Fighting stereotypes: talking about depression as a teenager

Photo of Imogen, Time to Change bloggerWhen I was younger I did have my fair share of arguments and door-slamming matches with my father and stepmother, but things began to change when I was about 14.

Suddenly, thoughts of my late mother and how much I missed her would spring to mind; I would often cry myself to sleep, and I began to self-harm. In reality, I hardly knew why; I just felt I needed some form of release, and that perhaps physical pain would distract me from the mental pain I was experiencing.

I did not speak to my father about it. I worried that he would tell me I was being ridiculous and that I needed to grow up. Whenever I did appear low around him, he would simply put it down to the common stereotype of the moody teenager.

I didn’t say much to my friends

I didn’t say much to my friends, either. If they asked how I was feeling, I would say, “Not great,” but hardly ever go into any detail. My closest friends knew about my mother and so I could confide in them about the thoughts surrounding that but I told no-one about the harm I was doing to myself.

I didn’t know a lot about mental illness at that age, which is why I now feel it is fundamental to introduce awareness of such issues into education, to increase understanding and, therefore, to (hopefully) decrease stigma. When I turned 15 and things hadn’t improved I began to look for answers. I was quickly drawn into the overload of information the internet offers: I read articles, I took quizzes, I looked up different symptoms. It seemed to me as though I seemed to be suffering from depression.

"Oh, don’t be so stupid!" he snapped

Nervously, I approached a friend about this possibility. I had expected some ignorance, as I myself had known very little not long before but not the retaliation I actually got. “Oh, don’t be so stupid!” he snapped. “There’s no such thing as clinical depression. It’s just an excuse for doctors to get you out of their waiting rooms quicker. Everyone feels sad at some point or another. You’ll snap out of it eventually.”

I was shocked. Worried that everyone might react in the same way, I clammed up about it, but the arguments at home, the crying and the self-harm continued. By the time I was 16, my symptoms had changed slightly – I felt numb more than anything.

I would sit aimlessly around the house

After my GCSEs, when I could’ve been out seeing my friends, I would sit aimlessly around the house, lacking the motivation to do anything. My father commented on my "unwillingness" to help around the house and asked why I wasn’t doing more to "broaden my horizons" when I had so much free time.

My one salvation, who to this day is still my saving grace, was my younger half-brother. With 10 years between us, I don’t just feel like a big sister to him; at times I almost feel like a second mother. I have helped look after him since birth, and we are extremely close. He was the only person that could help lift my mood, yet he was far too young to understand any of what was going on.

I didn’t get help until I was 17, by which time I'd had a bit of a breakdown. I’d also begun to suffer symptoms of anxiety around alcohol, triggered by unpleasant events that took me back to the days of my mother’s chronic alcoholism. I eventually confided in my father. I didn’t give him all the details, but I assured him I needed help.

 I can talk to my family and friends with more confidence

I went to my GP and later received psychotherapy before beginning university. Things improved for a while but I had a relapse in my symptoms about six months ago and am now on anti-depressants, which are helping greatly. Now that I am that bit older, and more informed about mental illness, I can talk to my family and friends with more confidence. I also have a fantastic boyfriend who helps out in any way he can, especially on my ‘bad’ days.

Life isn’t easy with depression, but for me it was even worse as a teenager. We definitely need to be teaching schoolchildren about mental illness so that more young people do not experience the anxiety and stigma that I did.

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Comments

Very well said Imogen, your

<p>Very well said Imogen, your truly brave. Thank you for helping to raise the much neede awareness and helping to change the stigma of mental health for good. J x</p>

I think it's also important

<p>I think it's also important that depression isn't "all in your head" or an excuse doctors use and that it is a real genuine illness.</p>

You're absolutely right.

<p>You're absolutely right. People can try and tell you that you're 'crazy' or, as you said, that things are just 'in your head', but that couldn't be further from the truth! Depression is just as much an illness as the flu, for example, it's just a shame it's not so easily diagnosable and people often misdiagnose or dismiss it, along with other mental illnesses. - Imogen x</p>

ADHD

i think people with adhd are very hurt inside and dont show there, i know your in pain i have expeireinced it myself tell someone coz its not that cant concentrate and dont get school work you get life either......

