By Peggy Ployhar

This blog is the final in my 7-part series on childhood depression. Through these articles, we have covered many issues and truths regarding childhood depression. But, we have also discussed how there’s always a silver lining of hope to be found amidst the dark days and trying situations childhood depression can bring into our homes.

I encourage you to read all the articles in this series to gain a comprehensive understanding of all six warning and guiding lights associated with childhood depression. To find a listing of all the previous posts in this series, refer to the bottom of this article for links.

Warning “S” – Symptoms

Mixed Signals
If you were to look up a list of the physical symptoms associated with depression, you will quickly realize the list compiled for adults is rather different than the list given for children. Children, in general, have fluctuating appetites and sleep patterns. Growth spurts and hormonal changes keep their bodies in a consistent flux. Thus, when it comes to looking for physical signs of depression in children, it is often difficult to differentiate between depression and the swings of adolescence.
Some children will isolate themselves when they are depressed, but others might be socially engaged and angry. On the other hand, one depressed child may start cutting himself, but another might be overly concerned with his appearance. And, to further complicate matters, there are some children who put on a happy face, participate in activities, get great grades, and make everyone believe are no underlying issues at all.

Act on Your Instinct
The problem with trying to stamp specific symptoms on a depressed child is that when parents can’t check off clearly defined boxes which indicate their child is depressed, they often won’t follow up on an instinctive feeling that something is off with their child. To that end, I want to encourage you to start a conversation with your child even if there are no physical warning signs present. In the long run, it’s better to have a dead-end conversation than to deal with depression once it has spiraled out of control.

Getting the conversation going may be a bit awkward, but don’t let that hold you back. If you want some help with approaching the issue, the best resource I have found is Stomping Out Depression by Neil T. Anderson and Dave Park. In general, your discussions don’t need to be elaborate or filled with great wisdom, you just need to take the time to have a meaningful conversation with your child. Get to the underlying roots of your child’s biggest struggles. Don’t judge. Offer compassion. And, show love through your willingness to be available and walk through these struggles alongside your him/her.

Guiding “S” – Serotonin and the Gut

A Natural Antidepressant
Serotonin is called the body’s natural anti-depressant. Unfortunately, serotonin taken as a supplement doesn’t come anywhere close to helping the body like the serotonin the human body manufactures on its own.

And, while I don’t have credentials to even discuss the medical and pharmaceutical benefits of serotonin, my research and experience have provided me with enough circumstantial evidence to warrant mentioning it and some things that increase and decrease natural serotonin production.

The Gut-Brain Connection
When I finally realized one of the main roots of my depression was linked to gut issues, I was in my mid-thirties. I had been unaware of how certain childhood circumstances, medical treatments, and prescriptions, as well as food choices, had negatively affected my gut bacteria.

It wasn’t until I met Diane Craft and learned about her Biology of Behavior information that I started putting together how my gut issues, and those of my children, were intricately linked to our many common issues, including depression. Diane’s material was extremely helpful in explaining how serotonin produced within a healthy gut, affects brain function.

If you would like more information on this gut-brain connection, here are some additional sources I would encourage you to explore:

 

Silver Lining

It is hard to summarize how dramatically my life, and my ability to think, has changed because of what God has revealed to me through my years of struggling with depression and subsequent years of healing. Going from constant hazy thinking, uncontrollable bursts of anger, and suicidal thoughts to who I am today is, in short, a miracle. If God had allowed the transformations I have summarized in these past 7 blogs to happen to me and my children overnight, there wouldn’t have been much wisdom for me to share.

But, God chose to heal us in a slower and more methodical way so we could gain understanding about regarding our relationship with Him, others and the world around us. I am eternally grateful He allowed me to walk this road in this manner. Not only did He do a good work in our family, but He has allowed us to be part of the good work He desires to do in those who come upon these articles and are ministered to through the lessons we have learned.

All praise and honor to Him who works His grace and mercy beyond the borders of what our human minds could ever conceive to ask or think. In Him, we find our peace and our purpose. It comes not from what we have to offer others from within ourselves, but rather what we’re able to share that He first shared with us.

I encourage your feedback and comments. God bless!

 

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By Peggy Ployhar

 

My series on childhood depression continues as we explore the warning lights of helplessness and hopelessness and contrast them with the guiding light of eternal hope. If you would like to reference any of the past articles in this series, you will find links at the bottom.

