Having dealt with depression and dark periods off and on for many years, I have a special place in my heart for those who feel broken inside. People often ask, especially when dealing with younger people, “how can one so young be so broken?” It’s easy to write off moodiness or depression in teens as just a “phase” or simply being immature and seeking attention. Even I have off-handedly discounted the feelings of others. This was and is wrong.
The truth is, we are not born whole people. We’re born as basically blank slates. Sure, genetics will form a scaffolding, but it’s our environment and our internal search for identity and meaning that will ultimately form what we consider “whole” human beings. The reality is, when someone’s young and having strong emotional issues, it isn’t necessarily that they’re “broken,” they were never whole to begin with. And unless addressed, unless their lives and their reality are respected, that partially formed psyche will turn into an adult with a malformed sense of self; they will likely carry those scars and develop deeper problems.
The search for who we are can be relatively quick and easy, or it might never form into a coherent and satisfying identity. Of course we never stop growing and changing, but those original seeds – the scaffolding and early development in childhood and adolescence – lingers on, coloring every aspect of ourselves until addressed and redressed. Whether the eventual outcome is positive or disastrous, we have to remember that the bulk of our self-identity, the source fount of confidence and strength, all have their roots in our youth. Both biologically and environmentally, whether we consciously recognize it or not, that period is what enables us to become healthy and whole adults, or stunts us long into old age.
The reason teens, in particular, seem to be never endingly sullen while also having periods of wildly positive energy followed by a desire to crawl under rocks and disappear, is due to the fact that their mental ability to properly categorize feelings, assess correct responses, react to stimulus, etc., is still being developed. There’s an almost Autistic quality to life during this period, where you feel everything but don’t always know how to deal with it, and so you either overreact or you shut down. And this period of life, where one’s mind and emotions are caught up in some vortex with occasional times of being becalmed, is the time in which our lasting selves are forged.
You are being formed but you are not yet fully formed. Within those cracks lie the seeds of depression that can sprout at any time. Absent trauma, the person isn’t broken, they’re struggling to become whole. But, without proper respect and assistance, those pieces may not find each other and can go on to be the roots of any number of problems.
--Jacob Bogle, 7/3/2016