This will be part of a three part series on depression. You can find the other parts here:
What’s the difference between typical teen angst and signs of depression? I can’t say I knew when I was a teenager, but the adults around me didn’t know any better either. In hindsight, I can clearly see the beginnings of what would become serious problems in my life, but at the time, even my doctor couldn’t tell me I was depressed. I was always “borderline”. I still don’t know what that means. Maybe I was borderline depressed, and it only got worse as time went on. Maybe this was typical teen angst just taken to an extreme. But no matter what it was at the time, I should have gotten more help than I did, and no one knew to give me that.
The first time I remember actively feeling something relating to depression was when I was sixteen, though if I think back to it, I can see signs of depressions and anxiety since I was a kid. The first clear moment I remember was when I was on a bus with my classmates. We were going somewhere on a biology field trip, and everyone was really excited because you hardly go on field trips in high school. But then this feeling suddenly came over me; “I don’t belong here”. I shrank back into the bus seat and tried not to cry. I imagined the bus crashing and everyone making it out alive but me. I wished the bus would crash and everyone would make it out alive but me. It was one of the most intense moments I remember experiencing up until that point.
Before that – since I was in fourth grade – I had been writing so called “emo poetry” about blood and death and terror. I shopped exclusively at Hot Topic. I listened to angsty teen pop punk bands. But when my parents asked if this meant anything I told them it didn’t. At first I didn’t think it did. I’m still not sure it was a sign of anything more than just what I was into as a kid. But even still, I wrote poems like this one, from when I was in seventh grade:
Tired of life
Tired of trying
Life is a blur
Running away, trying to hide
Nothing is Right
Never Winning, Always Losing
Life’s out of control
Up, up and away, to who knows where
Gone from home, trying a new life
Tired of this life now
Find life’s simple pleasures
Smelling the grass, lying in the dew
Realizing life, having a good time
Dreaming dreams, thinking thoughts
All is right, All is good
Now winning, never losing
Living, laughing, loving
Time to go back
Returning at Night
Always and forever
Tired of this pattern
It’s not a great poem, but I should have realized that something was wrong. Maybe I did know, but I didn’t want to admit it. Maybe I was afraid of admitting it, afraid of being dismissed as having typical teenaged angst. Afraid of being told it was just a phase and I would get over it. These things all ring true to me, but I can’t remember what my twelve year old self was thinking.
When I was a freshman in high school, I knew I was feeling trapped. I felt like I was presenting one person to the world, but I was a different person on the inside. This turned into one of my biggest anxieties. To this effect, I wrote more poetry:
You can’t stop me,
From being who I am.
The things I do,
You will never understand.
You can’t change me,
Into what you want me to be.
The things I want,
You will never see.
You couldn’t save me,
From the pain I felt inside.
But even though you couldn’t reach me,
I understand you tried.
You shouldn’t mourn for me,
There is no changing what is true.
I am happy now,
I have finally paid my due.
Reading this in hindsight, I had to have known that I was depressed. I was certainly sad. But I didn’t have anything to say besides in my private poetry journals. That last poem is titled “Another something strange” in the document on my computer – as if I did not want anyone to know what it might be, if they happened upon it. Working through this now is a little strange, I’m kind of going stream of consciousness, and I’m not sure what to say.
But by the time the biology trip came around, I knew that there was a problem, but still I didn’t want to tell anyone. And I didn’t, until the moment I had a mental breakdown in the kitchen while my family was eating dinner. I don’t remember what happened to trigger it, or if there was anything in particular that did trigger it, but I ended up sobbing on the floor, repeating, “I’m not happy. I’m not happy” over and over again. I went to the doctor. She told me I should see a therapist. I didn’t want to, so I didn’t bring it up again. I kept hiding it, and as far as I could tell, I actually started feeling better. Or at least, not quite as bad.
Even here, my “best” was still “not great”. I thought I was doing okay, but the truth is that I wasn’t. And it wasn’t until after all of this, until after my senior year and high school and before my freshman year in college, that I actually began to get help.