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A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression [Paperback]

Gary E. Nelson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

May 15 2007
Description: Depression and related illnesses threaten to wreck the lives of many teens and their families. Suicide driven by these illnesses is one of the top killers of these young people. How do teens become depressed? What does depression feel like? How can we identify it? What helps depressed teens? What hurts them? How do families cope with teen depression? In A Relentless Hope Gary Nelson uses his experience as a pastor and pastoral counselor to guide the reader through an exploration of these and many other questions about teen depression. Nelson has worked with many teens over the years offering help to those who find themselves confronted by this potentially devastating attacker. The author also uses the story of his own son's journey through depression to weave together insights into the spiritual, emotional, cognitive, biological, and relational dimensions of teen depression. Through careful analysis, candid self-revelation, practical advice, and even humor, this pastor, counselor, and father reminds us that God's light of healing can shine through the darkness of depression and offer hope. A Relentless Hope is written for teens, parents, teachers, pastors, and any who walk with the afflicted through this valley of the shadow of death. Endorsements: ""Whether you are a youth struggling with depression, a family member of a depressed teen, or a pastor, counselor or teacher providing support and help in such circumstances, this book is a must read as the most informative and helpful volume available on the subject."" --Merle R. Jordan Professor of Pastoral Psychology Emeritus, Boston University School of Theology ""This story of a family is an incredible gift of honest reflection. So many families deal with the issue of teen depression. . . As the dean of a theological school I am aware of the numbers of youth that my students deal with who are in this book. Depression, self-medication with alcohol and drugs, self doubt and even considerations of suicide as an answer--all are in our communities and probably in even a small church. This book is about an attitude that avoids denial, attempts to keep a sense of humor, and believes in the miracle of life. Thank you, Tom, for allowing your story to be told."" --Maxine Clarke Beach, Vice President and Dean, Drew Theological School This is a story of amazing grace! I love the challenge Gary gave the reader throughout the book: ""Never give up on loving!"" I was reminded in a very tangible way of the limitless capacity of God who loves us the same way--He never stops! What an incredible mantra for all of us: ""Never give up on loving. . . . Never!"" I wonder how different our world would be if we practiced this command? --Rev. Dale Seley, Pastor Downtown Baptist Church, Alexandria, Virginia About the Contributor(s): Gary E. Nelson, DMin, is a United Methodist minister who for thirty years has worked with teens and their families as a local church pastor and as a pastoral counselor. He currently pastors a church in West Virginia.

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5.0 out of 5 stars A Relentless Hope March 7 2008
Teenagers are teenagers, aren't they? They are moody. They are always tired. They transform from happy well adjusted young adults to angry and lippy menaces in two seconds.

Not so, says the author of A Relentless Hope. He's seen a good number of these stereotypical teens in the families that he councils. He's also experienced it first hand with his own son.

To the outside world, the author's son Tom was the kid everyone wanted to have. He was a good student, an athlete, popular, polite, and just an all round nice guy. No one knew that Tom had to fight each morning to just get out of bed. That is, until his grades started slipping and his school absences began to outnumber his attendance days.

The culprit was clinical depression. Unfortunately, it's something that is all too common with teenagers. The really scary part is that what most of us take for granted as "just being a teenager" is actually the manifestation of this disease. So instead of getting the help they need, many teens turn to alcohol and drugs to self medicate.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! Oct. 23 2007
By Wits'End - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I ordered this book when I was at my wits' end. Our son has been suffering from deep depression and anxiety following a traumatic beating two years ago and has experienced rages, school refusal, and some violent outbursts. My husband and I have been trying to find a "fix" and have taken him to several psychiatrists, social workers, and a psychologist. He has resisted all overtures of help and stops taking medication as soon as he feels better. Recently, my son told me, "You don't know what my problem is. Stop trying to find out what it is, and stop trying to fix me." I identify with many of the author's experiences with Tom, and I found his description of the family's journey enlightening. I feel the truth of much that he says. How brave of him to step back and allow his son to go the unconventional route. How futile it is to lock horns and exhaust each other! I am not a churchgoer, but I appreciate the spirituality of this journey and the role of grace in Tom's healing. I found this book the most real of all the books I have read on teen depression, and it has given me a lot of hope for our situation. I have been searching for steps to follow to fix my son. I realize now that healing from depression is a much more nuanced process and will involve trial and error, patience, time, love, and grace. Thank you for this inspired work.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Relentless Hope June 9 2008
By Patricia C. Sullivan - Published on Amazon.com
A Relentless Hope: Surviving the
storm of teen depression
By Gary E. Nelson
A Review by Pat Sullivan, Editor Healing Magazine, [...]

