Guest Opinion: What I Wish I Knew About Depression as a Teen

Lane Moore is a contributor to Cosmopolitan Magazine.  Her insight and reflections on her own experiences as a teen with depression are informative to parents of youth today.     

Author: Lane Moore, Relationships Editor for Cosmopolitan.com

1. If you feel like you’re so sad you can’t handle it, you might not actually be able to handle it. I wish I’d known that I wasn’t being weak or whiny, that it was actually perfectly normal to feel as sad and emotionally heavy as I felt. Whether you have tangible reasons to feel that way or your brain chemistry is just wonky, you didn’t choose that and no one is meant to just keep pretending like that level of pain is manageable.

2. Your friends might use the same words to describe how they feel, but they also might have no idea what you’re doing through. If I had a nickel for the every time one of my teenage friends said, “Ugh, I got a C+, I’m so depressed. I feel like dying,” and I wanted to scream, “Do you? Do you really? Because if so, we could both be speaking more openly about what’s really going on with us and I would like that greatly!” Also, side note? Can people stop speaking like that if they don’t actually mean that? It would help so many people with mental illnesses. Thanks.

3. That needing mental health help is the same as needing physical health help. If your ankle hurts, the first thing someone does is tell you to go see a doctor. So you do. But if you’re depressed, the first thing people do is tell you to cheer up. That’d be like if they told you to just “stop feeling pain in your leg.” OK, will do! Seriously, there is no difference and you should not feel like you’re crazy for needing help. Also, that word [crazy] needs to kind of go away ASAP.

4. There is no way you’re the only kid at your school struggling with depression. According to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement, about 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18, with girls being more likely than boys to experience depression. Is that an overwhelming percentage of people that will make you feel like literally everyone will understand you? No, but it’s enough to make you feel like you’re not the only person on the entire planet who feels like this, which can be comforting.

5. Eating well can’t fix all your problems, but it also can’t hurt. I learned at an early-ish age (that I wish was even earlier) that if I couldn’t control how my brain was going to react to everything, at least I could make sure that I wasn’t feeding my body garbage fuel. That’s just stacking problems on top of problems. Drink water, eat vegetables. The more good you can put into your body, the better.

6. Even if one thing really helps you feel better, it still won’t be magic. Later in life, I started getting into meditation, which I love now and it has helped me so much, but I still struggle with depression. Whether it’s medication or therapy or something else, the odds that you’ll find one helpful thing and never have problems again are slim, but at least you’re adding tools to help you battle any problems that might come.

7. You’re going to think some ridiculous things and not all of them are true. Things like “no one cares about me” or “I don’t matter” often creep up a lot for people with depression. Those aren’t my specific thoughts, but those are some of the most common ones and I can tell you, they’re just not true. Even if it’s just one teacher at your school or a girl you say hi to every day in Spanish class, people notice you and you affect their lives, and if they knew you were struggling so much, they would care.

8. Medicate with movies, TV, and music as much as you want. That is literally all I did growing up. I remember thinking it was weird that I consumed so much media, but it really helped me cope and still does. None of that stuff will kill you, and it’s a lot better than coping in more dangerous ways.

9. It’s occasionally possible to take out some of the bad parts of your life. A lot of the time when we feel super sad, we feel like nothing will ever get any better and sometimes we can change even the smallest of things so that at least some of them can get better. Even if it’s as simple as “I hate my friend Abby.” OK, so don’t talk to Abby anymore! If it makes you feel like crap, leave. You already feel like crap. You don’t need to add your stupid friend Abby and her mean and never funny at all jokes into the mix.

10. Exercise won’t cure everything, but man, can it help. Even if it’s just dancing like a weirdo in your room for 20 minutes, exercising on any level really will shake some of that shit off. No, it won’t solve everything or be any kind of permanent but it’ll at least give you a break from all the stuff going on in your head.

11. Distracting yourself isn’t lying to yourself. I thought for so long that if I just went and read a book or took a walk that I was lying to myself and pretending I was fine when I wasn’t. This is so not true! You’re actually just giving your brain a healthy break so you’re not in pain all the time. You know what your truth is, even when you’re taking a break from it. It’s OK.

12. If you really think you might actually hurt yourself, you need to tell someone. If you can’t trust a parent or your parents aren’t around, tell someone you trust at school or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255. You matter.

13. It could get very, very dark. That does not mean it is the end. Things can get so dark, so scary, so “Yeah, it’s never going to get better than this,” but I swear it gets brighter. I don’t know how, but it always does. And I won’t lie to you and tell you it’s soon. It could be years (I know, I know, I wish it were faster, sometimes it is), but it will. And you will be so happy to have gotten over the hill to where everything doesn’t feel horrible. Or, you know, feels horrible 20 percent of the time instead of 80. It’s the little things. Plus, no one feels good 100 percent of the time anyway.

See original hosted article here.