Faith's Story: What it is like to be a teen with Depression

July, 2008

The following is a personal story written by, Faith, a 17 year old girl with depression.  Why is it important to share “Faith’s Story?”

As other articles in this section point out, teenagers with depression often present significant symptoms, which we should be aware of, if we are their parents or friends, their physician or their teachers.

But sometimes, if they are like Faith, they look so much like any of us that it may be difficult to be sensitive to the nature of their struggle.  So, all of us need to have a heightened state of awareness or even being willing to just “ask.”

Her story also reminds us that the process of overcoming depression takes time and, quite often, the journey to recovery will have periodic ups and downs.

Still, despite her vulnerability to this condition, the reader should also take note of her courage. 

Depression is a major public health problem but the biggest obstacle to helping those afflicted is the stigma, which is often attached to this condition.  Faith’s willingness to share her story is a gift she contributes to all of us. 

If Faith could find the strength to do so, how important it is for the rest of us to equal her strength and do everything we can, from physician or teacher to friend or family member to extend our hand and provide them with the support they deserve.

~Dr. Howard King, CEHL Founder

Faith’s Story: What it’s like

When you look at me, you may think I’m a normal, happy 17 year-old girl. In school, I’m energetic. I talk a lot and have many friends. I go out on weekends. I wear “preppy” clothing, and play sports. I do well in school and always attend school sporting events. I have a car. I straighten my hair everyday. I like to go tanning. My favorite color is yellow. I smile. When you look at me, I appear happy. I seem normal. Yet what you don’t see is my pain. I’m a 17 year-old girl who is depressed. This is my story.

January 12, 2005. I had already taken nine anti-depressants when I actually realized what I was doing. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The year preceding my first overdose was hard. I now had a psychiatrist, a therapist, and a regular doctor all of with whom I met frequently. My psychiatrist was the one in charge of my meds. With his guidance, I ended up trying many different new anti-depressants and combinations of anti-depressants to see which one(s) worked. I wound up on Prozac. I met with my therapist about once a week. She was the one who I talked to. Yet I hated myself, and hated my situation, and would often refuse to say anything. My doctor was the one making sure I was physically okay. She ensured that I had no lasting effects from my overdose and that I wasn’t harming myself. I wasn’t. So our visits with her went from weekly to monthly to rarely.

I discovered self-injury that summer. I cut. Cutting allowed me to shield my emotional pain with physical pain. After a few months, however, I realized how unhealthy it was and stopped. Things were still far from better. I was psychologically analyzed for bipolar disorder. I didn’t have it. I was “just” severely depressed. I had panic attacks. Panic attacks are when you can’t breathe and your body begins to feel numb. They hurt and you feel like you’re going to die. They suck. To this date, I’ve had five, only one in which I’ve ended up at the hospital. Another time, I was sent to the hospital because my therapist thought I was in danger of attempting suicide again. I spent hours, there, until I was finally released. Needless to say, I went through over a year of hell.

Yet in the spring of 2006, I started feeling better. I didn’t cry as much and I felt happier. I saw my psychiatrist and therapist less. I thought I was no longer depressed, that I had beaten it. I convinced my mom to let me get off my meds. I wanted to be normal, and I didn’t want to rely on a pill to be happy. By the start of summer, I was no longer taking any anti-depressants. I stopped seeing my psychiatrist and therapist all together. Finally, I was alive. Finally, I was happy.

It didn’t last long. By that October, I was falling back into my old ways. Yet I was in denial. My family knew I was hurting, yet I told them I was fine. My mom wanted me to go back on meds but I refused. She eventually bought me these all-natural non-prescription mood enhancers. Two days after she gave them to me, on December 31, 2006, I took the whole bottle. Forty-three pills. I spent the night at the hospital.

In the month that followed, I hit my lowest of lows. Sometimes I couldn’t even make it through a school day. I wound up in guidance, the doctors, or just stayed home. I would randomly burst into tears for no apparent reason. I couldn’t eat. I had trouble sleeping. My stomach constantly hurt. I felt lost and alone. I was depressed.

It’s been about three months since then. I’m getting better. Some days are still really hard but I make it through them. I shared with you my story because I wanted to educate you on what depression is. It’s more than a feeling. It is a mental illness that you can’t help. It is not your fault. It is a sense of emptiness. You feel as if you never will be happy again. You forget what happiness is. It sucks, but you can conquer it. Depression has made me a stronger, braver, and more empathetic person. It has helped me help others. People sometimes have this cliché on what those suffering with depression look like. Well they’re wrong. I don’t wear black. I don’t sit alone at lunch. I don’t do drugs. I’m a high school senior, and I’m depressed. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

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I would like to thank the following for their generous support, without whom this web site and training program would not exist: The Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Foundation, The Alden Trust, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, Project INTERFACE (Newton Public Schools and the U.S. Department of Education), the Locke Educational Fund at Newton- Wellesley Hospital, Aetna Health Plan, the Kenneth B. Schwartz Center,  and the families of my medical practice. 

I hope you find this site useful and encourage any comments.

- Dr. Howard King, M.D.