In high school I lied to my doctor. My mother had long suspected I was dealing with depression. She talked to our family doctor about it and then scheduled an appointment for me.
When I went in for my check up, my doctor asked me if I was depressed. I lied. I told him that I was not depressed.
Why did I lie? I asked myself, “How is it possible that I could feel depressed? I should be happy. Being depressed is a bad example to other people.”
My depression went untreated for years. After high school, I worked in a wholesale plumbing warehouse. Many days I felt happy, but many more my gloom was like a straitjacket. I couldn’t escape it no matter how much I exercised, read positive books, or told myself to feel better.
In college, I took a course on Mental Health and Spirituality. That course changed my life. It opened my eyes to how anyone, regardless of how good they are, can feel depressed. Depression is an illness, not a sign that you are broken. Later that same year, for the first time in my life, I went for counseling.
I can still remember one session that changed everything for me. I don’t remember what I said, or even what the counselor said. It probably doesn’t matter what was said, because it’s what I did that changed me. I was honest this time. I admitted that I felt gloom and sadness that wouldn’t lift. I admitted that no matter what I did, I couldn’t shake the thoughts that were like vice-grips on my mind.
My counselor was kind and she listened to me. She recommended that I learn more about depression. She gave me hope that freedom is possible.
Since that time, I have had numerous counselors. I still feel depressed sometimes. But I have changed how I think about myself when I am depressed. I know what to do and I have better ways to care for myself. I am more compassionate, more understanding toward myself. And I am honest.
If you have an adolescent child you think might be dealing with a mental illness, try to gently push them to be honest about it. Let them know it isn’t their fault. It isn’t something they need to hide or be ashamed about. If they seek help earlier, they won’t suffer with it as much or for as long.