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What It's Like to Grow Up With Depression and Not Understand It

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

I knew this girl who, as a teenager, learned how to be alone. She never knew why she had to be, and why it pleased her more than being with others. She always seemed to cry around the same time every day. She never told people she did it because she didn’t want to be considered a wimp. Her mother doesn’t believe people are depressed and when they say they are in front of her, she scoffs. The girl remembered this at a young age, hearing her mother chastise anyone and everyone with a condition. Naturally, the girl felt she couldn’t ask her mother what was wrong with her and how could she get help.

She continued to live in her cave and plaster pictures of happy women on her wall with flowers, bows and pretty clothes surrounding her. The collage was what she wanted for herself, but only figured that happiness only lived inside magazines and television. She wondered how a man and a woman actually live happily ever after when all she could think of is having to entertain someone for the rest of her life, knowing she is boring. She dug herself into a deeper hole, building walls higher than the heavens, just to keep secure. Her boundaries were strict and she hated to be touched.

When things went well for her she was on cloud nine, taking in every breath of joy she could muster. When things were bad, as they often were, she tried with all of her might to quiet down the little woman living inside of her head — the woman who would tell her, as soon as she stood in front of a mirror, how ugly she was and how she should never take pictures because she would be laughed at. That same woman called her worthless and stupid. She was unlovable and morbid. The only way the girl could escape the woman was to self-medicate. After a while of feeling like her life was slipping away, she regained clarity and became an adult.

The adult girl saw even more flaws and newly formed wrinkles, staring in front of the mirror. She saw permanent zigzagged lines and ripples of all the junk food eating at the back of her thighs. All she could think of is how she is God’s child, and how she is supposed to be the way she is. The tiny woman inside her still mocked her and told her she is just a coward and a “crazy lady” who can’t seem to muster a smile like “normal” people. Why was she so sad? She didn’t even know. Depressed maybe? That’s what her doctors told her many times without so much as a blink of an eye. She refused to take medication for it because she held on to hope it would correct itself. Sure, she felt better praying and trying to think of something else to divert her attention away from her life, but no matter what, the riptide of anguish always found its way back into her mind.

She could only describe her emotions as waves crashing against rocks that crack a little each time the water hit them. She’s the rock. Soon, she felt all she has ever done in this world will be washed away and forgotten. She used to think about how much more she was worth dead than alive, but realized her kids needed her more than she needed to disappear. She loved them so much, even though she always felt like a failure. When she finally reached her bottom and started to write about it and tell others her story, then and only then could she reveal a true heartfelt laugh and smile.

It took her years, and she still has her off-days and weeks, but she knew deep down — and away from that tiny woman inside her — she was a warrior and stronger than she will ever know. The days when she could look in the mirror and silence that tiny woman and pretty herself up to become a part of society (even if it was just to go to the store) were victories. Not everyone understands her, or cares to try, but she wakes up each day hoping she can live a happy life like those she sees and not have to worry about that tiny woman named Depression taking over her thread of existence.

That little girl, now adult, is me — past, present and future unknown.

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Thinkstock photo via Martinan

Originally published: August 31, 2017
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