Teenage Depression: Can You Actually Describe It?

February 11, 2018
By KaelynM BRONZE, Fort Collins, Colorado
KaelynM BRONZE, Fort Collins, Colorado
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

One thing about depression—it isn’t constant. Everyone expects you to be depressed all the time, to be staring at the ground or constantly frowning when you’re in public, to always be complaining about something or maybe to have some sort of black, heavy rain cloud perpetually looming above your head. But that’s not how it is. I smile. I smile all the time.

I smile when I wake up and notice my dog has fallen asleep at the foot of my bed. And I see her open her sleepy brown eyes and blink through her mop of fur as she lifts her head to greet me.

I smile when the bell rings and I can finally escape school, exhausted by the work and the interactions and the people. When I leave the building and the sun hits my face and burns my forehead and I see the crowds of people huddling together on sidewalks, talking, talking incessantly. And when I weave through the crowds and the huddles, desperate to be alone in my bedroom and away from the people, away from the noise and the people.

I smile when I open my school email to discover I received a 98% on my essay, one which I spent hours upon hours into the night editing and perfecting until finally breaking down at 3 am, crying and wondering if I’ll ever finish and telling myself that it’s a terrible essay anyways. That I should give up, and cry, and sleep instead.

I smile when my friend texts me on a Saturday to ask about homework and I realize I’ve been unknowingly waiting for a text all day, hoping that someone will message me wanting to hang out, or maybe just to talk. And realizing that for all the times I want to escape the people, I’m lonely and I still want someone to talk to.

I smile when someone asks me how I am, and although I sometimes want to tell them the truth, that I’m not ok, I’m not ok at all, I stay quiet and I smile and I say I’m fine. How are you? It’s only courteous after all.

For all the times I cry, I smile just the same. Depression isn’t a lack of smiling. Depression is just a different meaning behind the smile.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I cry plenty. I’m depressed and I’m angry and I’m hurt and lonely and scared, and sometimes I question everything and I want it all to stop, to end, to go to black so that I can have a break from the sadness and the pain.

It comes in waves. The pain comes in vicious waves that occasionally start small and build up into your hands and your throat and your chest. Sometimes they knock you off your feet from the beginning. The pain is so intense and so concentrated in your stomach and your heart that you think it won’t end, and this place, where you’re standing right now, is where you’ll die.

Other times, it’s a bit duller. More subtle in a way, but never any less painful. This duller pain is less desperate, less fleeting, and it comes with a voice. A voice that grabs you by the hand, whispers in your ear and says, “Stop. Sit back down. Take off your shoes and sit back down. You’re not going anywhere. You don’t want to. I don’t want you to and you don’t want to. Sit here and stay here.” All the time it whispers in your ear, never relenting. Sometimes it goes quiet for a bit, but always it comes back and whispers again.

Depression is a fear, but a fear of yourself. A fear that you’re not good enough. That you’ll never amount to anything. That time is passing you by and you’re not accomplishing anything. That you’re wasting your life. That you’re just lazy. That you won’t. Not that you can’t but that you won’t. Depression pits you against yourself and turns your life into a battle. Against the voice in your head, against the pull that drags you away from happiness, and you spend so much time and energy on this battle that you don’t notice your life coming and going before your eyes.

Depression is a pit. It’s a cave that you’re chained inside of and you scratch and pull at the chains until your fingernails crack and bleed and you scream until your voice is sore but no one comes for you. No one even hears. Or maybe they do, but you can’t tell because they won’t look at you. You feel as though you’re screaming in their ears that you’re being pulled into the cave, that you’re dying, and in pain, and helpless, and they never even look up.

Maybe because they can’t tell. From the outside, you’d think I was just a normal teenage girl. A bit on the tall side, dark-ish blonde hair, quiet and kind of awkward, but nice. (Does she think she’s edgy with that black leather jacket?) One look at me and you’d never see the hurricane brewing beneath the surface. You’d never see the noise and the chaos that fills my thoughts. You wouldn’t see me drowning in my own mind, consumed with fear and sadness, suffocating in the anxiety and the hurt and the loneliness.

You wouldn’t see the depression. You would only see the smile.

The author's comments:

I originally wrote this piece on a Q&A website as an answer to this question: What does depression feel like? Can you actually describe it?

It describes my personal experience as a teenager struggling with depression and focuses on the raw feelings and emotions that occur in the mind, as opposed to specific behavior or actions taken as a result of being depressed. I wanted to reveal a glimpse of what it can actually feel like to be depressed to those who haven't experienced it themselves and are curious.

Unfortunately, depression among teens is all too prevalent and the numbers of those affected appear to be increasing each year. So while this article may not feel unfamiliar to some readers, hopefully, it opens a window into the mind of one of the most common mental illnesses, and the root of one the highest causes of death among teenagers in the Western world.

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