Feeling depressed is not a strange disease
Many things went through my head when I set out to write this article for Reach Out! In the end, I decided to tell my personal story. – anonymous
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I have been fortunate enough to grow up in a very loving household, with two happily married parents, two younger brothers and a younger sister. I went to a small Catholic school, situated within a close-knit community. was intelligent, participated, with my family, in the local parish, and had supportive friends my age both at and outside outside school .
To me, it felt like everything! I had no qualities that made me popular and I felt under enormous pressure to conform. The education I was receiving was pointless and boring. I was frustrated by religious talk that seemed to be coming at me from all sides.
I felt like my tendency to be ‘counsellor’ to my friends meant that I had to be superhuman and couldn’t ask for help. Looking back, I think I was frightened that if I ever cracked, I would lose the one thing that people liked me for.
I was also deeply in love. You know, that desperate, abandoning first love? He was a leader, a thinker and he didn’t seem to fit in. I felt we had a mutual relationship of identity, understanding and trust.
Unfortunately he outrightly, arrogantly rejected me. I felt very isolated in my humiliation and pain over this. To cope, I blamed my mum. Her strength seemed to make fun of apparent weakness. I felt like no-one understood me: I wasn’t what my parents expected, I felt different to my friends, and my teachers just told me useless crap most of the time.
In essence I felt alone and scared and needed to let the emotional pain out. I felt like I had no right to be feeling like this with such a privileged life, that there must be a way to even the balance or something. On one particularly tear soaked night I ended up hurting myself.
It took two incidents where people noticed something was wrong before I started to wake up to things. I realised that I felt isolated from the world and hurting myself was a cry for help. Thankfully for me people listened, mainly my friends, then my school counsellor.
My friends and parents had mixed reactions. Those friends who had seen hard times were sympathetic and had some hard-hitting advice. A few were angry with me, and some were just shocked.
Getting angry with me as I told my story just made me feel worse, because it was then that I was at my most vulnerable. It also didn’t help when I was treated like a drastic basket case. I talked with the counsellor who helped me work out the things I needed to do to help me through tough times (like joining a youth group, playing music and doing yoga) and the things that didn’t help (like keeping problems to myself, hurting myself and binge drinking). I learnt that I didn’t have to go through pain alone.
This was three years ago now, and I feel a lot better than I did then. I now seek help if I need it. In counselling I was given some tools to cope with my depression and stop feeling like a victim all the time.
Probably the most valuable tool I was shown was talking – not just to a professional like a counsellor but also to my family, friends and other people in my life – if I wasn’t feeling the best.
I learned that tough times are part and parcel of being a teenager, and feeling depressed doesn’t mean you’ve got a strange disease. I know I’m not the only one who has benefited from getting help to deal with emotional problems, and I’d encourage anybody to do the same.