed intent on making you feel “deficient” and as though you were always fundamentally lacking.
  • You developed mental or emotional disorders, and/or substance abuse problems as a result of being scapegoated and overburdened.
  • Your family didn’t show any interest in who you really were as a person.
  • You were criticized, completely ignored, or or emotionally manipulated if you rebelled in any way.

The role we played as children and young adults in our families contributes immensely to our present sense of self-worth, feelings of social approval, and our psychological and emotional well-being at large. If you’re like me, you may have got stuck in a role that undermined your sense of being a fundamentally “good” and “acceptable” person deep down, something that still affects me to this very day.  You may find yourself identified as the trouble child or the black sheep of your family, and this may cause you a lot of shame and depression in your life. Families often focus on the behavior of one child who seems to struggle with behaving properly. Dysfunctional families tend to avoid their own internal pain, disappointments and struggles by pointing the finger at another family member as the cause for all the problems they experience.

I took a class on marriage and family last semester at Colorado Christian University. The core textbook for the class, The Family: A Christian Perspective on the Contemporary Home (Balswick & Balswick, 2014), indicates that it’s critical for children to develop into their own unique selves within the context of family unity. Family scientists and counselors refer to this as differentiation – the process of maintaining a separate identity while simultaneously remaining connected in relationship, belonging, and unity. Another way to describe this process is interdependency.

Balswick & Balswick believe that family relationships involve four sequential (non-linear) states: covenant, grace, empowerment, and intimacy. Covenant has to do with commitment to family members, and hinges on unconditional love. Grace involves forgiving other family members and being unforgiven by them. Certainly, from a human perspective, the unconditional love of God makes no sense until we look at it through the eyes of grace. Grace is truly a relational word, and means unmerited favor. John Rogerson (1996) takes the understanding of grace as a natural extension of convenant love and applies it to family life. He believes the family unit to be “…structures of grace…social arrangements designed to mitigate hardship and misfortune, and grounded in God’s mercy.”

Family relationships, as designed by God, are meant to be lived out in an atmosphere of grace, not “law.” Family life based on contract leads to an atmosphere of law, and is a discredit to Christianity. Christ came in human form to reconcile the world to God. This act of divine love and forgiveness is the basis for human love and forgiveness. We can forgive others as we have been forgiven. It is the love of God within that makes this possible. Of course, humans are limited and fallen. We can never fulfill the law. Thankfully, we are free from the law because of Christ’s perfection and righteousness, which leads to our salvation. When it comes to family relationships, none of us can expect to measure up. In a family based on law, the members demand perfection of one another.

Shame is often born out of a fear of unworthiness or rejection. When shame is present, family members put on masks and begin to play deceptive roles before one another. Children who experience the wrath of a parent on a nearly daily basis try to escape that wrath by employing various avoidance behaviors, such as lying, hiding, and deception. However, when family members experience convenant love, grace, and empowerment, they will be able to communicate confidently and express themselves freely without fear. Typically, family members should want what is best for one another. There must first be an atmosphere of unconditional covenant in the family, as well as open communication and honest sharing without the threat of rejection.

Inasmuch as all family members are imperfect, each with their own individual temperaments and experiences, they progress at different rates in the realization of God’s ideals of unconditional love, grace, empowerment, and intimacy. That is to say, all family members fall on a continuum between hurting and healing behaviors. When families choose hurting behaviors and move away from God’s way, the entire family will be negatively effected. Among the hurting behaviors in a family environment are conditional love, self-centeredness, perfectionism, fault finding, efforts to control or punish others, unreliability, denial of feelings, and lack of communication. With such behaviors, the focus is on self rather than on the best interests of the other family members. When children are raised in this type of family, they are limited in their ability to love others unconditionally.

Hurting families tend to withhold grace, often demanding unreasonable perfection, and blaming those members who don’t measure up. Individuals in these families fear they will make a mistake and be rejected because of failure to meet the standards. So they try harder to be perfect. What they need is acceptance for who they are, and forgiveness when they fail. Members of hurting families are typically not able to get in touch with their feelings. Their fear of rejection keeps them in denial of their emotions. What they need most is a safe atmosphere in which they can express their feelings, thoughts, wants, and desires, and be heard and understood by the other family members. Open communication helps each person share more honestly rather than hide feelings and thoughts.

A child who was loved conditionally (with strings attached) needs to experience unconditional love in order to feel lovable. This would go a long way to break the perpetual cycle found in hurting families. Such a breakthrough is predicated upon receiving God’s unconditional love. Being cherished by God no matter what you’ve done gives you a sense of self-worth and a new self-perception. (“I am lovable!”) Drawing on the Holy Spirit and maturing faith, the individual now has reason to follow God’s example and adopt healing behaviors. Living in covenant love is a dynamic process. God has designed family relationships to grow from hurting to healing behavior. As families accomplish this, it helps family members to eventually reach out to people beyond the boundaries of the family.

Conclusion

We know what the black sheep of the family looks like. He’s the “bad” guy who gets in trouble all the time at school, and later with the law and society in general. The “wild child” with poor impulse control who begins abusing drugs and alcohol. Someone who tends to embarrass the family by making all of the family secrets apparent to the world. Obviously, the family can’t be that great if little Stevie ended up drinking and drugging and spending three years in state prison, right? No matter what the family does to undo that image, there’s always Stevie to contend with. And how did he grow up so “bad” if he came from such an upstanding family?

Black sheep are basically scapegoats raised by parents who have a particular issue with morality. Either they are rigidly moralistic and can’t abide the slightest infringement of the rules, or they are unable to own their own mistakes and shortcomings. They tend to project these issues onto one of their children, seeing that child as wrong, “bad,” immoral, or evil. Often, the child will take on the bad, swallow it deep down into the unconscious, and then work really hard to be “good.” However, having not been empowered by his parents, such a child is typically incapable of self-control.

In this type of situation, parents unwittingly react to the challenge of controlling the bad child by talking to the child. Unfortunately, this makes him feel as if it is hopeless to even consider changing. Perhaps the parents are sincerely worried about what’s going on, but they don’t recognize the unconscious projections that are occurring in the home. They might even show him affection during this talk. They look him right in the eye with a sincere worry about what might happen to him if he doesn’t stop. The child, again taking on the emotional content of the conversation as if it belongs solely to him (as the empathic scapegoat child generally does) assumes that not only is he bad for upsetting his parents, he must be really hopeless if his parents are worried.

We can’t change the past. Our childhood experiences have shaped us into the men and women we are today. Both the good and the bad parts. What we can do, however, is change the way we view our past. It is important that we make sense of our life story. We need to think about experiences in our past, and how these experiences have shaped the actions we take today and in the future. By linking past experiences to our present, we’ll be able to better understand the motives behind our actions, and move forward in such a way that that our past, while remaining an integral part of ourselves, doesn’t define us for the rest of our lives.

Image result for black sheep of the family quotes

Excerpt from “The Forest For the Trees” by Betsy Lerner

Most writers, like most children, need to tell. The only problem is that much of what they need to tell will provoke the ire of parent-critics, who are determined to tell writer-children what they can and cannot say. Unless you have sufficient ego and feel entitled to tell your story, you will be stymied in your effort to create. You think you can’t write, but perhaps you can’t tell. Writing is nothing if not breaking the silence. The problem is, no one likes a snitch.

On top of this, contemporary critics would have us believe that we are in an age of unparalleled navel-gazing. On the contrary, there is far greater cultural censure in taking one’s pain seriously. As Alice Miller notes in her book Banished Knowledge, “Not to take one’s own suffering seriously, to make light of it or even laugh at it, is considered good manners in our culture. This attitude is even called a virtue, and many people are proud of their lack of sensitivity toward their own fate and above all their own childhood.”

For all the familial anxiety attendant on the publication of a first book, Lerner says she is always struck when she finds that the dedication page is devoted to the author’s parents. Indeed, some of the most damning books about childhood or family life are thus dedicated. Pat Conroy’s unforgettable first novel, The Great Santini, about the abuse a young boy suffers at the hands of his brutal military father, “is dedicated with love and thanks to Frances ‘Peggy’ Conroy, the grandest of mothers and teachers, and to Colonel Donald Conroy, U.S.M.C, Ret., the grandest of fathers and Marine aviators.” Dorothy Allison dedicated her first novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, a horrific story about the abuse of a young girl and her mother’s failure to protect her, to her deceased mother.

Of course, parental approval isn’t the most important thing in the world. One hopes that by the time a person reaches maturity, peer approval, mate approval, and, more important, self-approval, pick up where your parents leave off. But you don’t have to be a Freudian to recognize the impact of parental influence. Our childhood home is our world when we’re young, and within its walls we find safety and comfort or coldness and danger, or, more likely, something in between. We are praised and scolded according to a great many criteria, and we piece together our own little fictions of how and why we are the way we are.

If stories took you far away when you were a child, if characters from books kept you company as you peered out a rainy window and tried to discern that great mystery of how other people live, then you believe that books are the most important things in life. If you were drawn to books, and in turn to writing, chances are you found the world wanting. You knew that a record had to be kept, or the world or you would disappear. People are motivated to write for a variety of reasons, but it’s the child writer who has figured out, early on, that writing is about saving your soul.

