WARNING: Parts of my storey are very confronting and some may find upsetting, if you find yourself upset and depressed I encourage you to ring Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224636.
I am not sure any teenager knows that they suffer from depression. After all your caught up in school, friends, homework, sport, fashion, boys, the list goes on. While many teenagers exhibit signs of depression it hasn’t been until recent years that parents, family, friends, associates have identified these symptoms as more than just being a teenager, and as an illness that was openly talked about. I have previously talked about my experiences of growing up as a teenager in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, and how only recently that I have recognised that I was a depressed teenager (When my Black Dog started to appear….).
As a teenager you aren’t in the headspace to recognise that things aren’t okay, you don’t notice the appearance of the black puppy dog lurking in the corners, and you don’t associate those teenage feelings of sadness, anger, negativity, and hopelessness as anything but just being a teen. More importantly, it should not be your responsibility as a teenager to know this, to recognise what is going on, or to say “hey guys I am not okay?” It is however, the responsibility of your parents, teachers, and other associates in your teenage years to identify these symptoms for what they are and to say “she/he is not okay, let’s go see a doctor”.
Well as a teenager growing up in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, despite what appears obvious to me now, wasn’t obvious to my parents, particularly my Mum, or she simply put it down to me being moody, and being an attention-seeker. I am pretty confident that it is the latter. Some who are reading this blog, may say “gee, you are being harsh on your Mum, maybe she didn’t know what was going on”, well I gave up giving people the benefit of the doubt a long time ago. If you daughter’s school rings on multiple occasions expressing their concerns about your daughter’s welfare and health, you do know that something is wrong. If your daughter is starving herself, and is considerably upset most of the time it’s pretty clear that things aren’t okay. The response to the schools calls was yelling, “what have you been saying at school about me”, “stop being so moody”, “your just an attention-seeker”…..on and on it went, and then when her anger tipped right over the edge my Mum would bring out the wooden spoon or the horse whip and belt me with it. That’s how I come to be alone, that is how I came to be a cutter that is how I learnt to just stay out of sight from everyone because more harm than good came out of being any different, and that is how my Mum didn’t see the Black Dog being a trouble maker.
I certainly don’t want this blog to sound like this is the case with all parents, with all Mums with teenagers, because it isn’t the case, everyone is different, and this is just my storey.
I guess in my Mother’s defence it wasn’t until the 1980’s that major depressive disorder was recognised in the DSM-III, the diagnostic criteria used by doctors, clinicians, etc., to diagnose a disease, illness, condition. Given this fact it would be fair to say that it took some years for depression to be widely spoken about, a part of society as an illness, and whose symptoms could be put down to being more than just being moody or seeking attention. After all, BeyondBlue was not established as a non-for-profit organisation tasked with being a public health approach to depression until October, 2000.
Is this an excuse? I am not sure……Even if my Mum didn’t know what depression was, surely the other symptoms and behaviours were enough for her to say “something is not right her”. Well it wasn’t I don’t recall going to the doctors as a teenager for anything apart from my asthma. With ignorance came an uncontrollable Black Dog, and a teenager on a path of self-destruction.
You would think as the years past and supposably that society, along with my Mum, became more educated and aware of depression that things would improve for me? Well no, after leaving school at 17, I threw myself into adulthood and fell for the first boy who showed me affection. It was just the start of another storey filled with abuse, cheating, and misery, it was the ingredients that my Black Dog needed to infiltrate my life to the point where an old dog can’t learn new tricks.
It would be years later, and my first major depressive episode that landed me in ICU that my Mum’s true feelings about depression, mental illness came out and to this day haunt me. I have been told that it took my Mum three days to visit me in ICU, despite the hospital communicating that I may not survive the first 48 hours, she still did not see the urgency and simply said she has just drank too much. That was my first clue about how my Mum felt about me! The second came a couple of days later when she rang, to supposably see how I was, but ended up telling me to simply “snap out of the mood I was in and get on with things”. That was in 2005 I haven’t seen or spoken to her since…..
For Mums of teenagers reading this if there is anything that I hope you can take away from my blog and my experiences growing up, it is that becoming educated and aware of depression and its symptoms may provide early intervention for your teen to receive help, it mostly certainly may save the life of your teen or your own, and more importantly, opens the gates of communication so that as a family, community, as society it is okay to talk about depression, and to offer help when the Black Dog is roaming the lives of those around you…..