We Need to Stop Assuming Depression Is a 'Teenage Phase'
People need to understand that depression is not supposed to be your companion as you go through adolescence. I know adolescence can be hard. I’m aware it’s not the easiest time in life. It can mean being moody, having fights with your parents or having bad days now and then, but please never confuse it with being depressed. Adolescence and depression do not mean the same thing. There is a big difference between the two: depression isn’t a “teenage phase.”
Depression is pain. Depression is being unable to leave your room, but not because you don’t have anything to do. It’s because you have no motivation left and you lost all interest in doing anything. You’re crushed under the weight of your emotion – crushed by the sadness, loneliness, guilt and hopelessness that leaves you terrified and unable to move. Depression is sleeping all day, not because you’re lazy, but rather because you’re mentally exhausted and see no purpose in even trying to get up, to the point where you just don’t want to open your eyes anymore.
Depression is showing anger and frustration towards people, but you’re not really angry at them, you’re angry at yourself. You’re frustrated about the way you feel and the thoughts that come along. Depression is getting bad grades, not because you don’t want to learn or because you don’t care about your education, but because you’re unable to concentrate on anything. And too often, depression is wanting to die, not because your parent didn’t allow you to go out on a Friday night, but rather because nothing make sense anymore, and because everything has become too hard for you to handle.
Depression is an endless war against yourself because you’re overwhelmed with your feelings, and you don’t know how to cope with reality.
Depression is crying a lot because everything hurts. And it hurts so bad that you want to destroy yourself. But it’s not a cry for attention, it’s a cry for help. A painful cry that too often gets ignored.
I was never strong enough to let that cry out — I never was able to scream for help as a teenager. So, it’s extremely frustrating to see so many kids having the courage to release that scream, and reach out for help, only to get ignored or invalidated. Can you imagine how hard it is to live with depression when you don’t even understand what’s going on with yourself? Do you now how much it hurts to tell someone you need help because you’re stuck and want to die? Do you know what the burden on your heart feels like when you actually have to say those words to anyone? And do you know how much it hurts when you get told to stop “overreacting” because “you’re just a kid going through puberty”?
Let me tell you something:
Adolescence is not being depressed.
Adolescence is not self-harming.
Adolescence is not wanting to die.
Adolescence is not supposed to give you symptoms of a mental illness.
Teenage depression is not “normal.” It is not “normal” to feel sad, anxious, suicidal, worthless, alone, hurt, lost, numb, unwanted, hopeless, broken or afraid on a daily basis just because you happen to go through adolescence at the same time. And no one should ever make you feel unimportant or invalidate your feelings just because they can’t understand the pain you’re in.
So I beg you — teachers, families, friends, neighbors, doctors and strangers behind the screen — stop invalidating the feelings of someone who’s hurt, depressed and/or suicidal, just because it’s a teenager who’s talking to you. Don’t assume their pain isn’t “that bad” because they don’t have as much life experience as you. Don’t ignore or dismiss their feelings just because you think “everyone goes through this.” I know it’s easy to say that, even my therapist once did, but the truth is not everyone does, and honestly no one should.
I beg you, from the bottom of my broken heart, to start listening to those brave and frightened souls and help them up when they reach for your hand.
I beg you, to show compassion and understanding towards your child, your sibling, your friend, your patient or student that’s struggling. Look behind their mask, truly ask them how they are, and listen. Be their support system when no one else seems to be. Tell them how much they deserve to live and be happy. They need you. Your support, your kind words, your love and your help can make a huge difference. Maybe even save a life.
No child deserves to grow up like this. No child should deal with this alone. Yet, so many have and still are. It’s time to change that.
Unsplash photo via Ryann Flippo