Amanda’s story began when she was 10 years old. She began having horrible nightmares and couldn’t sleep at night. She began sleeping with her parents each night since she didn’t feel safe anymore. By age 12, it progressed into panic attacks and depression. In 7th grade, she was depressed, unmotivated, and tired most of the time.
Her parents were very proactive in getting help. They spoke with her teachers and the school counselor. Since Amanda was an excellent student and didn’t look different, at first the school community didn’t recognize she needed help. Plus, she was able to hide it so that others wouldn’t know. Her parents applied for accommodations which give students who qualify extra time to complete homework and tests. They were denied. However, after becoming more aware of the situation, the counselor and teachers were very understanding and agreed to give her individualized attention as needed.
By the 8th grade, she was completely stressed and burned out. She didn’t want to get out of bed. Based on the advice of her counselor, they agreed there were certain things she must do. She had to shower, eat, and go to school. It was a very difficult time for the family. She had always been a straight A student, who was heavily involved in school activities. However, the stress of this disease had taken its toll on her physically and emotionally, and she was completely exhausted.
Fortunately, her counselor taught her coping mechanisms through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel. The counselor and CBT were a huge help.
It took several tries to find a psychiatrist they liked, and even longer to find a medicine that worked well without many side effects. Several medications, which helped the depression, had a lot of intolerable side effects. She went through many trials before they found the right one. They learned there isn’t a quick fix for depression and anxiety.
Amanda and her family agree that the strongest message is that depression is a disease and shouldn’t be kept a secret. Her mother says, “You didn’t do anything to get this, and it will not go away without the proper therapy and medication, if needed. As a parent, admitting that you cannot help your child without the proper professionals is a difficult thing to realize, but this awareness is key.”
The family learned that therapy and medication should be continuously monitored even if symptoms improve, rather than discontinuing treatment. This may be a lifelong struggle for some patients.
Today Amanda is doing well. She is now a sophomore in high school. Blessings do come with our trials, and in this case her illness has made her a very compassionate and sensitive person. She has several friends who are in similar situations, and she has been able to offer help to them. She has also volunteered at organizations that increase mental illness awareness. Depression is such a difficult disease, but Amanda and her family pulled together to get through this with God’s help.
These two quotes from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young seemed appropriate to Amanda’s story, “Bring me your mind for rest and renewal. Let Me infuse My Presence into your thoughts. As your mind stops racing, your body relaxes and you regain awareness of Me. This awareness is vital to your spiritual well-being; it is your lifeline, spiritually speaking.” 1
“It is not so much adverse events that make you anxious as it is your thoughts about those events. Your mind engages in efforts to take control of a situation, to bring about the result you desire. Your thoughts close in the problem like ravenous wolves. Determined to make things go your way, you forget that I am in charge of your life. The only remedy is to switch your focus from the problem to My Presence. Stop all your striving and watch to see what I will do. I am the Lord!” 2
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
- Learning coping mechanisms and triggers in her thought processes.
- Support from family and friends.
- Cooperation between teachers and her school counselor.
- Finding a good psychiatrist and counselor.
- The right medication.
Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Let us remember that you are always holding our hand, so we are never alone in our trials. We can always trust You to care for us as our loving Father. Teach us to thank You always even for our difficult times. Help us to relax in your healing presence, so that we can receive Your peace each day.
1 Sarah Young, Jesus Calling (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004) 151.
2 Young, Jesus Calling 148.