What’s teenage depression, anyway? If there’s anything that’s generally true of teens it’s that they’re not all too thrilled with their place in life, or school, or family at all; that they kinda wish they were like someone else or maybe even someone else entirely. And yet if there’s anything true of so many adults, it’s that they’re equally unpleased – with their work, and relationships, and lives.
But how does it happen? How does the happiness seen in the youngest kids become teenage depression, and the teenage depression of so many youths become the kinda silent depression of adulthood?
At first glance, this article may be controversial, maybe. Cause mostly I won’t be using words you know like words you know. Guess I’m totally weird like that.
Cause really, I think most people on this earth ARE depressed, whether diagnosed with it or not. They’re kinda unhappy with life, discontented, a lil messed up, a lil f***ed up, living as less than their better selves and kinda ignorant to the fact that they could.
They’re just not satisfied. They’re not their best. They’re not happy.
And so the world in general isn’t as great as it could and should be, because we ourselves aren’t as great as we could and should be.
And I think it starts in our childhood – in the homes where we were taught love (or not), and forgiveness (or not), and how to live and deal with life (or not).
It begins in our broken homes.
And so I get why saying something like that would be a lil weird or upsetting to some. A lot of people – raised in a lot of good families – would surely disagree. I know my Mom would totally be like, “wtf, Adam!?”
But their minds, of course, are referencing a certain definition of “broken home”. You know…the regular one. To them, the term understandably conjures certain mental images – of single parent homes or emotional or physical abuses; of kids raised with little or no guidance at all.
But I think broken homes are so much more than that, and so I’m purposely “misusing” the word. Cause to me they’re not just the most f***ed up homes. They’re EVERY home.
My “Broken Home”
My childhood home (thankfully) didn’t resemble those usual mental images. I wasn’t raised in a “broken home” in the traditional sense, the kind more likely to produce the 45th prisoner in a chain gang than the 45th President or something. In fact, it wasn’t like that at all.
I grew up in a two parent home, in well-enough sized houses or apartments, in the suburbs of a rather affluent area (the clearly awesome Northern Virginia) in the most affluent nation in the world (the U.S., you foreign devils). I have two parents who love me (cause I’m awesome), and more family than I can count . I have friends (cool ones), and an education (a kinda useless one, haha).
We experienced some serious difficulties, for sure, and in many ways still are. But no matter how it may have felt at the time, or still feels now, I’m not NEARLY stupid enough to believe that my story is some sob story.
There’s always some person who had it worse.
There weren’t days I went hungry, or nights I waited anxiously for a drunken father to stumble home. I had no reason to fear our home being repossessed any day now, or our family subjected to violence. I didn’t witness atrocities or genocide, war or hate. I was never targeted physically because of the color of my skin, or the beliefs of my religion; never made numb to the idea that roadside bombs and suicide bombers were just a way of life in my neighborhood; never in danger of being taken from my home through threat and abuse, to be made into a soldier in a war I had no part in or something.
All of which are things millions of kids MUST and DO worry about or deal with every day.
I mean, it was freaking suburban Virginia…not Somalia, or Jerusalem, or even South Central L.A.
My parents made mistakes with me, as all parents do, but they’ve done more for me than I will ever know, and endured and sacrificed tremendously to provide a future for my brothers, sister, and myself, and I’ll love them forever for it. They deserve that much at least.
And yet, despite ALL that – despite all that should have been and WAS a blessing and an advantage compared to so many countless kids who did without – I STILL ended up my own kind of messed up. I still ended up a loser and depressed. I still hated my self, my life, and most all others.
And that shit’s common.
It’s too regular. It’s too average. It’s too normal, here on this planet.
And so, when I say we are all the product of broken homes, it is not an indictment on parenting specifically, or disadvantageous circumstances alone, but of ALL that shapes and surrounds us in our youth; of family and friends, neighborhoods and nations, religions and cultures.
It’s the acknowledgment that most who walk this earth are LESS than they are capable of, and MUST have become so somehow.
We Aren’t Born Depressed
My brother and sister-in-law recently brought a baby girl into the world, and she’s super cute obviously.
