When I creeped my own Facebook profile a few months ago, this is what I saw: a picture of a young woman wearing modern black framed glasses, smiling, showing off her white teeth, finally train track free. She grinned at me and I thought she looked very happy. I tilted my head, examined the picture from a different angle. The girl still looked happy. I blinked
twice. I held my computer as far away as I could while still holding it. The girl still smiled right back at me. That’s when I realized that on the outside, indeed, I look very happy.
I browsed through the whole album. And I saw that same girl…celebrating her eighteenth birthday with her best friend…lying in a field surrounded by a pile of books, laughing her head off…taking a self-portrait, showing off her large bookcase…giving her horse a kiss…posing with her friends… and so on.
At first, many people picture a depressed individual as someone lying in bed, unable to get up, with messy hair in a messy room, looking like he or she hasn’t showered for days. Sunken eyes, filthy clothes, dark bedroom and tear-stained cheeks…you get the idea.
But this is not what teen depression looks like.
Picture a typical popular teenage girl, with blonde hair and blue eyes, who flips her hair and flirts with boys during lunchtime.
Picture a golden boy, athletic and smart and good-looking. Picture the girl sitting in the back row of your class, writing poems in her leather notebook instead of listening to the teacher. Picture that one annoying, snotty girl who posts too many selfies on Instagram. Yes, the one who insists on buying brand named clothes and drinking brand named coffee. Picture a football player. Or a science geek. Or your math teacher. Or your favourite co-worker. Or your friend. Or your best friend.
Depression can affect anyone. It doesn’t matter whether you are a girl or a boy, Catholic or Protestant, Asian or American. Depression is everywhere. It is said that 1 in 5 Canadians will experience mental illness at some point during their lives. Wherever you are, wherever you go, you are not alone.
To me, teen depression looks like a girl surrounded by people who love her, even though she can’t feel it most of the time. I picture a girl who has one of the highest grade point averages in her grade. A girl who spends her weekend working at a grocery store, dealing with awkward situations and endless complaints from nasty customers. A girl who got accepted to a prestigious university, who dreams of living her dream. A girl who’s taking responsibility for her actions and trying to meet everyone’s expectations.
A girl who loves to watch Gossip Girl, even though she hates gossip. A girl who plays board games with her mother and talks about philosophy with her father. A girl who talks to her best friend until two in the morning. A girl who wonders about the meaning of life while the rest of the world is asleep. A girl with many, many friends, who laughs and laughs and cannot stop laughing, and indeed, looks very very happy.
That girl stares back at me every time I come across a mirror, and even though she might be radiating happiness on the outside, she may also be falling apart on the inside.