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

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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.

Originally published: February 5, 2016
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