The Many Faces of Depression (My Teenage Life)

"Whether there are more teens experiencing depression and anxiety, or we’re just becoming more aware of them, the fact is that depression and anxiety afflict our teenagers more often than we thought." - Dr. Gurinder Dabhia - Pediatrician at Scripps Clinic, Rancho Bernardo   Kelly seems like a normal teenager. She is a 16-year-old brunette and a member of the cheerleading team. She's vivacious, beautiful, and really smart. Her parents and friends would have never suspected that she was keeping anything from them or that she was struggling with anything. However, whenever she is alone, Kelly becomes another person. Her parents have never noticed anything odd in her behavior because she's an extrovert. The only slightly odd thing was that whenever she was home, she always locked her door and never came out until the next day. Whenever Kelly came home from school, she would take her food up to her room and never come out no matter how much her parents knocked. This started a year ago and at first, her parents wondered what was wrong but later dismissed it as her becoming a young lady. They stopped bothering her and just felt that she was growing and needed her privacy. However, locking herself in the room was her way of shutting the world out. Kelly didn't want to bother anyone with her problems and just preferred to keep the pain to herself. She hid the cuts on her arms with long sweaters and blouses. Every morning, she would get up, wipe her face, and put on the façade that she had become so accustomed to wearing and would go to school. No one noticed a thing. Kelly went for her usual cheer rehearsals but wouldn't say more than a few words to her friends and teammates. As time went on, her grades began to drop. She withdrew further from her friends. She began to act like someone who was being controlled like a puppet. She had a distant look in her eye and with time, she also stopped eating. Her parents realized that something was wrong with their daughter, but it was too late before they could do anything about it. The next morning, after she didn't come out of her room, her parents broke into her room and found her in the bathtub, soaked in blood. Kelly had cut her wrists with a blade and left a suicide note that read: "I'm So Sorry Mom and Dad. I Couldn't Take it Anymore." The Ugly Truth You may wonder what could have happened to such a young girl to push her to take her life. The truth is that depression has many faces. Outwardly, Kelly didn't seem like someone suffering from depression. She was a cheerleader and it takes a level of bubbliness and charisma to make it to the team. These are traits that are not usually synonymous with depressed people. It takes a level of resilience to deal with the pain of depression alone and cover it up for so long. However, Kelly inevitably snapped as there's only a certain level you can get to without being completely overwhelmed with life. The typical teenager of today lives in a world that desperately seeks to mold people into the exact picture set by society. The world is constantly screaming to suck you into the prescribed mold and if you resist, you will be attacked on all sides. It doesn't help that the social media peddles a fake and unrealistic perspective about life and that is where most people live, especially teenagers. The pressure to always seem “put together” prevents people from reaching out. Gone are the days when a teenager could open up to someone without the fear of being judged or bullied. The trend these days is to suck it up and act like you've got it together because being "woke" is the new normal. Consequently, no one says anything or notices anything until the dead body of a teenager is found. According to research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, it is estimated that 3.2 million teenagers from ages 12-17  have had at least one major depressive episode. This is 13% of the population in that age group. It was also discovered that depression was more prevalent among girls and that suicide is the leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 10 to 24 according to research done by the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A Typical Day in The Life of a Depressed Teen Kelly's life seemed like that of a normal teenager but if you could open her mind and sit there with her, you would see things differently. Many things go on in the mind of a teenager suffering from depression including feelings of worthlessness, deep sadness, and in worse cases, suicidal thoughts. If you have some or more of the following symptoms, you need to seek help:
  • A drastic change in eating habits
  • Insomnia or a drastic shift in sleeping patterns
  • Constant negative thinking
  • Being excessively sensitive to criticism
  • Indulging in high-risk behaviors such as shoplifting or reckless driving
  • Having difficulty concentrating especially at school
  • Sudden withdrawal from family and friends
  • A sudden drop in school grades
  • Mood swings coupled with bursts of anger
  • Irritability
  • Lack of interest in social activities
Teenagers are very susceptible to depression and more often than not, the signs are not immediately noticeable. Depression is a mental illness and it can be treated. You should open up to someone when you notice signs of depression so that you can get help. It is dangerous to deal with depression alone. Your family is almost always the best source of support and encouragement and they will help you through your healing process. If you have been dealing with this alone, you don't have to do that anymore. You're strong for waking up every day and showing up to school with a smile on your face . You can live a healthy, happy life but you must open up to someone. You'll not only get the help you need, you'll also be able to help other teenagers who are suffering from depression as well.