***Photo Credit: Rebecca Weston
Every day my phone rings, a parent calling for their 13 yo daughter with depression; or a young adult asking about therapy for isolation/anxiety. What is going on? My head has been in my phone for so many months that my eyes hurt. Each day I'm doom-scrolling or looking for a headline that says, we can exhale from the Trump Trauma. It's quarantine, it's covid, it's remote learning, it's kids in bubbles, it's parents losing jobs/sanity, it's a leader without a map, it's groundhog day, it's getting colder/darker.
At last we see a ray of hope as a society but will we heal in time for my kid to finish college in some decent, meaningful way? And what about all her friends? Who are we in this fractured time? Why are so many kids showing up with depression/suicide? My patient who just identified as gay said the night before the election, "I just want my rights, ya know?" We hear about the screens - the screens don't help. But I'm not anti-technology. I'm all for what tech can do for us, like cure covid and organize my desktop. Unlike that muddle of a movie the Social Dilemma, we can accomplish great things with advances in AI. Technology can even swing a state -- if only we could send truthful messages. When a Narcissist is POTUS we do fear for our security. Unpredictability and provocation are part of his game. Most people don't live in a nonsensical world of lies. We also know about the isolation that is 2020. Obviously isolation is no good for anyone. I see kids who manage to keep their structure and kids who don't. I found a quote in a therapy magazine I thought was perfect:
"Dividing up your day is an important thing to do. When the temporal structure breaks down, we break down."
My point is that there is something far more malignant than the President himself. Our kids are losing their motivation. They told me they feel PARANOID to go out and they are agonized about losing time in their quest to move toward independence, the GOAL of young adulthood. They are despairing that not only is their future bleak but their identity will be wiped away, "poof" as one client said, in a wave of hatred. Is this how we want them to live? Latched to their homes without ever launching? I used to talk about failure to launch. Now it's failure to go anywhere. You see some of my clients have adapted. Adaptation to working from your bedroom is a good thing. But some have not. These kids are now exhibiting symptoms of social breakdown. When you're 19 and you can only go out once a month to sit on a blanket with a friend things are real bad. Of course they are busting out. What else are they going to do? So the next time you think about reprimanding your kid for not wearing a mask (of course), empathize with their stagnation. Can you imagine if we were locked down in HS? Empathy for the lost time. Empathy for the lost popularity, empathy for that sports award that isn't coming. Empathy for the science project that won't ever be displayed. Empathy for the kid who finally made a friend but lost her over the last six months.
Human connection is everything for teens and young adults. And now, nothing.