Depression

Having suffered depression last year I look back at my early teens and recognise I had many of the symptoms I suffered last year back then too. I am 20 now and agree that it gets passed off as being a moody teenager. People need to take teenagers more seriously and maybe then we wouldn't have suffered so badly in the present. I too would cry myself to sleep and no one ever knew that. More help is needed. Well done for speaking out xxx

This story is so familiar to

<p>This story is so familiar to me. I agree, emotional and mental health are deemed inappropriate subjects to discuss with children - yet it is profoundly important that they ARE discussed.</p>

Depression

I only wish someone had spoken to me about mental health earlier. Approximately 1 year ago now I sat in my GPs room and burst into tears I couldn't cope with feeling so rubbish anymore. At the time I didn't think that my depression was affecting me much and it's only when I started crying at work that I sought help. After being previously diagnosed with anxiety before being diagnosed with depression, looking back it has affected my life hugely I was withdrawn, moody and reluctant to talk to others almost having full on panic attacks when asked questions in class in school. After completing a course of therapy I do feel better but it's still a daily struggle against the anxiety and depression. Hopefully with more people like you speaking out then more people will understand what it is like to worry constantly about meaningless things and feel so low that you wonder if there is any point in getting out of bed.

i feel ya

Lookin 4 a cause that isn't there cuz its brain chemistry, not an outside source.

Depression

I only wish someone had spoken to me about mental health earlier. Approximately 1 year ago now I sat in my GPs room and burst into tears I couldn't cope with feeling so rubbish anymore. At the time I didn't think that my depression was affecting me much and it's only when I started crying at work that I sought help. After being previously diagnosed with anxiety before being diagnosed with depression, looking back it has affected my life hugely I was withdrawn, moody and reluctant to talk to others almost having full on panic attacks when asked questions in class in school. After completing a course of therapy I do feel better but it's still a daily struggle against the anxiety and depression. Hopefully with more people like you speaking out then more people will understand what it is like to worry constantly about meaningless things and feel so low that you wonder if there is any point in getting out of bed.

Depression

At last depression is being talked about now all we have to do is get through to the ignorant people who refer to sufferers as psycho's , weirdo's etc and sadly this includes teachers. Let's get the message out there in education. Speak out be brave and don't be bullied. I am the mother of a daughter who suffers from anxiety and depression but who doesn't hide it but who has been bullied by young and older alike. I too suffered as a teenager I am so glad that things are changing and that u are all brave enough to speak out. :-)

Awareness is so important

I was brought up with my grandma from the age of 2. All I seem to remember were my uncles (her sons) calling her a nutter! The outbusrts went on for years, in and out of institutes, but even though sometimes I got really scared (when the depression set in and her moods changed), I knew she loved me and that it wouldnt be long until she was back to grandma again but I knew she needed help. Depression was not seen as an illness back then, thanks to people talking about mental health more and more people are realising just how upsetting it can. I dont want to see my friend, neighbour or family suffer, not when they dont need to! So thank you to all of you out there who share their stories, it will help someone somewhere!

GP's need to take teenager mental health issues seriously

. I started realized my depression at the age of about 13, by this point friends and teachers were worrying that I wasn't being myself anymore. My school was really supportive, a teacher who had had depression referred me to theschoolcounsellor. I have over a year and a half session with her, she did everything she could for me. She referred my to the Child and adolescent mental health service. I face discrimination from my own family that prevented me using the service. I have also experienced the the GP treat teenage how come for help over mental health problems, GP's don't take teenagers seriously and I feel h this is resulting in more serious and complex case of mental health problems which should l have be treated earlier. Children don't receive treatment for their issues they ate just left with no where to go by health care professional. This needs to change

imogens story

realy helpfull to read her story to know i wern't the only person havin break downs ending in self harm i have never ask'd for help my family found out tried to ask me y i did it an cudn't give them an answer AN HOPE THEERE ARE MORE GOOD DAYS FOR YOU NOW!! nat 23

Anxiety and Depression

I suffer with anxiety and depression and i didn't tell anyone for a while until i told my cousin everything and realized that he was going through the same thing. Now we talk regularly on what to do but haven't came up with any solutions.

Anxiety and Depression

I wished Id known about mental health problems, Ive suffered from depression since the age of 12 when i started getting bullied and threatened at school, i was then given the nickname 'depressed' i was actually being bullied for having an illness..i made it through and eventually was given medication to help. I missed so much school and everyone just looked at me like i was a failure and lazy, I would sit up all night just crying and I think people need to be aware of how to deal with this, especially parents, my parents are so supportive but were lost with what to do because nothing could cheer me up. After years of this I ended up being taken off the medication as i felt i could cope, but in the last 6 months ive developed a severe anxiety disorder which has sparked my depression again and I cant tell anyone because I dont even understand how the most simple tasks are now terrifying, how can you explain something when you dont even understand it yourself. I wish I could talk about it as other people talk about their physical illness's but starts walking on egg shells around you and give you weird looks as if i should be in a mental home. I dont even know whats happening, i judge myself and think maybe I am different and crazy, this isnt right! Just because you cant see my illness doesn't mean im not suffering, people need to be aware of this. The government and schools need to do something about it.

