It was as a teen in high school when I first started noticing that I was suffering from a deep lingering sadness that never went away, which I discovered later to be a severe bipolar disorder. (A disorder that causes one to fluctuate back and forth between mania and depression.) It was especially difficult for me as a teen because I didn’t understand at the time what I was feeling and I felt alone and didn’t know where to turn.
That was the beginning of a very long road of depression, anxiety and even thoughts of suicide for me. I never really wanted to hurt myself, but I didn’t want to live either. It was hard for me to face my family and friends and especially other kids in the school where I already felt like a nobody and try to act like everything was normal in my life. I didn’t even know what normal was. It was easy to look at everyone else around me such as my friends and peers at school, and wonder if I was the only one that felt that way and if anyone else was hurting on the inside as well. I would cry out in my mind and wish that someone would hear me and know that I needed help and yet pray at the same time they didn’t hear me because I would be mortified and embarrassed if anyone was to find out just how badly I was falling apart on the inside. I was ashamed and confused.
Back then, depression had the stigma of being a sign of weakness or that you were mentally unstable. It was just starting to catch the attention of psychologists and psychiatrists doing research that maybe depression was caused by your inner child being wounded and books were beginning to be published on how to heal the wounded child within. Their theories held a lot of truth (and still do), but I couldn’t help but feel like I had to hold on to my secret.
Thank goodness today many more years of research and thought have gone into combating this epidemic which is just as prevalent, if not more so now in teens. I have received the help I have needed through out my life and therefore want to use my experience to help bring awareness to other teens who may also be suffering from this debilitating disorder in silence.
One may ask the question, how do I know if I am depressed or if my depression is serious enough to seek help? To these questions, let me share some guidelines:
There are several forms of depression; SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder or Winter depression/Summer Depression), Bipolar Disorder, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Panic Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, only to name a few.
It is important to know the difference between occasional bouts of feeling down or low because of a situation or experience in one’s life and a serious mental disorder, such as Depression, that could be life threatening if left untreated.
For example, feeling down from a break up or loss of a loved one may cause temporary sadness and feelings of unhappiness and loneliness which should diminish within a short matter of time. However a more serious case of depression or mental disorder causes feelings of hopelessness, loss of energy, bouts of non-stop crying, panic attacks, anxiety, aching, loss of interest in your regular activities and even isolating oneself from loved ones, just to name a few. These symptoms linger and even worsen over time. If one experiences these lingering symptoms, it is very important to seek professional help. As a teen, if you are under the age of 18, please know that it is okay to talk to your parents and explain to them how you feel. They cannot help you or seek professional help for you if they do not know what you are feeling.
A good place to start is with your primary care physician. They will either be able to help you or refer you to someone that can.
Just as important, you need to know that you are not a failure if you are prescribed medications and/or are referred to a counselor, psychologist or even a psychiatrist. It is NOT a sign of weakness or failure. On the contrary, it is a sign of strength; that you had the courage to seek help when needed. Most likely you will find that your quality of life will improve dramatically. It may be that you only need to take the medication temporarily or you may need to take it on a long term basis. Maybe even for the rest of your life. Whatever the case may be, do if for your sake, your families sake, and the sake of living life to it’s fullest.
Here are a few detailed symptom lists for your reference which can also be found at, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder/DS00195/DSECTION=symptoms:
SAD (Winter Depression) – Usually comes at the onset of Fall and Winter
- Loss of energy
- Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
SAD (Summer Depression) – Usually comes at the onset of Spring and Summer
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Increased sex drive
“(Seasonal changes in bipolar disorder
In some people with bipolar disorder, spring and summer can bring on symptoms of mania or a less intense form of mania (hypomania). This is known as reverse seasonal affective disorder.”
- Persistently elevated mood
- Unbridled enthusiasm out of proportion to the situation
- Rapid thoughts and speech
Don’t take depression lightly; Seek professional help if symptoms linger too long.
It’s not a sign of weakness.
It can be controlled.
You are worth it! Live Anyway!