But when you hold a baby, when you watch them look up at you – at everything – in complete amazement, you can’t help but be in awe at how utterly perfect they are, how miraculous their very existence is; the result of two people who love each other, of the flawless division of one cell into billions, of a process which took thousands of years to evolve, and science which took hundreds of years to perfect.
Yet when I look into my niece’s eyes, I also see that which few recognize, or care to verbalize: that one day this little girl, who is so perfect and so loved now, will feel inadequate and undeserving; that she will at times be depressed and lonely, hopeless and confused; that she will be picked on and ridiculed and will likely do the same to others. Her parents will yell at her and she will do the same. Both will say things they wish they hadn’t, and will do damage they wish they could undo. She will suffer and feel pain. She will cause the same in others who do not deserve it, and allow it from those who do not deserve her. She will lie and cheat. She will hate.
Who amongst us, if any, looks upon any adult as we look upon a newborn? Who sees that same perfection of infancy in the grocer, the neighbor, the trucker; or your parents, your siblings, your partner?
It almost seems ridiculous, right? Laughable even.
Because most become so utterly imperfect. They somehow start sucking really badly.
It happens to us all, really. From that baby – perfect, innocent, and so completely incapable of wrong, who owns no part of the insanity and madness which is the rest of the world – from that baby, we become sad, sorry, scared, and stupid, in a way. We become the dysfunction that is the world – the vengeance and cruelty, the bigotry and hate.
You needn’t be some kind of monster or whatever. Cause even the simplest of cutting words prove it. We’re ALL a bit guilty. We ALL have our small part.
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The Effect of Youth
I know some will disagree. You may have had loving parents. You may even have had a wonderful childhood. Or maybe the complete oppposite. But regardless of the size, quality, or love of our families and those close to us, we assuredly learned behaviors, thought processes, and belief systems in our youth which proved insufficient later in life, when problems mounted, when dreams died, when the rosy view of the world shown in our childhood proved a thing of fantasy.
How else could so many people be stuck in worthless relationships? Or scared to leave the job they hate, or follow the path they dream; choosing instead the life they hate over the life they fear?
How are they unable to stop caring what others think about them, or say to them; doing and living instead as others tell them they must, or insist they should – just cause they just wanna be liked?
How are so many just entirely unwilling to make the changes in their life they KNOW they need, though they feel and live the pain of their inaction every day?
Do you believe these people ever really learned the proper way to LIVE? Do you think they learned how to take the life they’re given and make into it the life they want? Do you think they ever learned happiness?
To the greatest extent, we are the effect of the affect of our youth. From our earliest days to this very day we have been shaped as the wind shapes the dune – sand by sand, little by little. And like the sand, grain by grain we drift away.
We lose our Selves.
We come from homes where we were, at times, wrongly discouraged when excited, wrongly blamed when innocent, wrongly lied to when we would have easily understood and greatly appreciated the truth.
We were given a model of the world as it was experienced and learned by others of equally broken homes. We were crippled by the limiting beliefs and moralities of parents who knew no better, of friends who were as immature as us, of a society less interested in nurturing healthy minds than in producing productive hands.
We were made inferior by forced comparisons to siblings and friends who never asked to become a standard, and made desperate by our own innate desire to please and be loved by those around us.
It is no one’s fault usually, but the cruel irony remains…
We suffer today because at our most impressionable age we were children.
We were taught to live when we were least prepared to live; taught useless facts and dates when what we needed was wisdom; taught how to make a life in a society that values sameness, instead of how to find an identity in ourselves that we’d value.
And every day since we’ve suffered the consequences.
We were born in dysfunction, raised in dysfunction, and thus live in dysfunction.
We are ALL the product of broken homes. We ALL bear scars of our youth.
Every “home” is a broken home, by this standard. Every home can harm a lifetime. Every childhood does some damage. Some, of course, far worse than others. It is up to us, though – through our own struggle and journey – to fix what’s been done, to come to terms with ourselves, with our lives, and with this world.
It’s up to us, then, to make our home the last broken home.
And it’s my hope that this site is able to help you, and help myself, take those steps together…
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Now, if you’re ready, continue to PART TWO…