When the paramedics finally arrived, she was almost gone. They stood over her for a nanosecond, frozen in their tracks, and then went to work. They peppered her mother for clues and explanations.
“What happened to her face?”
“Nothing. It’s just acne. I think she took a dozen of these pills.”
“Really? Acne does that?”
“Yes. Look, I think she took the pills about 20 minutes ago.”
“She looks like she could have been pretty. Didn’t you take her to a doctor?
“I am trying to find a doctor right now, dork. How is she?”
“Oh, we caught it in time. She will be fine, except her face.”
Beauty Is Everything – Just Ask Snow White
Disney was a master at taking some of the most disturbing tales from literature and sugar-coating them until only the most cynical could detect the misguided message at the heart of the story. Murders and attempted murders aside, the underlying message of Snow White, for instance, is that beauty is everything. It is so important that when the fairest in the land slips into second place, she feels compelled to eliminate her competition. Snow White’s beauty saves her from death at the hand of the huntsman and even the murderous dwarfs when they stood over her with their picks, ready to turn her into a human pincushion while she was hidden under the bedcovers. Once they see her beauty, however, all is forgiven.
The climax of the film really drives the message home. Before the queen can commit the horrible crime of poisoning Snow, she must turn herself ugly, I mean really ugly . . . because pretty people don’t do terrible things. In the end, we don’t feel bad when the ugly queen falls to her death. Snow White, on the other hand, was so beautiful that the dwarfs couldn’t even stand to bury her. They put her in a glass coffin above the ground until the handsome prince, (aka “Stranger”) kissed her to life. This act of necrophilia was okay because he was handsome and she was still pretty and consequently in love, evidently.
The Sad Truth about Depression
Coming in last in a high school beauty pageant wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t held every day. Forget your straight A’s and your willingness to be nice to everyone; Miss Congeniality is as meaningless here as it is in Atlantic City. The daily pressure is grinding. No matter how much you try to hide, every moment feels like the swimsuit competition. Even the most resilient personality can break under the strain.
Many people mistakenly believe that depression is just the last stage of sadness. A trip to Disneyland should solve that, right? The truth is depression is more often the result of extreme stress, both physical and emotional. It is a hormone issue, where your happy hormones, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, are drained out of you by the daily grind. Combine that with raging teen hormones and you have a chemistry experiment gone bad. So, your daughter’s drive for straight A’s can be as harmful to her psyche as her acne.
Losing Touch – Checking Out
When you see your daughter (or son) becoming inexorably sad, she is really a person who is chemically shutting down. At this point, it is beyond sadness; your daughter has a physical injury, severe brain trauma. If you were to encounter your daughter at the bottom of the stairs with her foot pointed in the wrong direction, your reaction would be instant, and appropriate. You would rush her to a doctor.
Compared to depression, a broken leg is a paper cut; but since depression doesn’t bleed, people often think a good old-fashioned pep talk will do the trick. As you wrap up your speech, your daughter displays her acting chops with a bright smile and twinkling eyes and skips out of the room, while you go to bed feeling like you are making progress. You may feel victory is at hand, but your daughter is lying on her bed contemplating a total surrender.
Your worst first step after realizing that motivational speeches don’t work is to rush to the Internet. Let’s be clear; your daughter is bleeding to death. Her depleted serotonin levels are plunging her into despair; her dwindling norepinephrine is sapping away her motivation, while her diminished dopamine reserves are pushing her into madness. She needs a doctor, now.
Depression could be compared to leukemia, except it isn’t your blood that’s affected, it is your hormones. The recovery time and long-term maintenance needed are remarkably similar. You will need a strategy. Your doctor may prescribe medication. Follow his or her instructions explicitly.
Removing your daughter from any emotionally toxic environment is a good place to start. If her school or peer pressure is a source of stress, find a better program. Schools exist for teens dealing with depression. These institutions help during the healing process and aid your child to deal appropriately with other teen concerns.
There are many schools that offer apt programs for teens who suffer from depression. Such institutions are staffed with professionals and medical personnel trained to help children recover from and thrive beyond depression. They see it as life-saving as any cancer treatment center, and many who have graduated from special schools agree.
Claire Smith is a freelance writer. She blogs about a variety of topics, including social issues and teen problems. She also writes for organizations that offer assistance to problematic youth or children with special needs, like The Discovery Academy.