Where, after all, does the drama of the gifted child begin but at her own dinner table? The material we continue to grapple with all our lives has more to do with that kid than any grown writer wants to admit. That’s where you were told in any number of spoken and unspoken ways that you were good enough, or not good enough, or too good to be true. That’s where you got the message that you would either go very far or amount to nothing. That’s where you first encountered acceptance or rejection. The messages you received may have enabled you to raise your hand in class, read your story aloud; something told you that people cared about what you had to say. Or perhaps you went underground because you sensed your ideas were shameful or dangerous. Or that you were suspect.

Just as one child takes the message of his glorious future and goes very far, another is paralyzed by the expectation. Likewise, the child who is consistently disparaged may make something of himself, just to show the bastard who called him worthless. Or he may set out on a course of self-destruction, believing himself as unworthy as the adult who crippled his small soul. But more than any emotional Molotov cocktail of abuse and deprivation, or any showers of love and support, Lerner thinks what determines whether the person goes on to become a serious writer is his or her tolerance or love of solitude.

Writing is, most times, a rather lonely profession.

Reference:

Lerner, B. (2010). The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

 

 

 

Anxiety, Depression, and the American Adolsecent

The cover story for Time magazine, November 7, 2016, by Susanna Schrobsdorff, tells of American teens who are anxious, depressed and overwhelmed. Experts are struggling over how to help them. Schrobsdorff’s article is strikingly titled “The Kids Are Not All Right.” The article begins with the story of Faith-Ann Bishop, who was in eighth grade the first time she cut herself. She took a piece of metal from a pen and sliced into the soft skin near her ribs. There was blood and a sense of deep relief. “It makes the world very quiet for a few seconds,” she said. “For a while, I didn’t want to stop, because it was my only coping mechanism. I hadn’t learned any other way.”

Faith-Ann indicated that pain from the superficial wound was a momentary escape from the anxiety she was fighting constantly, about grades, about her future, about relationships, about everything. For Faith-Ann, cutting was a secret, compulsive manifestation of the depression and anxiety that she and millions of teenagers in the U.S. are struggling with. Some experts say self-harm among adolescents is on the rise. Self-Harm Increasing Among Youth.

As Schrobsdorff indicates in her article, adolescents today have a reputation for being more fragile, less resilient and more overwhelmed than their parents were when they were growing up. Sometimes they are called spoiled or cuddled or “helicoptered.” But a closer look paints a far more heartbreaking portrait of why young people are suffering. According to the Time article, anxiety and depression in high school kids have been on the rise since 2012 after several years of stability. This is a problem that cuts across all demographics – suburban, urban and rural; those who are college-bound and those who aren’t.

It is very alarming to learn from Schrobsdorff’s article that in 2015 about 3 million teens aged 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.) More than 2 million reported experiencing depression that impaired their daily function. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 30% of girls and 20% of boys – totaling 6.3 million teens – have had an anxiety disorder. Even more alarming, Schrobsdorff reports that only about 20% of young people with a diagnosable anxiety disorder get treatment.

These adolescents are, according to Schrobsdorff, “…the post-9/11 generation, raised in an era of economic and national insecurity. They’ve never known a time when terrorism and school shootings weren’t the norm. They grew up watching their parents weather a severe recession, and, perhaps most important, they hit puberty at a time when technology and social media were transforming society.” Schrobsdorff also reminds us that “…every fight or slight is documented online for hours or days after the incident.” Faith-Ann Bishop told Schrobsdorff, “We’re the first generation that cannot escape our problems at all. We’re all like little volcanoes. We’re getting this constant pressure, from our phones, from our relationships, from the way things are today.”

Other Concerns Not Discussed in the Time Article

From a distance, depression can seem like no big deal. After all, who doesn’t feel a little down in the dumps now and then? But depression in America is a big deal, and, according to the CDC, it is projected to become an even bigger and more serious issue in the next four years. CDC Mental Health Report. Mental illness is defined as “all diagnosable mental disorders” or “health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.” Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (43.8 million, or 18.5%) experiences mental illness in a given year. Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13 to 18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8 to 15, the estimate is 13%.3. Mental Health By the Numbers, National Alliance of Mental Health.

Although adolescent depression may not differ significantly from adult depression, the adolescent brain is different, and it seems possible that these differences may affect teenagers and their responses to depression. Teenage propensity for risk-taking and poor decision making can turn untreated depression into a dangerous game. A study released by researchers at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy suggests that depressed teenagers are more likely to self-medicate with marijuana and illicit drugs. Depressed teenagers are almost twice as likely as their non-depressed peers to become psychologically dependant on marijuana.

The White House study also suggested that use of drugs like marijuana can make depression worse. There was a higher percentage of youth with a major depressive episode in 2014 than in each year from 2004 and 2012 – similar to the 2013 estimate. Youth who experienced a major depressive episode in the past year were more likely than other youth to have used illicit drugs.

When adolescents are depressed, they have a tough time believing that their outlook can improve. But professional treatment can have a dramatic impact on their lives. It can put them back on track and bring them hope for the future.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK.