I have been chatting to a few school-aged children lately, who are feeling overwhelmed by anxiety. It has been an educational an eye-opening experience for me and I have found a running theme amongst in conversation. You feel misunderstood.
Anxiety/depression amongst children and teenagers are on the rise. The pressure on you these days is great, and social media is a real issue. You’re growing up in a world obsessed with body-image, celebrity and materialism. Where your family life may be loving and stable, your peers may be experiencing the opposite as there is a real breakdown of family values in society too – so this may adversely affect the behaviour of your peers towards you (increase of bullying). We went through similar stresses at your age, but we were lucky that we could ‘hide’ after school easily, there was no contact by mobiles, text messages, apps or social media once school let out. It was good for us to be able to go home and leave issues in the schoolyard, whereas it follows you around.
I am hearing that you think your parents don’t understand what it’s like being anxious or depressed. They do. It’s easy for a professional or an unrelated (but trusted) adult to empathise with you, and you may wonder why your parents can’t be the same. Parents have this interesting way of blaming themselves for their children’s issues. We feel they are ‘taking after us’ or it’s because we didn’t ‘bring them up right way’ that has made our children ‘sensitive’ or ‘emotional.’ We must have done something wrong??
I know the first time my daughter’s teacher took me aside and said that my daughter is having trouble managing her emotions and she is feeling anxious, I burst out into tears. I was in a difficult place at the time myself, so of course I blamed me. And frankly, on the inside, I resented that she was ‘following in my footsteps.’ I was so terrified that she was going to be like me where anxiety was concerned, that at times my fear manifested into anger, rather than being empathic. Of course that did more harm than good. I knew deep down that it wasn’t her fault, I was angry at myself because I perceived it a failure on my part.
I am fortunate to have grown in mindset in this regard. Some parents have not had the privilege to seek help, or the right help, or they have not been taught to deal with their own issues or emotions. They may not have learned the tools to self-help. That’s not their fault, they just haven’t been taught. You may think that they ‘should’ know and understand, but to be honest a full blown anxiety disorder is difficult for many everyday adults to understand (those who haven’t been through it), let alone a parent who is at risk of having their ‘failures’ exposed, this is even more of a difficult thing for them to understand or accept. They want you to just get ‘over it.’
There is scientific proof that we can have a biological pre-disposition to anxiety and depression. So perhaps your parents, grandparents, great grandparents have gone through this. It was not socially acceptable to be so open about this once upon a time. Your generation is lucky that there is a conversation about it and certainly some very good help out there.
So reach out, confide in a trusted person. You are not alone and like many things in life, this will no doubt be a passing faze. Don’t lose faith in your parents. Because they love you, because they don’t want you to see you suffer, and because more often than not, they’re own personal experience is proof that they know more about this then you think they do.