Things People Didn't Realize You Did Because You Were a Depressed Teen
Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.
People can be quick to give teenagers stereotypical labels like, “angsty,” “rebellious,” “lazy” and “unmotivated.” But oftentimes when a teen is struggling with depression, these labels couldn’t be further from the truth. For someone who is young, still finding their place in the world and maybe is unaware that they’re actually struggling with mental illness, this can be incredibly harmful.
On the other hand, some teenagers may have been good at hiding their depressive symptoms, and therefore it may come off as surprising to themselves and others when they realize later on that they were in the throes of depression as a teen.
Because depression can often manifest in the teenage years, we asked out Mighty mental health community to share things they now see in hindsight that people didn’t realize they were doing because they were struggling with depression as a teenager. Because even though it may be difficult to detect the symptoms of depression in someone who is still developing mentally and emotionally, by continuing to talk about it, we can better help and support those who are struggling early on.
Here is what they had to say:
1. “I was really moody as a teenager — anxious and overall angry. I couldn’t stand events where I had to be around people. And I was always tired. I began having insomnia, so I couldn’t sleep, and when I did sleep, I couldn’t stay asleep. I also self-harmed.” — Lillie S.
2. “Getting so irritable over even the smallest thing and hiding away so much. I wasn’t just being ‘melodramatic,’ but I didn’t find this out until a diagnosis a long time later. Finally discovering I had an actual condition (depression), rather than just being what others perceived as nothing more than an ‘awkward teenager’ really helped a lot!” — Becki K.
3. “Procrastinating on school assignments because I just couldn’t find the motivation to do them. My family just thought I was a typical ‘lazy’ teenager.” — Courtney I.
4. “Living my life online more than in the real world and making friends online. In reality, I had to keep up the facade of stability. Online, I could talk to people across the globe, without fear of judgment or shaming. In person, I was deep in my shell.” — Lex I.
5. “Skipped school a lot. I was labeled as a ‘bad kid’ or ‘slacker,’ but really I just couldn’t get out of bed because I was depressed. At the time, I didn’t even know what was happening to me. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t just be ‘normal’ and have energy like everyone else.” — Shoshanna W.
6. “Lashing out. I wish more parents and teachers understood that depression often manifests as anger in teenagers. So many people thought I was just rebelling or being a punk teenager, when in reality, I was hurting.” — Benji Y.
7. “Extremely destructive behavior. I did a lot of drugs in my early teens to cope with my depression. I smoked a lot of marijuana too. I also ran away a lot.” — Beth G.
8. “When I was depressed and lonely, I would use the sexual attention to make me feel something else. It often led to sex I didn’t want and a different pain than I was already feeling. I could hurt in a different way.” — Lindy B.
9. “I really had issues reaching out verbally when I was struggling. But luckily, I was very creative too. So I expressed myself through art and writing.” — Aimee M.
10. “I never slept. It was near impossible for me to sleep. I would sneak into my parents room to watch TV (they left it on at night after they fell asleep). I would lie on the floor at the foot of their bed so they wouldn’t see me. And I’d stay up for hours and just watch TV.” — Carloyn A.
11. “Self-harm. I always wore heavy hoodies even when it was very hot. And any days where we would have group activities in a class or with the whole school, I skipped and slept all day. Being overweight didn’t help. I got into a lot of fights.” — Heather J.
12. “I would write in a notebook — notes to myself about how I wished I did not exist. How I would much rather be dead or just vanish and the memory of my existence being erased from everyone’s thoughts.” — Kathleen D.
13. “I would pretend to be sick a lot. Just to go to the nurse and lay down. After the nurse caught on, I would just go to class and take long bathroom breaks that took up most of the class. Eventually I just started skipping classes entirely. I didn’t have the energy for classmates and I really struggled to focus because my mind was always racing. Even when I went to class I never spoke.” — Shelby G.
14. “I told a lot of people, especially my parents, that I was fine. In my mind my problems, compared to the bigger issues out there, were totally minor so I just buried little things that bugged me deep down. To keep it simple: It is totally OK to not be OK.” — Alex H.
15. “I would do the bare minimum of school work to maintain a passing grade. I’m reasonably intelligent but was a D student all through high school. Nobody ever stopped to think, ‘What’s going on with him?’ because it was easier for everyone to dismiss me as lazy and unmotivated than to actually help me.” — Adam N.
