Teen Depression —a reality that consumes your thoughts, mind, and behavior, and if left untreated, becomes one with you. Depression doesn’t discriminate, regardless of age, it can attach itself to you, just like it did with me.
Hi, I’m Emma Feldberg, a 14-year-old girl from Canada. From November 2020 to April 2021, I was experiencing depression. However, I didn’t think I was depressed because I had it all; private school, supportive parents, trustworthy friends, and financial stability. My life seemed perfect, but if you looked deeper, you would see pain and heartbreak. There are three important pillars in my life: friends, family, and school. At this time, all three pillars were slowly collapsing.
The 3 Pillars in My Life Crumbled
Friends: During this period my friends shut me out, whispering behind my back to the point they didn’t want to be friends with me.
Family: My father was having marriage challenges with my stepmom and it broke my heart. The environment in the house was dark and I felt suffocated, helpless and alone every day.
School: I am an A-student and a quiet girl in school. However, this past school year I found my voice. I felt I had come out of a cage and was able to express who I truly was. Unfortunately, that did not go very well. Teachers used to say, “I want you to talk and share your opinion more in class.” But the compliment soon turned into, “You need to stop talking in class and get control of your attitude issues.” I felt confused. I had found myself and people were telling me to hide away and that crushed me.
The foundation in my life was an earthquake. One day, walking home thinking about how angry, sad and conflicted I was, a thought popped in my head, “Well why don’t you kill yourself?” I thought it was ridiculous. But the next day, and every day after, I would think about committing suicide. The fantasy turned into reality. The “what ifs” were turning into “how’s” and the “how” was turning into a plan. I felt that suicide was the perfect escape.
I felt like I was in a dark void with no solution. When I thought about 10 years down the line or even 5 minutes ahead, I felt nauseous and sick. My outlets were my friends but I was told not to interact with them by the teachers. With all these signs you would think I would know I was depressed. But I didn’t have enough self-awareness to have that realization.
Finding Joy in Life Again
The best thing I did was to tell my mother and I was introduced to a therapist. Therapy helped me realize why I was depressed, how to prioritize myself and gave me coping strategies. I was no longer suicidal but I was at peace with dying any day. I would watch TV and see characters in movies fight for their lives with all their strength, and that was unrecognizable to me.
As time went on, I began to find joy in life again. I would look at rainbows, clouds, and trees and it would remind me that earth was a beautiful place to be and I belong here. I no longer wanted to kill myself as an outlet, but needed something to release all my anger. The thought of self-harming with a knife came to mind. I would dig my nails into my skin and waves of relief would crash into me. I didn’t feel the pain.
With more counseling, I was able to find other outlets like writing and exercise. The recovery took time, but I stand here today, grateful to tell you my story.
Misconceptions about Teen Depression:
A misconception of depression is that every single thing in your life needs to be falling apart for someone to be depressed. The other is that depression only affects those who are less fortunate. One area of your life could feel like hell, and others amazing, and this can still lead to depression. If you are more privileged than the average person you can still be depressed. I consistently felt guilty that I wanted to off myself when I had things that people dreamed of.
This dark and painful journey taught me lessons:
- Never undermine what you are feeling. It may seem insignificant to someone else, but that doesn’t matter as they are not you. Instead of feeling guilty, ask yourself two questions: “What events happened that made me feel this way?” “Is there a way to fix this problem?” By feeling guilty you are only digging a deeper hole for yourself of darkness that’s going to be harder to climb out of.
- You are not weak by asking for help. In fact, you are stronger for realizing you need assistance. You are also not crazy! There is this perception that therapy is for crazy people, but this isn’t true.
- Look forward to the little things. Depression can make you less motivated to do simple tasks like get out of bed, do homework or brush your teeth. However, I came up with a strategy. Every day before bed, I would find something small to be excited about the next day. For example, I would be excited to listen to a certain song, see a friend, go on a walk, or watch my favorite show. These little things slowly restored my motivation. So, if you’re struggling, try this. Perhaps it will help you like how it helped me.
- You are strong whether you feel like it or not. Take the lessons from your depression. These lessons are your key to life. They can open a whole new world of perspective and understanding. People who have gone through the most in life, if they gain the right perspective, can be the most grateful.
Know this. Life is worth living. If I can fight the battle with teen depression, so can you.
I am leaving you with a video I made.
With gratitude, Emma Feldberg.