After my onset of major depression, high school felt so pointless. I’m shocked and proud that I made it through and received my diploma. At the age of 16, I didn’t understand what I was going through, and I had no idea that I was not alone in my struggle.
The reality is that one in five teens suffer from clinical depression, but most don’t open up about it. I personally bottled up feelings of anger, sadness, and hopelessness, and I refused to talk to anyone for almost 20 years because I didn’t think anyone would understand. It’s difficult to try and explain the severity of the horrible and sometimes debilitating emotions that come from depression to someone who hasn’t been through it or isn’t closely connected. Also, part of me always felt that I’d get better on my own so there was really no point in telling anyone. What triggered my depression was the loss of someone very close to me, but for a long time after my symptoms began, I didn’t realize it was depression. I thought I was still just exaggeratedly sad from the loss. I began feeling completely disconnected from the world. The things others found amusing seemed so meaningless to me. I had no interest in putting an effort in my personal appearance, I thought of suicide, I felt so much anger, and I didn’t know what to do with it. I felt like depression had taken over me.
Depression doesn’t only affect your emotional well being. Depending where you fall within the mental health spectrum, depression can affect other factors of your life as well. It can cause you to eat in excess or hardly any, to sleep too much or to sleep very little, and to lose interest in things you used to like. It can cause you to hate yourself and question others’ love for you, it can affect your relationships with family and friends, it can affect your job, your school, and it can lead to suicide or thoughts of suicide and other self destructive behavior. The good news is that 80%-90% of adolescents who get help are treated successfully, which means you do not have to go on feeling like this.
I had no clue that 350 million people worldwide suffer from this disease. And most importantly, that getting help would make a world of difference. For a very long time, I fought the idea of taking medicine or opening up to someone, but I gave in after a long time of trying to control it on my own and having little to no success. Although I had become good at hiding my feelings because I didn’t want to worry others, I realized that my depression was still affecting my family. I wasn’t being the best version of myself while carrying this depression around. A friend asked me what things were most important to me and at the top of my list was family. He said, “Well, if you’re moody, irritable, sad, or are feeling hopeless, you are not performing at your optimum self.” Those words clicked for me, he touched on the thing I live for, my family. So at the age of 35, I finally sought help and I began to see a psychologist and a psychiatrist who worked with me until we found a treatment that was right for me. I still have a lot buried that I’m not ready to talk about, but that’s okay. I’ve made progress. Now, if i’m feeling sad or angry, they’re passing feelings. They don’t overtake me and my ability to live my life productively.
I’m blessed to be doing so well today and to have survived such a dark time. Yet, I can’t help to think of the kids that weren’t as fortunate and the many others who are dealing with depression today and are not getting the help they need. My depression was triggered by a loss but others could be dealing with financial issues, alcoholism, bullying, not fitting in, a break up, family issues, the stress of doing well in school, or the stress of going to college, or there might not be a specific trigger and depression just comes. Whatever the case, a key to coping with depression and helping those close to us through it is understanding what it is and what it does to a person. Erika’s Lighthouse is an organization that educates people about teen depression. We can learn a lot from doing a little bit of research or by talking to someone.
In educating ourselves, we can eliminate the stigma of mental health issues and encourage more teens to ask for help. Our academic success and overall achievements depend on our healthy mental state. So whether we seek medical treatment or an alternative method, it’s important that we get help.
Monica Luna Gonzalez
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