Rescuing Your Teenager from Depression

Rescuing Your Teenager from Depression

by Norman T. Berlinger M.D.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060567217
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/04/2006
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 643,297
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

Norman T. Berlinger, M.D., Ph.D., is a bioethicist and a pathologist, following a distinguished career as a surgeon. He writes on health issues and has been published in Discover, the New York Times, Men's Health, and elsewhere. He lives in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

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Rescuing Your Teenager from Depression

Chapter One

Escape from the Edge

Eric is fine now.

He is a junior at college majoring in chemistry. I am pleased he no longer isolates himself, and he is adjusting reasonably well to dormitory life with three roommates. In fact, he became the pipe organist for the campus church during his freshman year, playing for Sunday-evening liturgies in front of an audience of seven hundred students, and sometimes bravely conducting the choir even though he had no previous experience. He involves himself in campus life, although I think he could still do better. And he now has enough confidence in his own worth to actively seek out friends and risk the rejection we all fear, instead of waiting for people to come to him.

His sense of humor has returned. The engaging smile that used to spread across his face at the slightest provocation is back as wide as ever. He tells jokes again, and it is good to hear his contagious belly-laugh. He has reclaimed his optimism, too, and he is looking forward to a chemistry internship at a major corporation here in Minnesota this summer. And he can't wait to take those last few flying lessons in order to qualify for his pilot's license. I used to discourage his flying. I worried that the remnants of the depression or the anxiety might interfere with his concentration or his judgment. Now I just have the normal worries about a dear and precious son piloting a flimsy single-engine contraption a mile up in the sky. Eric thoroughly enjoys the hands-on science of flying and says that flying also is a "spiritual experience." As an ever-protective parent, I always remind Eric that for his mother and me it is a spiritual experience, too, but not of the kind he means.

His relationship with his mother, my wife, Pat, is healing quickly, and they are fast friends again. They've picked up where they left off six years ago, and I don't think I see any scars. To see them now, their stormy past relationship, with all the bickering and arguments and sadness, seems incomprehensible. During the time of Eric's most severe depression, Pat worried, and cried, that they would never be close again. But they stay in daily touch now, even when Eric's away at school. Sometimes it's only small talk or a comparison of weather forecasts, but Eric is reminded every day that the distance does not decrease his importance in this family. The cell phone bills are eye-popping, but worth it.

Despite his gratifying comeback from his depression in high school, Eric is not yet on automatic pilot. And so, I must stay closely involved. Certainly, depression has fast-forwarded his development in areas such as emotional maturity, problem solving, and empathy. But he seems a bit behind on assertiveness and self-reliance, because teen depression is a disease of emotional detours. While his high school classmates were thinking about colleges or careers, Eric was desperately trying to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning. While other teens were piling up confidence, Eric was searching for reasons not to hate himself. And while other teens were joining clubs and building relationships, Eric was isolating himself in his room and watching movies, sometimes the same movie over and over as if in a trance. Depression didn't make Eric a coward, but it paralyzed him with its pain.

The course has not been smooth, but it has been steady.

I needed to stay closely involved when Eric left for college to help him catch up from the detours. Eric did not become the pipe organist by accident. I "engineered" that by approaching the church's music director to take him on, only because Eric had not yet regained the selfesteem to do it alone. And I "arranged" for Eric's freshman residence hall to be a special "first-year experience": three hundred incoming freshman gathered into one dormitory as a nurturing community in order to smooth the adjustment to parent-free college life and to facilitate making friends. Every so often I search my soul to make sure I am being truly helpful rather than overly protective or meddlesome. It doesn't take long to remember that the depression so completely ravaged Eric's energy, optimism, and sense of worth that I must not be merely his sideline coach, but his side-by-side teammate. I cannot just stand behind the bench, encouraging him on. I must be on the treacherous field of play with him. I'm convinced now that anything less is a grievous error. So, too, is William Styron. In a poignant account of his own depression, he says, "Calling 'chin up' from the safety of the shore to a drowning person is tantamount to insult."

The Transformation

Eric was fine six years ago, too, a model fourteen-year-old. And I was unaware of the peril ahead.

Parents who met him often told me they wanted a child just like him. He was charming, polite, and humorous. Most of all, Eric was kind. As a high school freshman, his teachers acknowledged him in a class assembly as the most congenial and helpful student there. They awarded him a framed certificate, which I recently found in one of his drawers and put out for display again in his room. Looking at that certificate brings back all the wrenching memories, because that award marks the beginning of his downhill slide into the darkness.

Eric's nightmare in his last three years of high school became my nightmare, too. His personality deteriorated, and the Eric I knew was slipping away at a terrifying speed. His mood turned sour, and he became belligerent, but usually only with his mother. A vicious stranger seemed to have moved into Eric's body, and he argued about anything important to the family -- doing homework, attending tennis practice, or what time to set for a reasonable evening curfew ...

Rescuing Your Teenager from Depression. Copyright © by Norman Berlinger. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Daniel Amen

“A powerful, compassionate, and helpful book.”

Lisa Leathers

“I know I can’t change the past, but God willing I believe this book can help change someone else’s future.”

Henry C. Emmons

“[In this book], parents have the information, the inspiration, and the wisdom they need to help their children.”

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Rescuing Your Teenager from Depression 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Busy__Mom More than 1 year ago
Was it Depression, or typically moody teen? That's what I asked myself as I browsed ParentsDigest for summaries on this topic. When I found this book, I realized that I wasn't always even recognizing certain behaviors as signs of sadness or depression. This book has been instrumental on helping me recognize, and weigh the meaning of, my teens' behaviors.