This is the prologue for a book I am starting to write.
At the ripe old age of 22, well almost 23, I thought I would know a lot more about life than I did at 13. However, I find myself more confused about myself and life now than ever before.
Adults lie to you at that age. They tell you, program you to believe that if you make a plan, and follow it through, you’ll end up exactly where you want to be. That you create your own destiny and everything will fall into place as you planned it. That life will deliver exactly what you expect. And then BOOM! You’re all of a sudden 20 years old, and not at all where you thought you’d be by then, and I find myself wondering “How did I get here and where the hell am I going?”
Oh sure, it is possible to follow the path you plan. I’m not saying you can’t, and those that work hard enough do end up where they thought they’d be. But it takes a lot more work than we’re told as kids, and a lot of navigating through life’s unexpected surprised. It doesn’t just fall into place like I assumed it would. I’ve never considered myself a pessimist, and I don’t want to be discouraging - just a fair warning that life isn’t always what we think it should be.
At 16, I thought the rest of my life would play out like a well choreographed dance routine. I would marry my boyfriend at 18, go to college for 7 years and become a prosecuting attorney. After a few years of working, I would have kids, be a working mom, and have everything I ever wanted. All by the age of 25. I’m now almost 23, have only 2 years of college completed with burning questions in my mind of going back for another . . . How many years? I’ve managed to change my major of study three times already, and now I want to change it again. To what? I have no idea. I’m asked numerous times a day, “What are you studying?” and “What do you want to do with your life?” At 16, I could have answered those in the blink of an eye. Now? I have no clue! I don’t even know what I want to be. Perhaps own my own business, but doing what? I don’t even know that. And when I think of one, don’t even know where to get started. And that’s just the confusion of deciding a career!
I remember being little and dreaming of being an adult. I was always old for my age, wise beyond my years, or so I thought. I wanted to be at the point in life when nobody could tell me what to do, where to go, when to be home, when to go to school, and how to spend my money. Now, that I have reached the point, I pray for someone to tell me where to go, what to do next. I reached that point in your 20’s where I believe all of us reach around this age - lost completely is this existing universe. Even when I was 20, and my boyfriend was 22, I didn’t understand what he meant by “feeling lost.” I wish I still didn’t understand. In reality, I understand all too well. And now that he, although we’re not together anymore, is carving out a life for himself, I echoed the feeling of mystification at this place in life where everyone tells us we should know where we’re going.
And now that I’m starting to believe that this a completely normal feeling to have, and that I still have plenty of time to figure this all out, I feel a little better. But I wish that at that time I thought I had everything figured out, somebody would have knocked me upside the head and said “Hey, life doesn’t always deal the cards you want.” I think I would have felt a lot better about the lost feeling a lot sooner. I wish sometimes I could go back to being 10 years old, when the biggest decision of the day was what playground equipment to play on at recess. Nobody warned me how expensive everything was, how much time and money and discipline college took, how my friends or my parents wouldn’t be with me every step of the way. That I would have to actually make life decisions on my own. Nobody warned me that sometimes, life just simply sucks!
To pretend my disease doesn’t play a part in my feeling of unawareness and the place I am now in life would be lying to everyone, including myself. If at ten, someone would have told me I would have this nagging, recurring sense of hopelessness and helplessness, I would have never believed it. That I would have to fight it every moment for the rest of my life, would have seemed unfathomable. Although, if someone would have told me I would be in a constant struggle forever with that little voice inside my head, I might have given up then and wouldn’t be here now. There have been many times when it would have been easier to just bow out of this game called life and let the disease win.
In ten years, I’ve become a novice at putting on a happy face. At covering up my thoughts, my feelings, my true self so no outsider could see what I was really thinking, feeling deep down inside of me. Not just because I didn’t think anyone would understand, but also because I didn’t understand most of myself. This disease will drive you to do it relentlessly, until finally you can’t take it anymore and decide to face life without the cover of a mask, shielding you from the rest of the world, and from yourself.
After counseling, medication, and majoring in psychology for awhile in college, I finally have somewhat of a firm grasp of what “having depression” really means.
Being depressed is a normal reaction for anybody who suffers a loss, struggles with life’s obstacles or an injured self esteem. When the feeling of sadness becomes intense, lasts for long periods of time, and prevents a person from leading a normal life, it becomes a mental illness diagnosed as depression. It can take many forms such as major depression, chronic depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, almost 18.8 million Americans suffer from depression. It’s estimated that the disease affects as many as one in eight adolescents. If I had only known I wasn’t alone! We all have to face it, adolescence is a time of learning, growing and maturing. But psychologically, it’s a time that pretty much just sucks. It’s confusing and hormones go wild, and unhappiness is somewhat normal.
That’s the problem when diagnosing depression in teenagers - is it just “that time in life” or is there really a mental illness present? Teens can become depressed for many reasons, such as high stress environments. They can develop feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy in school performance, social interaction, sexual orientation or family life. If things that are normally enjoyed don’t lift the spirits, it’s likely it’s depression. I didn’t have problems in school, socially, or sexually. My parents and I had a difficult time around that life period, but I don’t think it was the sole factor in my depression. This is the one that got me as I studied: Depression also tends to be more common in adolescents who have a history of depression in their families. Family history? Who in my family doesn’t have depression? We all know it all too well, stemming from my mother’s mother, who was depressed.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 10-24 year olds. The third! I’ve been in that mental place, where it seems to hard to go on and felt that I wouldn’t burden anymore if I was just gone. That is one reason I began writing this book. My cousin recently committed suicide, and it shook my reality. With all this knowledge, all this information, all this confidence in knowing and understanding my disease, I was blindsided. My whole family was. And here’s the problem. People look at someone with depression, and if they didn’t have a traumatic enough childhood, a miserable enough life, they ask “what do you have to be depressed about?” That is the inevitable ignorance when trying to make people understand it. They believe there has to be a reason. In reality, the disease is the reason, and people can’t comprehend that. My goal is to let average people, one’s who haven’t had a traumatic life apparent to others, know that depression can’t be rationalized, defined thoroughly, and given an acute cause and remedy. The depression is the reason itself why someone is depressed; that’s all there is to it.