First sentence: Freedom! We long for it and love it. At last, free to be and do what we want. That’s the teen years, right? Our first car, our first job, our first date, our first road trip. These are wonderful moments of increasing independence that we experience in our teen years as our parents gradually release us from their supervision. Freedom is so amazing, isn’t it? We can’t get enough of it, and we can’t get it early enough. But for some of us, our teen years are the opposite of freedom. They are years of increasing bondage. It’s not that an outside force like our parents or teachers imprisons us. No, it’s an inside force that restricts us. Our own thoughts and feelings hold us captive, and we can’t break free from them.
Why Am I Feeling Like This? A Teen's Guide to Freedom from Anxiety and Depression has a companion book geared towards adults (parents, teachers, counselors, pastors, grandparents, etc.)
The book introduces readers to eighteen teens. (I'm assuming names have been changed and/or the teens are composites of multiple teens.)
1. Circular Sarah
2. Tense Tom
3. Doomed Dave (this is the author's testimony)
4. Imaginative Imogen
5. Panicky Paul
6. Faithless Flavia
7. Controlling Colin
8. Depressed Dan
9. Negative Nicole
10. Workaholic Will
11. Beautiful Brianna
12. Media Max
13. Friendly Fiona
14. Bullied Benton
15. Rebellious Rob
16. Perfect Peyton
17. Paralyzed Pam
18. Lonely Luke
A couple of paragraphs illustrates each teen's experience with anxiety, depression, or anxiety and depression. After the introduction, a key is shared. One main key per chapter. This key is the key that that teen said helped improve the situation. An update or follow up from the teen then follows. The chapters close with an activity or exercise to try, a verse to memorize, and a prayer to pray. The book stresses that teen readers are NOT to try using or "turning" all the keys at once. Not all keys will work for all readers. And some keys that will end up working in the end require time and patience.
This is the exercise for chapter one:
The next time you feel anxious or depressed, use the key of understanding. Try to view your feelings as an outside observer and briefly describe what you experience in your thoughts, feelings, and body. Instead of getting on the roller coaster, try to think of yourself as a spectator watching it from the sidelines and you are calling your friend to describe it. This may not immediately change your feelings, but it changes the way you relate to them. Write down: • What are my thoughts? • What are my feelings? • What is happening in my body? What was the sequence? What came first, second, and third? Labeling and describing our thoughts and feelings like this reduces their power over us.
The adult book includes these same teens. But my impression from reading the adult book--which includes the two or three paragraph summaries of teens' experiences--was that they were generic stereotypes and not reflective or representative of any actual teen. Perhaps because the adult book didn't include the follow ups? Perhaps because the adult book didn't stress that the main key of each chapter was the one the teen said helped best? Perhaps because the adult book sought to bring in more, more, more, more. Instead of one or two activities per chapter, the author was throwing half a dozen per chapter. Perhaps because there was less narrative quality and more fact-throwing? I don't know.
I definitely got the impression from reading this book that anxiety and depression are normal and natural to humanity. There is help, but you're first and foremost a human being. The adult book I felt tended more towards your teen is a problem to be solved; here are some tools, start experimenting. That could just be me.
Neither book mention the gut microbe. I think if David Murray had bothered to go there--the gut, brain connection--the book would be even better. There is a BIG, BIG, BIG connection between the gut and the brain. Good bacteria can make a HUGE difference in how our brain functions and processes life.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible