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Monday, February 20, 2012

Depressed Teenagers: Bach Flower Help

It isn't easy being a teenager.  It's a tumultuous time.  The teenage years are about transformation from child to adult and that kind of change and fluctuation is both wonderful and horrible; sometimes both at the same time. If you've made it to adulthood you probably remember some of the angst that came with getting to that point. We expect teenagers to go through this and consider it "normal".  A lot of parents, and teenagers as well, take comfort in knowing this is considered "normal".  There are charts and questionnaires you can fill out on-line to determine whether or not your depression is "normal" versus "clinical". I guess the comfort is that if this is "normal, expected, depression" then "this too shall pass" and we can carry on with our lives letting the emotions play out. After all, "we've all been through this", "it's normal to feel that way".  Hmm....

Aren't we working to evolve through our lifetimes?  Don't we try to make things better? Better for ourselves, better for our children, better for the next generation? So, if that's the plan, wouldn't it make sense to help kids get through that "normal depression" a bit easier? Sometimes, in order to move foreword, it helps to take a look back.

Richard Louv, in "The Nature Principle", suggests more teenagers, people of all ages really, may be experiencing what he called "nature-deficit disorder".  Louv, who also wrote, "Last Child in the Woods", writes that our increasing connectedness to technology has left us disconnected from nature and suffering as a result. We suggests that by consciously walking away from cell phones, computers, head-sets, text messages,and television, and engaging in outside, "no-tech" activities we can experience a boost in spirit.

In my part of the world, when we complained to our parents about being "bored", "frumpy", "sad", or if we even looked mad, we were often sent outside to "do something". It might have been a cleverly designed strategy to uplift us from depression, but I'm suspicious it was more a plot to get that kind of negative, consuming, and contagious, energy out of the house and away from them! Louv doesn't suggest you go back to that strategy exactly.  He doesn't suggest you kick them outside with a bag of breadcrumbs and hope they come back restored.  In fact, the suggestion that a teenager disconnect from their lifeline is not going to have a positive result for you I don't think. %20He He suggests you go outside with your children and find ways to engage in activities that will get all of you away from the technology for awhile and in the presence of nature. He has some great ideas for doing that in his books. His ideas are about helping teenagers find ways to spend time in nature that makes them want to disconnect from their "lifelines" for a period of time. It's not about taking technology away from them.

Of course, if you  look backwards for solutions to the present, sometimes it helps to go back to the 1930s. That's when Dr. Bach was discovering 8 Bach Flower essences out of his line of 38, that fit under the emotional category of "despondency and despair". Guess where he found this line of emotional self-help and healing? In nature! During walks through the countryside he found,  Larch, Pine, Elm, Sweet Chestnut, Star of Bethlehem, Willow, Oak and Crab Apple. These all fit within the section  of despondency and despair and any of these, and others,  might be helpful for teenage depression. Here's a short phrase match up for each of those 8 essences:
Larch- lack of confidence; self-esteem
Pine- guilt; self-reproach
Elm- overwhelming responsibility
Sweet Chestnut- mental anguish
Star of Bethlehem- shock; sudden disappoints; transformation
Willow- self-pity; resentment
Oak- exhausted but struggles on
Crab Apple- poor self-image; embarrassed by personal imperfections
Most of those descriptions sound like "normal" teenage- angst to me and if a few drops of an essence could help balance those feelings and release some depression, why wouldn't we use it? Bach Flower essences aren't addictive. They don't produce side effects. They don't interfere with other medications or treatments. They don't mask emotions. They don't change your external circumstances, they balance you from within. Hmm....

Teenagers are smart.  In some ways they might even be smarter then adults! If you don't think so, give any one of them the technological device  you can't figure out how to use and see what happens! But we might be selling them a bit short. We might be encouraging their disconnection from nature. We might be denying them some help and support that could get them through the rough spots. Maybe we have our own heads buried in the devices and technology, the extra work and not enough time syndrome? Maybe we need their problems to be "temporary" and "normal" so we don't have to focus on them and can worry about our own angst?

Maybe you could use some connection with nature yourself. Maybe you should go outside, find a spot in the sun, in the woods, or by the water, and open up a book on Bach Flowers.  Sweet Shack & Bach Bar could be an easy-read start. See if the idea of Bach Flowers makes sense for you or your teen. Do some research on-line with your technology.Maybe a good present to give a teenager is not a new upgrade for "the device" or a gift card to download more songs or movies. Maybe it's a Bach Consultation.

Do your research,  then take a walk with your teenager. Experiment. Consider planting a garden with them this spring. Plot out your space, look through some seed catalogues. Let them "plug in" to the device but see if over the course of time, that device might just get left behind or ignored as they connect with nature and find some peace in the rough seas of growing up.

Just because "we all suffered through it" doesn't mean the next generation has to. Surely we can do better than that!

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