Did Charles show signs of mental illness earlier in his life?

“I’m the last piece in a broken puzzle
 To a broken puzzle
 Never fittin’
 ...  read more

Did I ever think he might be better off dead?

I know Charles thought this. He wrote it. And my wondering it is not the same as wishing it. I never wished it. But I did have this as a fleeting thought after a particularly difficult crisis. Was my intuition trying to warm me what was to come?

When you have struggled with a child’s mental ...  read more

How could I resent your child’s cancer fundraiser?

Part of my grief process is to let go of such insane resentments and just do something about it instead.

It sounds crazy. It sounds inhuman. But there were times when I felt jealous that others got such overwhelming financial and even emotional support in their struggles to get medical help for a child ...  read more

Why did he kill himself? Answering the why

I learned a lot about Charles after his death by suicide from his RAP diary where he wrote his songs. You can see his notebook in his hands in the picture on this page. Many of his friends know what I’m talking about since he carried them with him. They were his lifeline.

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Charles in Wilderness Program for troubled teens. It was here that we finally got a great diagnosis. He did embrace the program after 4 weeks or so.

It’s in those pages I saw just how much he hurt. Every single day.

And why he ultimately gravitated to heroin as it was the only time he got a break from his pain since he suffered from insomnia and DSPS since he was a toddler.

It was a struggle for him to choose to live every day. And I know he lived for everyone else.  But it meant he chose to stay with us as long as he did.

These are his original lyrics which he hand wrote. He didn’t edit, they just poured onto paper out of his head in a a stream of consciousness style. Pretty amazing really.

Till now, I’ve not shared any of his work that he had not published. It’s like I’m tearing something precious from my heart. But I feel it’s too selfish to keep to myself and I know he wanted his lyrics to touch others who hurt and understood their pain. He always touched other young people who also suffered from depression.

This is what teen depression sounds like, looks like. See Charles’ other rap songs posted on this site here.

Just to Hurt 

by Charles Aubrey Rogers, Reezin the Revolutionary, April 26, 1995-June 5, 2015

Back in another institution,
Guess I’m stupid, feeling useless even though my music tight as a noose is
Every day is a nuisance
Bored as fuck I want to do shit
Guess I didn’t learn my lesson.
Been in treatment most of my adolescence.*
Drug cravings, anxiety and depression
All because of my obsession
I know I’ll get by
But all rehab does is make me wanna get high
I bet God sits in the sky wishing I’d just die
They said I got amazing potential if I’d just try
Since I was 15 I’ve been fed lies
Said I’d be gone for 2 weeks I was gone for 3 years. What the hell why?**
This is my life, That was my time, I can never get it back
That wasn’t yours to take from me
But this is life and there ain’t no pot of gold after the rainbow
But there’s pain through
I promise you there’s pain yo

(chorus)

Why we put on here on this earth just to hurt, just to hurt, just to hurt
So much pain in the universe

They said it’s gonna get worse before it gets better
But all I see is hurt and its been getting worse forever
It always seems to rain the most when I’m promised perfect weather
And if you’re hurt too, then we can hurt together

I put these words together, pain stain in every letter
Cause me and Cal used to hangout, before he decided to hang down**,
Heroin took a home from me
He found a place in the ground
I scream for God to answer but he ain’t make a sound

My demons up against me and I’m facin’ them now
I wear the face of a clown
I feel so unloved, because of the monster that was created from drugs

(chorus)
Why we put on here on this earth just to hurt, just to hurt, just to hurt
So much pain in the universe

I hope this last verse sticks in ya mind momma
I promise Imma fix it this time
I’m putting it behind cause I can’t forgive myself
And you can’t give me back time

My emotions drip through these lines
But even in darkness sunshine sometimes shines through the blinds
You were paying for hope and I was lookin’ for dope
Cause I just couldn’t cope
And I’m just so afraid that I’ll end up alone

I’ll always miss my own home
I always seem to fuck things up
I guess rock bottom wasn’t deep enough
Even breathing’s tough

It’s like I’m surrounded by walls with no escape at all
I’m over 6 feet tall, But I’ve never felt so small

(chorus)
Why we put on here on this earth just to hurt, just to hurt, just to hurt
So much pain in the universe

—————-

*Charles spent 10 weeks in a Wilderness program and 15 months in a therapeutic boarding school

**We sent Charles away to these programs to figure out what was the matter, local resources being very weak. We did it to save his life and to see if he could learn to manage his illness. Although diagnosed with depression, he never admitted it. Too much stigma. 

