By Author's name withheld
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Editor’s note: Names in this story have been changed.

One day after school last year, I was talking with my friend Ashley outside our high school gym when Wendy, a girl I sort of know, came up and joined the conversation. Then Wendy asked if she could speak with me alone.

I was curious and thought, "What’s this about?"

Wendy seemed embarrassed to talk. She was wringing her hands loosely, as if she couldn’t keep them still. It was hard for her to look me in the eye. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other.

Then Wendy shyly admitted that she was dealing with depression and had been referred to a psychologist. She said she felt comfortable confiding in me, because another friend told her that I had been in therapy before.

What? My first reaction was surprise! I didn’t feel comfortable that she knew I was in therapy. Nobody outside my circle of best friends knew that, or so I thought.

But I could tell that Wendy was trying to connect with me.

Then I realized that I wasn’t the only one who dealt with depression. I wanted to tell her that depression is not something to be ashamed of. It’s not something to feel guilty about. It’s not something to feel stupid about. You’re not crazy, weird or psychotic.

I didn’t want Wendy to feel so alone and confused about it, like I was at one time. So I explained my own experience to her.

They told me I suffered from depression

When I was 11, I never wanted to get out of bed. I felt tired all the time. I made excuses to avoid school and often complained of imaginary sore throats and stomach-aches, because I wanted to stay home and be alone. It’s not like I felt unhappy, but my energy was drained. I had no motivation to fight it. I was content to lay in bed and watch TV or do homework.

At first, my friends were worried about my absences and asked why I wasn’t in school. I told them the same excuses that I gave my mom: headache, stomach-ache, flu, anything. My absences were so frequent that after a while, my friends stopped being concerned.
My mom thought I had a low immune system and kept catching colds. She brought me to a pediatrician. The doctor diagnosed me with depression and referred me to a psychologist.

I went to therapy and hated it. "How are you feeling? Were you ever abused? How are your grades?" the therapist asked. She nailed me with question after question. It felt like I was taking a survey. To top it off, my mom sat next to me during the sessions. It all seemed so invasive. I felt annoyed, but am not sure why.

Therapy was really the last place I wanted to be. After all, I didn’t have a problem. I wanted to be outside and play, not sit inside an office and talk about how I felt. The psychologist recommended that I take medication, but my parents refused. My parents forced me to go to a few more therapy sessions, but I just didn’t care about it.

One time, I really didn’t want to be there. I threw a tantrum and cried. The therapist wasn’t comforting. She said, "This won’t help you." She told me to get control of myself, the typical way parents talk to their disobedient children. It all felt so cold. I ran out of the room and sat in the reception area and sobbed. My parents stayed in the room with her and I knew they were talking about me. I felt like that type of kid who misbehaved and that they were having a parent conference about me. Eventually they asked me to come back into the room. I went back in and was still crying to the point that I shook. I was so mad! I tried to stop crying, but was so worked up that it was hard to steady my breathing. I hated that therapist!

She told my parents that I didn’t have to come in anymore. It wasn’t because I was cured, but since I refused to cooperate, it was pointless to continue.
So without any objection from me, I stopped going to therapy.

I tried to pretend that nothing was wrong

When I entered high school, I involved myself in everything. I joined drill team, orchestra, journalism, student government and strived to maintain above a 4.0. These things kept me too busy to mope around.

Then I gained weight. If I was nervous, bored, angry, overwhelmed or sad, I headed directly for the kitchen. I was eating because I was unhappy and I was unhappy because I was eating so much. In one summer, I gained 10 pounds, which is a lot for someone with a tiny frame like me. My weight gain bothered me. My clothes barely fit. I couldn’t squeeze into my favorite outfits and could only wear certain clothes that fit right. I was also lethargic and craved sleep any time of day, even after I slept eight to 10 hours the night before. My mom assumed that my poor eating and sleep habits were results of my hectic schedule.

But my heavy involvement in school only created a temporary solution to my problems. By mid-year I was beginning to break down. I cried constantly. It wasn’t from pressure or stress, even though I kept trying to convince myself that it was. I guess subconsciously I was trying to avoid what I felt deep inside.

One night I lost my patience with my mom during a trivial argument about cleaning my room. I completely broke down. I was screaming and crying uncontrollably. Finally my mom realized that there was something bothering me. Exasperated from arguing she asked, "What do you want?"
Without even having to think, I blurted out, "I want help."

I went back to therapy on my own

Going back to therapy was difficult. It was my decision to go, but I wasn’t sure if I could accept what the therapist told me. The more I told her, the more I realized about myself. Saying things out loud and examining them with her helped tremendously, which is why I guess it’s called therapy.

"How’s your day? What’s on your mind today?" she asked. It didn’t feel like such an interrogation this time. We talked about a fight between my friends and me, and I felt better.

Still, we only scratched the surface of my life. We never got to the center of it all, because again I only went to a few sessions. Our schedules conflicted, and I didn’t want to change my daily routine to accommodate it. I guess I wasn’t as ready to deal with things as I thought.

I know that the whole point of this therapy was to fix things. But I wasn’t ready to upset my life. I didn’t want my depression to be such a problem. I wanted to fix it on the side and continue on with everything else.

Every day is a struggle

My experience with depression is still extremely confusing. I’m not sure why my mood swings are so drastic. I’ve never been abused or lost someone significant in my life, or had any other reasons for feeling this way. So why is this happening?

Some days I’m actually happy with my life and feel like a normal teenager. I go through the day with a positive outlook and have fun. Other days my biggest accomplishment is getting out of bed. On those days, I don’t have energy and don’t care about practically anything.

Dealing with depression is isolating. It’s not like I had an appendicitis and can tell people about it. There are so many movies and stories about people who are mentally disturbed, and those people appear crazy. Plus, their families are ashamed of them. These impressions are all around me and give depression such awful images that I was embarrassed of it.

But I’m making some improvements. I’ve realized there’s no such thing as a perfect life. Accepting this wasn’t the hard part—it’s making the effort to live happily with the acceptance.

The biggest help has been my faith. I got more involved in church during my freshman year after I made my confirmation. That’s when the idea of God always being there for me really sunk in. The concept of someone supporting me, no matter what, is comforting. Knowing God is around me makes me feel like I can learn to trust people. I trust the people at my church, too. Just being there makes me feel comfortable.

I’m not the only one who deals with depression

Wendy and I didn’t talk much after that big confession last year. I checked up on her through a friend and found out that Wendy stopped going to therapy. I don’t know what the terms were, but I wasn’t surprised to hear that.

Just recently, I found an entire network of people dealing with depression on a Web site for Teenline at It’s a phone-in teen-advice hotline, but they list information on the Web site, too. One section posts questions. I read a few questions and answers on depression and was shocked. I knew exactly how these people felt, the embarrassment, shame, confusion, everything. It took me by complete surprise to learn that there are so many people feeling the same way I am.

And like Wendy, I’m learning that I’m not alone.