16. “I would try and eat the depression away, which then resulted in bullying as I gained quite a lot of weight. In my senior year, I started doing drugs to escape it all. I always lashed out at family and friends because I didn’t really know what to blame.” — Gemma P.
17. “Sometimes the reason I did nothing but read for days at a time wasn’t necessarily that I was all that engrossed in my book, it was more that I wanted an escape and didn’t have the energy to get out of bed.” — Denver D.
18. “Sleeping a lot so I didn’t have to deal with my sadness, family dysfunction, stress and anxiety. Also a lot of crying in private. I had good grades and friends, but when I got home I retreated to my room every day or watched a lot of TV to escape or zone out. I didn’t get diagnosed until college.” — Rachel T.
19. “Throwing myself into my homework and being overly ‘good.’ I figured if I couldn’t be good at life in general, I may as well focus on something. I didn’t go out and have fun, but not because I wanted to be a good kid or didn’t want to do those things. I did it because I couldn’t be happy, so I figured I may as well try to make someone (my parents) happy.” — Jen D.
20. “Worked three jobs, had a boyfriend all the time, worked on the home farm at the same time and excelled in sports. I kept myself so busy I had no time to think about feelings, so when I wasn’t working, going to school or participating in sports, I was sleeping. I did not allow myself to have time to think or feel because when I did, it was awful.” — Holly D.
21. “I pushed people away constantly and let my brain tell me nobody would ever actually want to be friends with me because I’m annoying/clingy/stupid/etc., then cried over being so lonely all the time. I let my brain tell me paranoid stories like that everyone was making fun of me behind my back or things like that. Every time I heard someone whispering or every time someone glanced at me in the hall, I took it as a stink eye or glare and thought they hated me or talked about me. It probably never really happened but it made me hate everyone.” — Laura G.
22. “Isolating. Avoiding social experiences. Non-stop headphones so I didn’t have to speak. Bursts of rage because I was so irritable. Disorganized because I was too lost in my head. Severe anxiety attacks about simple day-to-day life because I felt paranoid from depression symptoms that made me think negatively about myself and the world around me.” — Tabitha T.
23. “I barely talked except to my closest friends. I would never tell people how I was feeling. The only times I was truly motivated during school was to avoid being grounded or trying to get myself un-grounded. I procrastinated on every single assignment and would often turn work in late. I was always exhausted.” — Kayla B.
24. “Listening to my iPod all day. On the way to school, between classes, between meals, on the ride home and all night long to block out the chaos around me. My parents thought I didn’t respect them, not that I was depressed.” — Jessica S.
25. “I’d look at my pantry and fridge full of food, hungry, wanting to eat, but my depression wouldn’t let me eat. I’d stare at my pantry for 10 minuets at a time and my family would ask what I was doing and I’d just say I don’t know.” — Katie W.
26. “I constantly lied to everyone about everything and spent most of school in the nurse’s office because I couldn’t face people staring at me and talking about me behind my back.” — Kelly D.
27. “Dressing outrageously and being loud and obnoxious. I guess I just wanted to exist and matter in any way I could. My style now is still quirky, but so much less provocative.” — Caro H.
28. “I cried a lot in private! In public I was always happy and the popular kid in school, but I was dying inside! I drank a lot and did drugs to numb myself. I tried taking my life, yet no one had a clue!” — Lorena R.
29. “Went straight to my bedroom every day after school and pretty much spent my high school years in there. Senior year I barely went to school and would go just to get my school work.” — Amanda S.
30. “Not being as ‘friendly’ as everyone else. Even when everybody else was going out on Saturdays and hanging out with friends, I would be physically with my few friends, but not mentally. I don’t talk about what I’m feeling, neither do I show them. It would seem like I’m ignoring my friends at some point, but the moment I was alone in my room I would start to have a breakdown” — Ar S.
31. “Take hour-long showers, I would rock back and forth for hours and not know it. I couldn’t hear people talking most times because my mind was such a mess” — Kelsey B.
32. “‘Zoning out’ during arguments. The extra stress literally causes my brain to shut down to ‘protect’ itself. Sucks because people think I don’t care when I do.” — Laura S.
33. “Wearing sweatpants and no makeup to school. I’m usually really into fashion and makeup, but when I’m depressed, I don’t have the energy to put myself together like that.” — Lindsey P.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
Getty image via Yaroslav Blokhin