Yesterday, I participated in the Depression and Mental Health Awareness Event on Facebook, sponsored by Little Shop of Readers and Relentless Book Chic’s Ramblings & Reviews. I shared my story of how good life can be for a survivor of childhood depression. I’m sharing it here as well in case it can help someone with a child who’s going through what I did. (Note that I’m not a medical practitioner—I’m a writer speaking from my own experience.)
My depression began when I hit puberty at the age of eight. The hormones messed up my brain chemistry, and I suffered with mild, chronic depression (dysthymia) all through adolescence. As often happens with early onset, I didn’t realize I had a disorder. I thought that the unrelenting sadness I felt was part of growing up.
On some level, I understood that contemplating suicide every day wasn’t normal–but it was my normal. I blamed it on being a teenager. It never occurred to me that I could get help. I suffered in silence, because I didn’t know there was another choice.
If you or someone you love is having thoughts of suicide, call a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). Treat all talk of suicide seriously. Depressed teens may be at risk of suicide even if the symptoms don’t appear severe.
I was luckier than a lot of kids who suffer from depression. I credit three things for keeping my suicidal impulses at bay: my faith in God, my love for my parents (they had already lost one child, and I couldn’t put them through it again), and my steadfast belief that life would get better.
I write gay erotic romance, in part because I want to show that same-sex attraction is no different than opposite-sex attraction. As a straight ally, I can’t imagine how hard it must be for LGBTQ teens to grow up facing the kind of bullying some of them encounter. Add depression on top of that, and it’s no wonder LGBTQ youth are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as straight kids.
How did I overcome my depression? I met a boy. 🙂
He was smart and handsome and funny, and he fell in love with me just as hard as I did with him. I was studying Shakespeare in college at the time, and I walked around campus with quotations from Romeo and Juliet playing in my head. It didn’t seem possible that love could happen so fast, that my life could change so fast, but it did. Suddenly, instead of praying to die, I was praying to live. I wanted desperately to grow old with this man.
I write romance because I believe in love stories. I live one every day.
I want to emphasize that while mild depression (dysthymia) can often be handled without medication, the same may not be true for moderate to severe depression. Fortunately for me, the happy hormones from falling in love reset my brain. My depression is in remission now, although I still have short bouts from time to time. After I lost my dad, I started suffering from panic disorder and went on medication for six months to treat it. But for most of my adult life, I’ve been happy and healthy.
I married the boy from college. We have a comfortable home, good jobs, and just this week I reached my life-long dream of writing and publishing a book. I have everything I ever wanted. My life is complete. When I think of who I was at 8 or 12 or 16, it’s hard to believe I’ve come this far. Life gets better every day. I’ve been incredibly blessed.
There’s no need for anyone to suffer with untreated depression the way I did for 10 years. Parents, be aware of the symptoms of teen depression. Don’t attribute them to normal adolescent moodiness. And don’t assume your child will tell you if something’s wrong. To a depressed teen, sadness feels normal.
For more information on childhood depression, I recommend the book Save the Teens: Preventing Suicide, Depression and Addiction.
Give your child a hug from me!
Have you had any experience with teen depression or bullying? How did you recover from the situation?