I think it’s apt to say that my teenage years were complete and utter shite. My self esteem was severely low and I went from a bright, confident child to a throughly depressed teenager. I was diagnosed with depression when I was fourteen. I was what’s called a ‘school refuser.’ I enjoyed school; I wanted to spend time with my friends and I really loved to learn, but my mind was bogged down with negativity and I felt paralysed. It went from simply refusing to get out of bed to locking myself in the bathroom and threatening to hurt myself if I was sent to school.
As a fourteen year old I didn’t understand I was was depressed. Mental health awareness was not taught in schools so I had little to no knowledge of what was happening to me. I didn’t possess the emotional literacy to adequately explain my feelings. Emotional literacy gives children and young people the vocabulary to explain when something is going wrong inside their minds. The lack of this is why so many children act out and cause disruption, or insulate themselves and remain silent. I believe that I was depressed for some time before my family realised what I was battling with. For over a year I had become more and more withdrawn and would isolate myself in my room. My personality changed abruptly from a cheerful young girl to one with a crippling anxiety and a overwhelming depression. The general feeling I had during this time was emptiness. I was more than deeply unhappy, I simply didn’t care about anything. We tell people all the time that ‘I don’t care’ or ‘I can’t be bothered’ and that’s a problem when you’re a teenager with depression. Everyone thinks you’re acting normally; like a sullen teenager.
My mood sunk further and deeper and I hardly spoke to anyone. I began to completely shut down and closed myself off from everyone and everything. I have heard people use the analogy of feeling trapped in mud or quicksand, but I couldn’t see, couldn’t move. There was no will to escape so I couldn’t feel trapped. I would best describe it as my little universe was slowly shrinking. The stars were one at a time blinking out of existence. There was no grand magnificence in their end, or a stricken implosion of matter; they simply disappeared. It didn’t matter to me that they were missing because it was my mind quietly brushing them away. I eventually received therapy and I found my voice; I was finally given the gift of emotional expression.
When I was at school, awareness lessons were preoccupied with drugs and sex. These were seen as the major problems for young people, and the mantras of “drugs are bad!” and “wear a condom!” were shoved down our throats. There was never any mention about coping with our mental health, or how to look out for the warning signs. Mental health should be taught in all schools, and it is the Governments responsibility to make that happen. It could truly save lives.
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