 

Warning “H” – Helplessness and Hopelessness

 

Helplessness
Helplessness can lead to both physical and mental paralysis.  A child feels out of control when in a state of helplessness, and therefore stops moving forward.  In his book Overcoming Depression, Neil Anderson says “Because [individuals] have no control over certain events, they start to believe they are inadequate, incompetent, and powerless.”

 

Children can develop helplessness either through a major traumatic event or through a series of smaller events leading toward a downward spiral.  Whatever the cause, the process of helping a child move upwards is the same.

 

For a child who is ready to give up, it is best for a parent to first break up their child’s tasks into smaller and more manageable steps.  Once the steps are determined, then a parent should give lots of encouragement and support as the child works through the process of making those small upward strides.  Celebrating every victory and navigating the balance between pushing too hard and not pushing enough, will eventually help your child start a forward momentum.

 

Hopelessness
Hopelessness is basically taking helplessness one step further and proclaiming that life is not worth the effort because change is impossible.  When a child hits this point, an internal shutdown begins.  Children who have sunk this low into their depression often verbalize their hopelessness by saying things like:  Why try”; “It’s no use”; or “I wish I was dead.”

 

Hopelessness is a changeable state, though the child cannot see that.  A hopeless child does not struggle against what is real.  Instead, this child struggles against a false construct which seems real. In this state, a parent can’t argue a child out of being hopeless.  Instead, it is better to come alongside the child and walk towards incremental change, as described above in the helplessness section, reassuring your child that what life holds around the corner is magnificent and worth the walk.

 


 

Guiding “H” – Hope

 

In his book, Overcoming Depression, Neil Anderson states “Research has revealed a link between brain chemistry and hope.  When hope is restored, depression leaves.”  He also goes on to state “…hope in God is the anchor for our soul and the answer for our depression.”

 

Finding A Pathway of Hope
But, how can a parent help their child find hope in God, when a child is in a state of helplessness or hopelessness?  The answer dates back to the Old Testament, and a command God often gave the Israelites to keep from taking similar downward spirals.  It’s called placing spiritual markers, which in their times were often altars, pillars, or stones of remembrance.

 

Each time God did something significant in their history, they were to place a marker to remember God’s provision.  Later, when they saw these markers, they were to recall how God did something great in their midst.  And, when their children asked about them, they were to tell the story to their children about God’s great provision.  This way they would never forget, and they would understand that God did not change and would continue to fight those battles in the future.

 

Putting Down Spiritual Markers for Your Child
Helping children see God’s past provision creates a bridge to the His future (and hopeful) plan for their lives.  By using a timeline, or actual physical objects as spiritual markers, a parent can help a child mark these events.  As a child starts to see God’s hand of provision in their own life, an understanding begins to develop about the personal reality of God at work and a greater purpose in pushing ahead.

 

The Silver Living of Hope Restored

 

Hopeless but not Abandoned
To hide my social anxiety over not knowing how to naturally relate to people, I felt the need to constantly maintain a false persona.  But, the pressure of hiding behind my “every is fine” mask, while inside being torn apart by my inability to relate and connect with others, was an incredible burden to bear.  Even though I clearly remember how I had determined to end my life, and why it made so much sense to me, I also remember how much I still wanted to live.  It is hard to explain how death makes sense to someone who is depressed, but in the midst of hopelessness it often seems like the perfect route to escape the inertia they experience.

 

As I started the long process of setting up spiritual markers in my own life, there were places I couldn’t fill in for a long time because I had blocked them from my mind.  Over time, I uncovered the good with the bad.  But, through it all, I came to realize God had been with me every step of the way and He never gave up on me…even when I told Him out loud that I didn’t want Him in my life anymore.

 

Giver of Hope
At first, I was only able to walk through those markers with God.  But, as I started to share my journey with other women, when speaking at women’s events, retreats and conferences, God started to show me how my spiritual markers were not just intended for my own healing, but also to help others find God’s healing in their lives.

 

Too often we try to make sense of what God is doing by focusing on ourselves, and our loved ones, and not on Him and what He is doing to show us He is working in our midst.  When I was finally able to see God’s hand on every situation in my life, I was no longer paralyzed by helplessness or hopelessness.  I came to realize I didn’t have to be powerful, competent, or even adequate.  Instead, God had all that covered in my life, just as He has it covered in your child’s life.

 

Links to All the Blogs in this Series

Looking Into the Face of Childhood Depression

The “L” Factors of Childhood Depression

The “I” Factors of Childhood Depression

The “G” Factors of Childhood Depression

The “H” Factors of Childhood Depression
The “T” Factors of Childhood Depression 
The “S” Factors of Childhood Depression

 

 

 


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