I've Been There

Your experience is almost exactly the same as mine. I'll share my story here: When I was 13 I began to feel myself dialing down: getting sadder, feeling worse and worse as time went on. I went to my mother eventually and asked if I could see a psychotherapist, I wanted to know what was wrong, and how I could get help feeling better. But my mother, who doesn't believe even to this day that mental illness is a real thing, told me "No." She told me to stop my "bullshit", that it's all in my head. In grade 8, there were virtually no councilors available in the school to talk to. I was terrified to go to a teacher - I was already bullied in school, if someone overheard me asking for mental help, that would be the end for me. I bore it all in silence. Then, high school. Age 14, 15, 16 - my father was an explosive alcoholic. He drank every single night and I never knew what his mood was going to be. When ever I expressed sadness, or wanted to talk about my feelings, he would get angry at me. Not just angry. He would scream. At the top of his lungs, his face beat red. This would make me angry, and very afraid, and the fights we had almost on a daily basis were also explosive, and usually ended with him erupting from the couch and chasing me up to my room. I cried almost daily. I can remember my sister listening to me cry from her own room on the second floor of our house. She took my mother's side, she thought I was being ridiculous. One night she opened my bedroom door and threw a roll of toilet paper at me. She said "shut up." I didn't see councilors in high school. My mother's constant lessons to me that my fights with my father were all my fault, that my sadness was all in my head, lead me to believe that I was fundamentally a bad person. I didn't think I could share any of this with a councilor, he or she would just think I was a bad person too. I thought I was a bad person. I was the problem. It was all my fault. University. Age 18: abusive boyfriend. Even more abusive father. I broke up with this boyfriend after a year. I realized I accepted his abuse of me because I was taught that my father's abuse of me was my fault. University. Age 19: Mental breakdown. After 7 years of pain, sadness, and fear that I bore secretly and silently on my shoulders, I broke down. My parents, who made too much money for me to qualify for a student loan, gave me no financial assistance. I worked in retail 20-30 hours a week to afford tuition, and everything else I needed - clothing, hygienic supplies, etc. I took a full course load and strove to accomplish the only thing that really took my mind off all the problems - my studies. But as I walked home one evening after a long shift during the Christmas season, the ground, the city lights, the night sky, all became a blurry mass, I felt myself begin to spin. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't move. I fell to the ground in a dizzying mess and crawled to the nearest wall by a shop, and reached into my coat pocket for my mobile phone. Passers by looked at me, but didn't offer assistance. I didn't expect them to. Living in the big city, that's not what people do. I called my mother and told her what was going on. We went to the hospital where I stayed hooked up to machines all night. The next morning, the diagnosis was severe anxiety. I was started on anti-depressants almost immediately and regularly followed up with my family doctor. I began seeing a psychiatrist, 7 years after my mother told me I was not allowed to. The "shrink" didn't help me. She stared almost blankly throughout my entire conversation with her, took notes, etc. When I'd get home from these visits I was welcomed by "oh, so what awful things did you tell your shrink about us today?" from my mother or father. I stopped seeing her. She was making things worse for me. I would tell her everything but she gave me nothing in return, no comments, no suggestions. I felt I was opening all these old wounds and just letting them bleed. Things didn't get better when I stopped seeing her, but at least my parents stopped commenting. They knew I was mentally ill by this point, but it still didn't register with them that I needed their support just as much as anyone else's. It was good enough to them that I grew up with a roof over my head and clothes on my back. I should never ever complain about anything else. These were the kind of parents they were. Things have not gotten better, over a decade down the road from when I first started to feel depressed. It isn't a happy ending for everyone, even with medication and therapy, even after having moved out from their house. It is so important that people wake up to the fact that mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. It is an illness like any other illness, only the symptoms are perhaps more visibly and personally apparent. Like any other illness: it hurts, it debilitates, it can be treated and people can get better, But only if they get the treatment they need when they need it. I think if my mother and father had understood that I was really mentally ill, instead of giving into their own misconceptions about what mental illness really is, I would have got the help I needed when I needed it. I think I went undiagnosed and untreated for so long, the damage is irreparable.

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