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by Abigail Van Buren

Depression Strikes Teen at Same Time Each Year

DEAR ABBY: I am an 11th-grade girl who should be an all-around happy teenager, but lately I've been depressed. Ever since seventh grade, I've gotten depressed at the same time every year.

The first time it happened there were many reasons for it. Around that time, you published a list of signs that point to depression. I fit all of them except one -- thoughts of suicide. Your list made me realize I needed help, and I got it.

For a while I was doing great. But now, every year I get this recurrence. My mood gets low and I have no energy. My grades drop. I feel worthless and cry easily.

Is there a reason why this happens, and is there anything I can do about it? (I live in an area where there is little climate change year-round.) Also, could you please publish the signs of depression again? It helped me immensely, and may help others, too. -- ANONYMOUS TEEN

DEAR ANONYMOUS TEEN: I'm certainly willing to publish them again, but before I do, allow me to direct some remarks to you. The fact that your depression recurs each year is not unusual, I am told. However, it is important that you tell your doctor about it. You should also discuss it with your family. Because depression often runs in families, you may be surprised to discover you are not alone.

My experts tell me that regardless of age, anyone who experiences any five of the following symptoms for two weeks or more should consult a mental health professional:

(1) Fatigue or loss of energy.

(2) Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.

(3) Feelings of sadness and/or irritability.

(4) Inability to concentrate, remember things or make decisions.

(5) Changes in sleep patterns.

(6) Changes in weight and appetite.

(7) Restlessness or decreased activity noticed by others.

(8) Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless.

(9) Thoughts of death or suicide.

DEAR ABBY: I received a card from my husband's aunt, "Millie." With it, she enclosed a check. Millie and I have never met, but her note was warm and friendly. I wrote back and thanked her.

A few months later, we received another lovely card from Millie with another check enclosed. I'm sending her a thank-you note today, but I'm not sure how to decline future checks. As I understand it, Millie and her husband are elderly and not well-to-do. Although I appreciate their love and concern for our growing family, I feel uncomfortable accepting monetary gifts from them.

I don't want to appear rude or ungrateful. I would love to continue corresponding with Millie, but I don't want her to feel she has to pay for it. What should I say? -- CHECKS ALWAYS IN THE MAIL

DEAR CHECKS: Thank generous Aunt Millie for her thoughtfulness. Tell her that you are enjoying the opportunity of getting to know her, then deposit the money in the bank. Use it to buy her something lovely at Christmas or something for the children. If you decide to spend it on the children, let her know what you bought for them from their "great" Aunt Millie. It will help them to feel closer to her.

P.S.: Be sure they write thank-you notes to her.

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