At fifty-two years of age, Amy was used to controlling her life. As the head of a department in a major company, Amy gave orders and expected immediate results. She told people how high to jump, and they did. Those who didn’t measure up to Amy’s level of expectation didn’t last long. Amy was finally at a place in her life where she felt like everything was working the way it was supposed to—her way. Then she suffered a major health crisis. Amy felt betrayed by her body, and each physical setback pushed her closer to the edge of depression. She was afraid that if she didn’t recover her physical strength soon, she never would.
Amy relied upon a pattern of pushing through life’s challenges, using her intellect and forceful personality. These were things she’d always counted on. These were things her family had taught her. Make a decision. Fix whatever was broken and move on. Amy was supposed to be in control of what happened to her. The reality of Amy’s recuperation was not living up to this perception, which she found deeply disturbing. If she couldn’t count on this, what could she count on?
The intentions of adults may not be to pass along negative messages to children, yet that is often what happens. Children tend to mirror what they see around them, good or bad. Without ever being told, children may develop a working model for life influenced by the suspicion, insecurity, perfectionism, self-centeredness, frustration, or oppressive behavior of influential adults. This model produces feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness, all of which suffocate optimism, hope, and joy.
You may have a background where negativity or even abuse was evident in your family. Or you may look back at your childhood and conclude your family can’t be a source of your depression, because you don’t remember any negative or abusive experiences.
As much as parents and adults try to minimize the damage done to their children through their own mistakes and faulty behaviors, it is not possible to completely eliminate negative influences. A careless comment or unkind remark can be enough to plant in a child’s mind a seed that grows into a false perception.
Well-meaning adults can make mistakes where children are concerned, such as what happened in Mark 10: “People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’” (13–14).
By their actions, the disciples conveyed the perception that children were not important to Jesus, when the opposite was true! Perhaps this is a perception you received growing up—that God loved you but was really too busy to be bothered by you. These are types of perceptions that become false truths.
A search through your past is not meant to assign blame; it is, rather, a mature look at your family to discover what might contribute to depression. It is so important for you to be able to identify the burdens from past relationships that may be slowing down your rate of recovery. Think about the members of your immediate family—parents, siblings, and grandparents. Think about how you relate to each of these family members and what you learned about yourself from them:
How did they treat you?
What were some ways they hurt you?
What were some ways they made you feel valuable and special?
Most likely, your experiences with your family will be a mixed bag of good and bad, positive and negative, uplifting and deflating. As you’re ferreting out the negative, don’t forget to think about positive things you learned. Remember that the negative responses may come easier than the positive ones. Be patient and allow the positive ones to come up to the surface as well.
If you are struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.