A Fairy Tale Gone Wrong
Let’s just say I had a different picture of how the teen years would go. I have a lot of home school friends who I watched before I had my own teenagers–and they seemed to have it all together. (I know now that no one has it all together unless they get lucky.) I had visions of lovely walks in the park, frolicking family outings and respectful conversations dancing through my head all throughout my children’s elementary years. After all, I was doing the hard work of discipline early so that, by the time we got to the teen years we’d all be tight. Right?
I mean, I knew that because of adoption, parenting would have it’s bumps and jogs because of trauma. I knew that. But overall, I was thinking it would be manageable and that, because we had been consistent and set solid boundaries from an early age, our parenting would get pretty easy once they got to be teenagers.
Besides, parenting was getting easier every passing year. All the kids were doing well and were improving every day not only in their school work but also in their character.
Teenagers Should Act Like Adults
I know, some of you who aren’t in the homeschooling world probably think that’s crazy talk. However, in my world, there exists a large subset of people who believe, for whatever reason, that the hormonal craziness, bodily changes and violent mood swings brought about by adolescence should not affect a teenager’s ability to regulate their reactions to school, relationships and authority. I have to tell you, I was one of those people that fully expected my cheerful twelve year old to continue his habits of responsibility, good grades and respectful approach to our authority right on through until adulthood. Sigh.
I started noticing something was wrong about halfway through 7th grade. Suddenly he wasn’t talking. He cried a lot. Everything overwhelmed him and he was convinced no one liked him and he’d never have any friends. (Isn’t this part of why we didn’t send him to public school? To avoid these feelings?) No matter that he was regularly surrounded by kids his age who clearly liked him. No matter that he got high praise for an assignment–in his eyes it still wasn’t good enough.
What was even worse about this situation was how it started to affect everyone. We were all wondering how to get through the day without upsetting him. Tim and I started to feel completely inadequate as parents and didn’t really know how to respond to this completely different person in front of us. The other kids, who already had rejection issues, felt they had done something to cause this abrupt shift in personality.
In short, it was awful.
Finally, after trying supplements that didn’t work for what we had come to realize was depression, we took the doctor’s advice and put him on depression medication. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t do my homework on what these meds would do to him because I was so tired. By that time it had been a year and he was starting to talk suicide. He had a few talks with a pastor friend who had done a lot of counseling but other than that, being unemployed at the time, the most we could do was put him on medication. We felt trapped.
The medication we finally settled on (after months of experimentation) at least made Ezra feel less like doing harm to himself. That was really all we could hope for. We kept refilling the prescription and limped through our days together. It broke our hearts to see him so sad all the time.
Fast forward three years. My now sixteen year old son feels he’s had enough with medication. He’s had chronic headaches and fatigue for months and we are pretty sure its the meds. So, I start in doing research again. I discover there is MUCH MORE information out there about dealing with depression naturally now than there was three years ago. In addition, we have been experimenting with sugar and dairy-free diets for my middle son with great success for some other health issues. A side effect of this has been a much more cheerful boy. As I study, I find out how important it is to buy organic and GMO free foods and realize that Ezra has symptoms indicating an allergic reaction to non-organic produce.
Another important discovery is how much good protein and folate rich foods play into certain deficiencies related to depression and anxiety. Grass fed beef, organic, wild-caught salmon and folate rich foods like avocados can turn the corner on depression for some people.
These things, along with a discovery I made long ago about what is called Leaky Gut syndrome and how it can affect the brain, all contribute to a level of confidence in taking him off his depression medication.
We are still early in the process. It’s been about a month since our family started changing our eating habits hard core. It’s been about three weeks since Ezra got off his medication. He’s still experiencing some mild withdrawal symptoms but for the most part the hardest part seems to be over. (The first week was awful–like coming off of heroin.)
Everyone in our house is feeling a lot better. I have to say that, emotionally speaking, the change is dramatic. All three of the kids (13, 14, 16) are talking to me about twice as much as they were before. Ezra seems to have recovered his personality and is no longer having headaches. He’s also much more energetic. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to have him back. I didn’t realize how stressful life before was until the last couple of weeks.
Natural Solutions Checklist
Here is the list of what we have done to get to this point (to support coming off meds)…It’s important to note that the whole family is doing this together and that not every family will need the same things. That said, one non-negatiable is getting off refined sugars and going organic.
- Removed refined sugars like white sugar, high fructose corn syrup and non-sprouted grains and white rice, which turn to sugar during digestion.
- Removed typical dairy products and moved to raw dairy–cutting down on the consumption of dairy overall.
- We are now buying all organic, GMO free food.
- Added a B Vitamin with folate instead of folic acid.
- Added a pro-biotic to Ezra’s regimen (Gabriel was already taking one as a part of his regimen.)
- Did a clay de-tox to remove the left-over harmful chemicals from the medication Ezra was on.
- Have drastically cut down on gluten and are now eating only sprouted grains, which contain much less gluten.
- Added a balancing blend of essential oils to Ezra’s daily regimen.
The strategies we have used over the last few weeks have been working in a most unexpected way. Ezra is more cheerful than he’s been in years and everyone is much more relaxed around here. I hope if you are experiencing what we have been going through in your house, that this little article will set you on the path to finding the answers you need for your teenager. Every body responds in a unique way to strategies to fight depression. For more information on these issues and other natural health questions, much of what I have learned has been from the following websites–
We have now been following the no-refined sugars diet (with several cheat days that seem to have only had minor effects) for several months. Ezra has turned 17 and is even more cheerful and energetic than he was at first. I have lost 26 pounds and Tim has also lost weight and we are having one of the best school years we have ever had. Ezra is motivated and engaged and has even made several new friends. Life is much improved without a steady diet of sugar and I have found that cooking with sucanat and honey gives us the treats we want on occasion without the side effects. I’ll be posting more of my recipes as the school year settles in and I have more time!