***Charles knew Cal Riley who hung himself 2 years before Charles did. This haunted Charles. They met in wilderness and became very close. Never in the history of that decades-old program in Clayton Georgia, did two kids from the same high school (Cosby High School) end up in the same wilderness group

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Forgiving myself

Signs of depression in teens. Not the same as adults

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Signs of depression are different for teens than they are for adults. Some teens can look so happy and well adjusted because they are masters at hiding depression.

Charles could be moody, sullen sometimes but he was actually hypersocial– always needing to be surrounded by people.

He was often described as “unmotivated,” another telltale sign of depression.

Charles always got sick. He caught absolutely everything.

I never knew it until recently but getting sick all the time is a sign of depression– especially in teens. Charles was diagnosed with depression at wilderness but he never admitted it. Too much stigma. He’d admit to the sleep disorder, anxiety and ADHD.

I got calls from teachers over the years, some good but mostly not since he was a nervous wreck (anxiety) and rarely prepared for class although wicked smart. It was always such pleasure to talk to the English teacher or the theater teacher. (And his Kindergarten teacher Terry Bryant) That was when we got glowing reviews of how talented he was. What an amazing and imaginative writer he was. These teachers were always so tuned into him.

It was Kerry Fretwell, his beloved theatre teacher, that first told us via an assessment we had asked for through special ed that she believed he suffered from depression. That took guts. You never know how parents will react to that news.

The most prevailing theme was that Charles was always at the clinic at school with a stomach ache or headache. He went to the doctor more often than my oldest child and tended to get sick more often. Gastrointestinal complaints that can’t be traced back to anything specific, headaches, muscle aches as a result of tightening those muscles, falling asleep in class and sleep problems overall are indications although that can indicate many other things, too.

Lack of motivation

There are so many books and articles on how to motivate a teen when in reality lack of motivation has to do with depression or some other mental illness. Drug abuse can also cause motivation to sag. Kids reaching for alcohol or marijuana to self medicate will often lose desire to do things. Today’s marijuana is not like that of the 70s, it’s far stronger.

Hard to believe that the funniest kid in school suffered from depression

No one else at school recognized the signs. No one else mentioned it. And I think that a lot of the behavior in school we all label as “bad” is usually due to some kind of struggle with mental health, learning differences, drugs, or all the above.

Charles was at one point, suspended for a panic attack. While in detention, they took away his music which was how he coped with extreme anxiety and depression. Basically, they had approved it and someone came in and saw and demanded he remove the ear buds.

Nothing like hard core discipline on a child who is barely hanging on. He didn’t threaten anyone or cuss, he just shook and cried, had a melt down and asked for me. They decided to interpret that as his wanting to be suspended.

Trouble with the law

What we often dismiss as mischievous behavior can be an early indicator of depression or some other mental health problem. Not just pranks. It’s once it starts to go beyond that. It has to do with frustration and not being able to express what’s the matter. It’s like they go thrill seeking to replace what’s missing in their brains.

Anger

We often look for signs of the typical sad teen when in fact one sign of depression is anger. Sometimes mean, uncontrolled anger.  If your child is punching walls, that anger management is most likely linked to frustration. It can be an indication of a lot of things but collectively with other things, it can be a sign of depression.

Problems with self esteem

Those who suffer from depression later, often have a hard time seeing themselves as worthy people. That can manifest itself in several ways.

One of the ways that alarmed me was the number of dares Charles would take. I think part of that was his sensation seeking personality trait mixed with low self esteem. One time friends dared Charles to lick the bottom of a pair of soccer cleats right after a game and he did it. They didn’t give him what they promised and that leads to further humiliation.

There were other indications of this behavior and despite my asking about it, I never got an answer. Now I understand this as not valuing yourself enough to say “Screw you, I’m not doing that!”

So it’s not just, “I don’t think I’m pretty enough.” Look for comments that send up red flags. Don’t ignore them. Write them down in a file and collect data. As early as 5 years old, they’ll say things like:

  • I hate myself
  • I’m so stupid
  • I’m worthless
  • I wish I was never born
  • I’m so dumb
  • Nobody loves me
  • I wish I could kill myself

See this post for an early intervention that worked to adress feelings of low self esteem in a 7 year old. 

Deeply Empathetic

Charles had this one backwards and forwards. He took on the world’s problems and made them his own when he hit a major depressive episode. Those who suffer from depression also take on their friends problems, too. If someone is suffering from suicidal ideation and follows through, a depressed teen can feel responsible for that death.

In a school setting it is important to address suicide as a cause of death like other causes of death so as not to stigmatize it further and give those at risk the chance to reach out. By keeping it cloaked in secrecy you send a message of shame and increase the likelihood that other teens will follow suit.

Promiscuity

This is more common in females and is mixed with the self esteem issue. Since it’s an early indicator of depression, I needed to include it on its own.

 ...  read more