Growing up, I was convinced something was wrong with me. There was no rhyme or reason to this belief, besides the fact that I just felt sad. All of the time. More than anyone else my age, so I thought. There was no rhyme or reason to this intense sadness, sometimes I almost feel like it would have been easier if there was. But, fortunately, I came from a good home, I always had food in my belly and a roof over my head and both of my parents loved me enough.
But I was still sad.
I had friends that wanted to hang out with me, but I couldn’t always bring myself to do so.
I remember feeling numb, that if something happened to me, it wouldn’t matter because I didn’t think I would feel it.
I didn’t care what happened. If I got in trouble at school, or at home, it was as if it had happened to someone else, and I was merely an unbiased observer.
While friends would play games like house, or mash, and diligently map out what their future would like, I wasn’t entirely convinced I would have one. I wasn’t convinced I wouldn’t, but I guess I never went into too much depth of thought. I couldn’t see past where I was at the moment. I didn’t want to, either.
I didn’t see a white picket fence with two kids, one boy and one girl running around on a lush green yard. I didn’t see a hot husband who would pull into the driveway in his Lamborghini, I didn’t see the mansion on the beach or the house in the country.
I didn’t see anything.
When my friends talked about high school, I didn’t see myself ever getting there. I didn’t know why, but I didn’t see it. I didn’t see a future for myself. I was numb.
I found some relief while sitting on the therapist’s couch when I was eight years old. “It sounds like your experiencing severe depression,” she said.
I found out that although I was young, I wasn’t alone. Other people experienced it, too, and it was actually fairly common.
There was a name for it.
Once I found out there was a reason for the way I was acting, I started doing research. As I got older, I have become more open about discussing my depression, and have connected with people who share the same experience.
Looking back now, I can understand how it might be hard to diagnose depression at such a young age. Circumstance, ‘teenage angst’ stereotype, ‘it’s just a phase’, all of those things come into play. Plus, for some people, it is hard to distinguish what may be a severe bout of depression or natural feelings of sadness.
1. Not feeling like yourself: feeling like you are an observer of your own life, also referred to as dissociation. Not feeling affected by the things that happen to you, feeling numb to experiences, or feeling like your life is a sad piece of literature
2. Isolating yourself: Not wanting to hang around anyone can be a result of many different things. Whether your sadness is keeping you from going out and enjoying time with your friends and people your age, or feeling like no one wants to be around you, or you are a bother to those people. Growing up, people may look at this as just being introverted- staying quiet, often opting to read books, or stay at home than go out and play with friends.
3. Lack of interest: Things that you love start to become ‘eh,’ something you can take it or leave it. If the sports that you once loved suddenly start to feel like a chore: it’s important to ask yourself ‘why’ it became this way. Maybe you outgrew it, you don’t like the team you’re on or decided you like another sport better. But, if you can’t attribute the sudden lack of interest to a specific reason, it might be something you want to look into further. Has this happened with other things?
4. Lack of sleep/or too much sleep: By itself, this may be a hard symptom to attribute to depression or just a teenager who enjoys sleeping in until noon. If you experience a sudden change in your sleeping habits, that may be cause for concern: if you suddenly can’t get out of the bed to take care of your responsibilities in the morning, or you find yourself wide awake at 3 a.m. for no reason.
5. Over eating/not eating enough: Again, this can be a hard symptom to determine, because as teenagers, we often have different dietary habits than the rest of our family, which might include late night runs for junk/fast food, or enjoying an extra snack or two here and there. It is important with these symptoms to take note of any changes from your normal behavior. If you are suddenly eating more or less than you are used to, notice a significant change in your weight or your sleeping habits, it would be a good idea to discuss these changes with your doctor.
6. Lack of concentration/ poor memory: If you’re finding that you’re having trouble concentrating in class, and remembering things that happened earlier in the day, you should discuss this with your doctor, as it can be an indicator of depression. It can be difficult to focus on the conversation you’re in the middle of, or to get through a book, often having to read the same sentence over and over.
7. Irritability: Experiencing symptoms of depression, and not being able to understand the underlying cause for it can be confusing and frustrating. It makes sense that not being able to understand what is going through your head, or processing difficult emotions can result in a short fuse.
*Many of these symptoms can be attributed to normal teenage behavior: irritability, sleeping in, etc. However, it is important to note significant changes from your typical behavior and discuss these changes with your primary care doctor. Talk therapy can help pinpoint if there is an underlying cause to your feelings of depression, or if what you are experiencing is more chemical-based, your doctor may recommend medication.