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What I Want My Younger Self to Know About Our Future With Depression

Depression — it sounds bizarre, this new term¬†that’s now being thrown into your vocabulary.

You’re 14, barely into your teens, and now you need to deal with this thing they’re calling depression. How do you sort out normal¬†pubescent hormones versus this disease that’s causing you extreme sadness and¬†emptiness? Are the mood swings typical
teenage behavior? Are the constant fights¬†with your parents “normal?”¬†You’ve been through so much in the last few months — moving to¬†another state, leaving your birth home, leaving your friends, starting high school. What is normal?

This new¬†label comes with a stigma. You are now¬†considered “mentally ill.” You¬†are not strong enough yet to rise up and advocate for yourself. You’ve only been told no one discusses¬†anything that’s “mental.” You¬†will begin group therapy with a handful of other teenaged kids trying to figure¬†out which emotions are depression and which are “typical.” They, like you, will stare off into space¬†during group, not wanting to be there, pretending they know everything, thinking¬†this will not help them.¬†

But it does help you. As much as you may not want to pay attention, you do. You come through this and survive with therapy and support alone. You are a rock star.

I would be¬†lying if I said this is the only time you battle this disease. You will suffer again in four years at¬†18. This time you don’t even¬†realize how deep you’ve sank until you’re sitting on the carpet of your¬†bedroom going through the pros¬†and cons of killing yourself over and over in your head. You feel you’re being ignored, but this one¬†act gets you heard. Since you’re legally an adult, aside from therapy, you’re now thrown into the grasps of¬†psychotropic medications. I admire you, you are not afraid. You do as you’re told and swallow the pill¬†without a fight. Once again, you do this¬†in silence as the stigma is still very present.

Teenage¬†Stephanie, I wish I knew then what I know now. I’ve been repeating this¬†phrase often, recently. The mental pain, the¬†delusional thoughts of hurting yourself, the repetitive feelings of worthlessness and that you don’t deserve love…it only gets stronger each time you battle¬†it. I wish I could tell you it’ll hit you again in college because you’re feeling isolated and¬†stressing over grades. I wish I could warn¬†you of the major battle you’ll face after you give birth to your¬†daughter culminating with your first hospitalization.

I wish I could tell you that was it, but it’s¬†not. You’ll be hit two more times — the last will be the worst you’ve ever experienced.¬†It’s been over a year and although I’m much better, I’m still at war with those demons.

But what I can¬†tell you, Steph, is that you survive. You¬†start to realize things that trigger you and avoid them. You grow to realize when the thoughts of¬†negativity are returning, although you¬†may not act as soon as you should, you do get help. Ah, yes, the alpha in you learns to ask for¬†help. You will experience a multitude of¬†drugs ranging from antidepressants to antipsychotics. You will have¬†fleeting moments where you want to jump in front of a car,¬†but you’re strong enough¬†to overcome them.

You will fight the stigma by becoming a huge advocate for depression, telling your story to everyone. You will be a battler, a survivor and a warrior. You will rise up.

Love always,

Your adult, 30-something self.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.