By Rachel Spurlock, NAMI Seattle Intern Summer 2019
Edited by Maddy Noonan
It is not a choice for attention, it is not a cause of hormone overloads. It is not just a normal teenage feeling. It’s called living with depression, and with that comes every possible negative emotion tenfold. There will be days where choosing to go out is never an option and staying in could last for months. Even on your good days, your emotions will fade in and out leaving you confused about what you really feel. No matter what anyone might tell you, how you feel is how you feel.
As teenagers we experience change, break ups, difficult roads, and a wide range of good and bad choices that could alter the course of our lives; but the people I am trying to reach are the ones that have experienced trauma, heartache, rejection, and suicidal thoughts. I want to tell you that you are entitled to your own feelings; how you feel, what you are feeling and why you are feeling this are important and more importantly, you are not alone. When confronted with the reality of feeling depressed, adults tend to avoid the idea of depression by writing your feelings off as “age-appropriate” or “hormonal”.
Why do they keep repeating this? Could it be that the adults in our lives don’t know how to talk to us about our feelings, and they don’t want to admit any vulnerability? Not having all the answers is a vulnerable and uncomfortable feeling, especially when a loved one is in pain. Accepting the fact that they are in a vulnerable position is something only few adults can do because adults are supposed to have all the answers.
From personal experience, being told “it’s just a phase” or “it’s all in your head” is off-putting, dismissive, and everyone needs to understand that these phrases are part of the reasons why teens avoid seeking help. It took me 6 years to finally open up about my depression and the harm I was ready to inflict on myself. The family I was surrounded by belittled and minimized my feelings for so long, I eventually doubted my own feelings. I knew I was going through something, but I couldn’t understand what it was because I did not have support from the people I called my family. My depression felt so overwhelming, so much bigger than me. There were times I felt as if I mastered it, and other times I felt as if it had swallowed me whole.
I know that anyone between the ages of 13-19 reading this can probably relate to this feeling of battling your own mind every day and being tired of repeatedly explaining yourself, just to be shut down by family members who don’t know how to help. You want a cure. You want answers. You want someone to tell you that you aren’t crazy.
You are not crazy, and you are not alone.
So what do we do now?
The first step is to talk to someone. As scary as it is, reaching out is the most important thing to do. I know when we hear “tell a trusted adult” the majority of us just roll our eyes and think “whatever”, but it seriously helps. My god-mom has always been there for me, so I can talk to her about anything. No matter what, she encourages me to believe in myself and trust what I feel. Even though we have a great relationship, talking to her about my depression and how I really felt was hard because I didn’t want anyone to pity me. Opening up to my god-mom helped me to realize that this weight on my shoulders couldn’t consume me anymore. As crazy as it sounds, talking is the first and best step to finding a way through all these emotions and thoughts that you feel every day.
The next thing to understand is hope.
Whatever it is, find someone or something that helps you hold on to hope. Moving forward in life, you have to know that even on your weakest days, you can’t give into depression. You have to fight for yourself because later on down the road, you will thank yourself. Understanding that your depression is a part of you that does not define you completely gives you the power to get through it and turn a negative into a positive.
You are not alone.
If you’re feeling alone and would like to speak with Rachel, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If Rachel’s story resonates with you and you’re looking for someone safe to talk to, please consider TeenLink, a helpline for teens by teens. From their website: “Our teen volunteers are trained to listen to your concerns and talk with you about whatever’s on your mind – bullying, drug and alcohol concerns, relationships, stress, depression or any other issues you’re facing. No issue is too big or too small! Calls and chats are confidential.” You can call 1-866-833-6546 or chat at teenlink.org.