My struggle with depression, and why I share my story.

Since I was 11 years old I’ve struggled with major depression. More than once, my depression has seriously affected my self-esteem, my health, my relationships with friends and family, and other important parts of my life.

For a long time, I didn’t tell a single person how terrible I was feeling. I convinced my young self that these feelings of hopelessness and self-hate weren’t valid - I didn’t actually feel this way, and it was all only in my head. Although I was aware early on that I was depressed, I told myself that I needed to suck it up and if I only tried harder to push past it, the feelings would soon go away.

Up to the age of 16, I told myself this. I assumed it was normal to wake up every single day with this feeling of despair. I became a master at concealing my true emotions and projecting a happy persona to the world. I would wake up every single day and put on a face. This mask was my ultimate protection and I did not know how to exist otherwise. I was so incapable of showing vulnerability that even my best friends had never seen me cry or talk openly about my emotions. When I was finally alone in my room at night, I would be exhausted. The weight of my depression along with the burden of keeping these feelings of worthlessness hidden from the world, took a huge toll on me and only made my mental health worse. I would secretly cry myself to sleep nearly every night.

Eventually I stopped crying myself to sleep, but it wasn’t because I was doing better. I became so numb I could no longer cry. No matter how horrible I felt or how badly I needed to, I simply couldn't cry. I was emotionally empty and numb. The rare times I experienced moments of joy, they were muted by an underlying sadness I couldn’t escape. It was common for me to lay on my bed for an hour doing nothing because I felt absolutely no motivation. I questioned the point of living and convinced myself that I didn’t truly matter to anyone in my life.

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That’s the thing with depression. It doesn’t matter if your thoughts and feelings towards yourself hold any logical reasoning. When you are in that dark place, it’s impossible to “just think positively” or to simply “snap out of it”.

You are a victim to your own thoughts. Often times, there is a chemical imbalance in your brain that cannot get better without proper intervention. The depressive thoughts drown out everything else and the weight of this sadness follows you everywhere.

As time went on, my mental state did not get any better. In 9th grade, I realized I needed to reach out and talk to someone about how I was feeling. Even though I finally accepted I needed help, I didn’t feel worthy enough to ask for it. I knew many people had it worse than me, and because of this I deemed my feelings invalid. My fear of being vulnerable overpowered my desire to reach out. The help I knew I needed, I didn’t believe I deserved. And so, another year went by and I suffered in silence.

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There were multiple times during this period when I came close to reaching out to someone. More than once, I texted my mom telling her I needed to talk. And I promised myself I would tell her I was depressed. But when it came down to it, I backed out. The invalidating thoughts I had briefly conquered came flooding back stronger than ever.

Around this same time, I suffered a serious knee injury that prevented me from playing soccer for more than a year. Since 6th grade, my love for soccer had been the only constant in my life. No matter how bad of a place I was in, my commitment and passion for this sport did not waiver. I can honestly say it was the one thing that kept me going all this time. A large part of my identity was tied to my abilities as a soccer player, and it was from this role that I got the majority of my confidence.

In the months following my injury, my depression got worse. I was heartbroken that I couldn’t play this sport I loved so deeply. I felt lost, incompetent, and more isolated than ever before. As my mental health diminished, my need to share what I was going through with someone heightened. I didn’t understand why it was so freaking hard for me to simply share what I was feeling.

Why was I so terrified of asking for help?  

Because my depression made me believe that if I told someone, they wouldn’t believe me. Or they would accuse me of lying. Or even worse, they wouldn’t care.

Despite all the walls I had up, I knew if I didn’t reach out to someone soon, things would continue to get worse. Underneath my feelings of worthlessness and self-hate, I found the courage to open up. In the middle of 10th grade, I did one of the scariest things I have ever done, and I told my mom I needed help. The moment I told her what I had been dealing with, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.

I cried and cried and was so incredibly relieved to have told someone how I was doing. It wasn’t until this moment that I became aware of just how big of a toll this secret had taken on me.

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Talking to my mom was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Once I was able to talk to one person about what I was going through, it became less daunting with every other person I told. Talking about my depression and other unspoken issues that I avoided for so long, has lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. It’s given me clarity about my life, myself, and the people that truly care about me.

There are, of course, a few people who have not taken my story well. But I’ve learned that if anyone ever reacts in such a way, they don’t deserve your time or attention.

In the last year, I’ve also discovered some amazing resources and services that have helped me better manage my mental illness. Through therapy, medication, and open conversations with people I trust, my depression has become more manageable. It’s something I’m no longer so deeply ashamed of.

It’s definitely not been easy, and I am still in the process of working everything out. But every day that I wake up with a genuine smile on my face, I know all the hard work has been worth it. I still struggle with depression, but overall I am in a much better place then I was during the years when I was too ashamed to talk to anyone about it.

I’ve learned that in the short term, it might be easier to avoid your problems. But in order to truly grow, one must address them head on.

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I am so fortunate to have the support system in my life that I do now, and I realize that not everyone is this lucky. One of the biggest reasons I created this website is to provide a platform for people who do not have anyone to talk to.

I want to provide better access to mental health resources for teens. And I want a space for teens’ stories to be heard.

I want everyone to know that mental health issues are not shameful and that your mental well-being must not be neglected. I strongly believe the best thing that can be done to encourage people to seek the help they need is by having open and honest conversations about mental illness.

If you are reading this and you also struggle with your mental health, please reach out to someone. Things may seem completely hopeless right now but they don’t have to stay this way.

If you’re going through something, no matter how big or small, your feelings are 100% valid and it’s okay to ask for support. If you’re not comfortable talking to someone you know, there are many services available with people who want to listen and can help you.

The most important thing to know is that you don’t have to face these challenges alone. There are people out there who care and who will listen.

I know what it’s like to feel unworthy of support, and it fucking sucks! Your thoughts do not determine who you are. You are worth it!

Hang in there my friends <3 Take care of your mind. It matters, and you matter. :) <3

Anneka