Gary Nelson chronicles his son's fight against depression and how they joined together as a family to bring Tom back. Gary is a minister turned pastoral counselor who provides interfaith counseling youth with problems very much like his son's, which makes he situation even more poignant as one reads about Tom's slide downward into a depression that nearly took the young man's life.

Gary wrote this wonderful little book for teens, parents, teachers, counselors and pastors in hopes of teaching them the signs and how to help them bring other youth from the brink of deep, deep depression.

Tom had been a normal kid who played baseball very well and had many friends. Around the time he entered high school, he started pulling away from the friends and activities he had previously loved and began feeling "sick" and unable to attend school. He spent more and more time in his room and literally days in bed, and he would have fits of rage during which he would throw things into his walls and ceiling, one day almost shattering his bedroom door. He left the baseball team in anger over criticism by the coach and withdrew from all of his friends. Eventually he came to realize that something was wrong, but he had no control over it. He described it to his parents as "feeling like he was being beaten
from the inside." His sleep patterns changed, he was irritable and angry a lot of the time and was unable to focus on schoolwork, sports or relationships with his friends and families. It was perhaps harder for Gary to watch considering that he was a counselor himself yet unable to reach his own son. Gary also became very concerned that Tom may turn to suicide to stop the pain he was experiencing.

He makes the point that parents need to work "with" their depressed children rather than trying to "fight it" with anger and recriminations. Gary strongly suggests asking your children if you can help them develop a plan for getting through it but not trying to pressure them into feeling better because they have no control over it and feel like greater failures if they cannot meet parent expectations. He also suggests trying to get them into counseling but make sure that you find someone to whom your child can relate and talk. In some cases, medication can help, but that is a big decision that must be made on an individual basis.

Gary and his wife were willing to try some creative and even risky ways of
helping Tom fight his depression and accompanying anxiety, allowing him
to start working at a young age and getting his GED rather than finishing a high school he just could not make himself attend. They bought him a car and encouraged his interest in music, even heavy metal if it made him feel that someone understood his pain.

There are so many strong and hopeful messages in this book to help families get through a child's depression in tact, still spending quality time with other children and not allowing this illness ruin a marriage. Tom is married and doing very well as an adult now, and Gary even describes the wedding that was moved at the last minute due to hurricanes. This wonderful little book speaks of faith and love and hope and a family's decisions to fight to help their child no matter what it took.
It is an inspiration and well worth reading if you have any contact youth who are debilitated by depression.
Copyright 2008 KidsPeace. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review from a teen therapist Dec 27 2007
By Carey Gauzens, LCSW - Published on Amazon.com
Methodist pastor and psychotherapist, Gary Nelson, has written a book which is a "must read" for every parent of teenagers. The teen years are filled with the ups and downs of a hormonal and emotional roller coaster, as adolescents make their way in the world, begin forming their identity as adults and finally move into completing the developmental task of making their own way in the world, and breaking away from their parents. At best, it is a tumultuous time. But for many teens, as Gary knows all too well, it is also a private hell, besieged with profound lows, uncontrolled anger and misguided efforts to control their pain through drug and alcohol abuse, reckless behavior and even suicidal feelings and thoughts.

Although many books have been written on parenting teens, Gary's book is unique in that he speaks to the issue from the point of view of pastor, therapist, and perhaps most importantly: father of a depressed teen. In this book, originally titled, "Just Keep Loving Them," Gary opens up the doors of his own home and family history, and allows us to see the painful, yet ultimately redemptive, journey that he and his family took with his oldest son, Tom.

