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16 Signs Teenagers Knew They Were Depressed (and Not Just 'Angsty')

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Editor’s note: If you need support right now, call the National SuicidePrevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

Growing up, we often aren’t taught about depression. So if you’re experiencing it as a teen, it can be all too easy to believe you are alone in the way you feel — especially if the parents and adults in your life seem to believe you’re just experiencing normal “teenage angst.” But what people may not realize is that sometimes, looking “angsty” on the outside can actually be an indicator of a deeper struggle with depression.

Maybe you were “that kid” who listened to non-stop Linkin Park while walking down the halls in your high school. Maybe you cultivated a harsh and sarcastic sense of humor to keep people from getting too close. Maybe you wanted to look “tough” on the outside to hide how broken you felt on the inside.

Whatever your particular brand of depression “angst” looked like, you deserved and still deserve to have your mental health taken seriously. There’s nothing wrong with struggling with depression — and no one is “too young” to feel that pain. The reality is, many kids and teens do experience depression, and we need to talk about it, know the signs and acknowledge their experiences. 

To find out more, we asked our mental health community to share, in hindsight, how they knew they were depressed as teens — and not just “angsty.” No two people are alike, so it’s important to remember that no matter what your experience growing up was, you are not alone in your struggle.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1.I’d shut off from everything, and bury myself with music. Without my music, I wouldn’t have survived my suicidal tendencies and attempts. Music allows to vent the pain and takes you somewhere safe until the worst goes.” — Dan W.

2. “I never connected with other kids my own age because I would realize my sadness or my anxiety wasn’t like theirs and it was always bigger and deeper and it never seemed to go away or get better.” — Erin J.

3. “What I remember most was being afraid to [make] mistakes. I despised being humiliated or feeling I wasn’t good enough until I began to seclude myself away from people. And when I [make a] mistake, that single mistake will haunt me in my sleep and will began to have fogs of suicidal thoughts.” — Bas A.

4. “I would ‘cry out for help.’ I ran away from home a lot. Days weeks and months at a time on different occasions, to try and escape all the bad things that had happened to me.” — Tiffani M.

5. “I wrote letters and poems to myself or family that I wouldn’t send… I was outwardly social for the most part I got along with just about everyone, but it was a coping mechanism to hide the truth that I was in torment every day. One of my really close friends challenged me to write a poem that was not dark or depressing and I failed miserably at the challenge. It started out OK but I couldn’t find happiness inside me and I couldn’t fake it either, not really.” — Summer W.

6. “All I wanted was to die. It didn’t seem normal that all of the kids in the neighborhood could laugh and have a great time and I would sit there and sob and just want to die. I didn’t understand what the disconnect was. I didn’t know about depression and mental illness until I was a bit older. All I knew was that I was sad and different and I didn’t want to be there anymore. I didn’t want to be anywhere anymore.” — Marla S.

7. “I was spacey and disoriented a lot of the time. Sort of lost in a weird place in my head where it was hard to snap out of and connect with the outside world. I suffered with feelings of inadequacy, extremely poor self-image and self-esteem. Self-harm. I didn’t believe I deserved friends or love. And an intense amount of self-loathing.” — Sarah C.

8. “I’d change who I was often. Try and find the right fit. Change friends, clothes, sports. Got into drinking and stuff.” — Joceline P.

9. “At a very young age, starting at like 9 or 10, I would constantly think about the end of the world. It would literally make me ill. I also felt unexplained darkness back then which continues today.” — Sherilyn M.

10. “I use to cry myself to sleep a lot when I was in middle school, and I knew it wasn’t normal to feel so sad and hopeless all the time.” — Alli M.

11.I’d stop going to school completely I would miss months at a time try to go for a day or two and would end up going home ‘sick’ cause I just couldn’t stay focused and I was nauseous all the time from stress and anxiety.” — Rachel M.

12. “I would self-harm in private, and even at the age of 12 when I first started, I knew it wasn’t something normal to do, so I made sure nobody found out about it as I was scared to get told off.” — Rachel W.

13. “In high school I would often become completely detached from my surroundings and it would feel as if I was floating above and watching somebody else live my life for me. This would last for weeks, sometimes months and then I would return to ‘normal’ again until the next time it happened. It felt as if I was sleep-walking through life.” — Danni K.

14. I didn’t have energy to fight or argue. I would sleep as much as I could on the weekends.” — Rhisa P.

15.I lost the motivation to do anything. I love doing my makeup, but I couldn’t get myself out of bed to actually do it. I also stayed awake all night because I was scared that I’d wake up anxious and feel worse.” — Char J.

16. “I would shut down and become ‘numb.’ I wouldn’t talk, shower, nothing.” — Mackenzie W.

If you struggled with depression as a teen or are a teenager currently struggling with your mental health, know you aren’t alone, and there is nothing wrong with you. If you are thinking about or are seriously considering suicide, please reach out and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You are important, valuable and loved.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Getty Images photo via chronicler101

Originally published: December 14, 2017
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