If you know me, you know that I am always happy. I am outgoing, I am loud, and I am fun. Being around others brings me joy, and I love nothing more than making new friends.
If you really know me though, you know that hasn’t always been the case.
It was a cold Friday afternoon last February. I just arrived home from school after having minimal conversation with my mother on the ride home. I trudged up to my room, dropped my bookbag on the floor, changed into PJs, and climbed into bed.
Shortly after doing so, I received a text from my friends asking if I wanted to go to dinner that night. I gave them the response I had recently adopted: "No, sorry. I'm tired."
They were used to it at this point, so they gave me a typical response, like, "Dang! We'll miss you!" or "Maybe next time!" But I knew that there wouldn't be a next time...and that they wouldn't actually miss me.
As I heard my mother's high heeled shoes clicking on the wooden floorboards, I quickly hid my phone and faked being asleep. I didn't want her to know that I was sitting in bed alone on a Friday night because I honestly didn't want to do anything else. So I closed my eyes and pretended to be a "worn out teenager" from a "tough week at school."
She slowly pushed my door open and peeked her head in. "You okay?" she asked. I could hear concern in her voice. She knew this wasn't right...she knew this wasn't me.
I groaned, pretending she had awakened me from a nap. "Just tired," I responded, as usual. I rolled back over, trying to give her the cue to leave my room so I could be alone. But she stayed.
"I was thinking maybe we could go out to dinner as a family tonight, like we used to,” she urged. “Your birthday is coming up. We could talk about what you want to do fo the big 1-6!”
“No, mommy. I said I was tired. Please go now.”
“Okay, well do you want something to eat?”
“I’m not hungry.”
And with that, she slowly cracked the door to my room and made her way back downstairs. Part of me felt bad that I was ditching my friends and family, but things didn’t feel the same as they used to.
Being around people used to be my favorite thing in the world. I loved hanging out with friends and going to football games, but now it all felt like a hassle. I would rather stay home and sleep than go to a concert or a dinner or a party.
I guess this worried me a little bit, but I brushed it off. It was just that “teenage angst” they talk about, right?
I plugged in my headphones and turned my music up to full blast. I had gotten very into the musical Hamilton earlier in the year, but now I just wanted to listen to sappy John Mayer or extremely alternative music.
After listening to my playlist in its entirety, I searched up some old Vine compilations on YouTube. Vine never failed to make me laugh, even in my worst times. Recently though, even “Vines That Cured My Crippling Depression” just didn’t make me feel the same happiness I used to feel. My contagious laugh felt as if it had been taken out of me.
I gave up on watching Vines, so I scrolled through my Instagram feed and dropped a like on every photo I scrolled past, as usual.
Seeing all of these girls with perfect bodies and perfect faces and perfect hair made me feel bad about myself. I had always had a horrible habit of comparing myself to those around me, and God knows social media doesn’t help.
I just didn’t get it. I looked like them, I went to school with them, I played on sports teams with them… What was so different and unlikeable about me?
As these thoughts and many others drifted in and out of my mind, a single (very dramatic) tear fell from my right eye. It made its way down my nose and sat there for a few seconds before falling onto my sheets. Following that tear was another… and another… and another. To my surprise, the tears continued to fall uncontrollably and my sheets began to be dampen. I wondered if I’d soon float away like Alice.
Something was wrong. I just didn’t know what it was. Crying uncontrollably was not new to me, so I let it slide and continued on with my life.
I continued on with my weekend, running errands with my mom and watching golf with my dad. Before I knew it, it was Sunday evening and I was packing my bag for school the next morning.
I sat in bed, as I routinely did, and put on Netflix. I texted my friends about their weekend and they all told me how much fun they had. “Sounds like fun,” I responded. I was lying through my teeth. Their weekend of hanging out with each other and boys and new friends sounded like hell to me.
Later in the evening, I received a long text from a friend, asking me if I was okay. I “didn’t seem like my normal self” and “wasn’t going out much.” Both of those statements were true. She continued to question me, asking, “Is there something going on?” and “Can I do anything to help?” But there was nothing she could do at this point.
I felt as if I was at the bottom of the Grand Canyon yet my friends and family were at the top. I felt as if I was blind while a light was trying to guide me. I felt alone. And I didn’t like it.
I began bawling as usual, and ran as if my life depended on it down to the den where my parents were sitting. Little did I know, my life did depend on it.
“I am always sad,” I sobbed. “There is nothing that makes me happy anymore and I don’t know why.”
After having a lengthy conversation with both of my parents about my struggles, we concluded that I was struggling with depression. I went to see a psychiatrist and was placed on antidepressants (which work wonders, BTW).
My depression soon seemed to fade, and the old me that I knew began to take its place. At first I was in denial that I was struggling with this disease. I did not know anyone who struggled with it in the past, so I thought depression was something that only people in mental hospitals and psychiatric wards struggled with. It turns out that I am not alone.
My parents both struggled with depression throughout their lifetime, and thanks to genetics, it is no surprise that I struggle with it as well. Depression seems taboo in this day and age, but it is more common than most people think. Surprisingly, 20% of teenagers will suffer with depression before they reach adulthood.
It baffles me how many people struggle with mental illness such as depression, anxiety, and/ or bipolar disorder, but are afraid of their own feelings. After talking to many of my friends and acquaintances about my struggle, my eyes were opened to the fact that I was not alone in this fight.
I still feel times of sadness every so often, but now I know how to handle it. I learned that there are so many things that make me feel better when my thoughts begin to spin out of control. Playing guitar, painting, and listening to music are quite therapeutic.
There are some days when I would rather stay in bed than go out with friends or family, but now I know I will regret missing out on a good time. Although it is hard, I summon all of the courage that I have to get up, get dressed, put a smile on my face, and go have fun.
If you think that you are struggling with depression, don’t be afraid to open up to someone about it. It could save your life.
And I suppose I should acknowledge the irony of my saying you shouldn’t be afraid to open up to someone when I myself am remaining anonymous. But I wanted to draw attention to the issue, and not my name. That doesn’t mean I don’t think there would be value to standing up here, and waving my flag to say, “This is who I am. And this is what I’ve been going through. And there is no shame.” I wish I could do that. But I can’t right now. Also, once you put anything out on the internet, it is there forever and open to the public. Right now, I feel like I need to be as careful as I can to protect my name.
Besides, this is about the importance of opening yourself up to someone. And that I have done with important people in my life. And I encourage you to do the same. Because, trust me, Vines are very unlikely to actually cure your crippling depression.