Tom became depressed and school phobic in his early adolescence, and he and his family suffered through years of efforts to help him with his depression before he ultimately found his way out of the dark night of the soul that he was experiencing. Gary's approachable style and unflinching honesty allows the reader a look into the world of loving parents, trying desperately to help their beloved son, having to hold onto only faith and that, surely, please God, this ordeal must have some healing at the end of the journey. As his original title shares, Gary and Tom, and the rest of the family, learned that what worked for them was to just keep loving him through all of the pain, the ups and downs, and the discouraging and seemingly endless backslides and impediments to progress.

As a therapist who has worked with countless teens, and a pastor who has worked with youth for much of his life, Gary has a unique perspective on the issue of teen depression, and he works in his book to tell the lay reader not only his son's story, but also crucial information about teen depression and anxiety. As a therapist who specializes in work with teenagers, I deeply wish that every parent who brings their child in to see me would read this book. There is compassion, humor, sensitivity and plain old honesty about the frustrations, failed attempts and desperation that accompany the parents of an adolescent on the journey to get their child healing.

One final caution for the reader: Because I worked closely with Gary during the years that he was, "going through the storm" with Tom, I am personally aware of how very much he advocates individual and family therapy for adolescents suffering from depression and anxiety. In spite of this belief, however, it is possible for the reader to conclude from Gary's book that "it can be done without therapy," since there are few references to therapy in the book. I know for a fact from working with Gary that this is NOT his position at all, and I caution any parent, pastor or teen reading the book to remind themselves as they turn each page: "Do all of this with the help of a pastor, pastoral counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist. Do not try to do it all on your own." As Gary so poignantly learned, and has so honestly shared in his story, even a trained therapist and longtime pastor, with a wife who is an excellent nurse, can still not independently "cure" their child of depression and its devastating effects.

This book is an absolute must read for parents, teens, teachers, pastors and counselors dealing with teenagers. It opens one's eyes to the "back story" behind many teens' angry and seemingly unfathomable impulsive and illogical behavior. And the drumbeat, and heartbeat, which accompany his story, steadily keep reminding us of the aspect more important than any treatment, than any behavior plan, than any parental choices:

Just keep loving them.
Just keep loving them.
Just keep loving them.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing! May 16 2008
By Mary Watkins - Published on Amazon.com
This book does a great job capturing how depression really does feel and effect a family. I've gone through depression myself, and I've never been able to find the words to express how it feels or how it effects anyone, but the author seems to be able to do a good job of doing so. I don't think you can ever know how it feels or what it's like until you go through it yourself, but if you read this book, you can possibly start to see it through a sufferer's eyes.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Help for your teen... Oct. 16 2008
By Beverly J. Rowe - Published on Amazon.com
Gary Nelson brings new insight to overcoming teen depression in this caring book with sensible solutions that he has learned through his experience with his own son. Parents with a teen who is in the throes of clinical depression just feel that they have no place to turn for help. He advises to stop excusing behaviors and to learn to deal with the issues.

Depression and resulting suicide is the leading cause of teen deaths; that is a frightening premise, and gives us reason to fear for our children when we see behavior that could indicate depression instead of just the usual ups and downs of puberty. Nelson addresses the confusion about just what depression is, and how it manifests itself differently in various individuals. It is a clinical disease that often runs in families, but this book will help you to recognize real depression in your teen. Nelson gives you the knowledge to explore the many dimensions and levels of the disease.

That the whole family should have professional therapy is a must. Certainly you will all live with frustration, and frequently desperation. Nelson also addresses spiritual issues, and this book expounds Christian values. It considers other faiths, too, and addresses the importance of faith in the life of a depressed teen. Gary Nelson and his family show what worked for them, and the main point of the book shows that parents must just keep loving their child through his progress in overcoming depression and all of the discouraging backslides that he may experience.

This book is highly recommended for parents, teachers, and counselors dealing with teenagers, as well as the teens themselves.
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