Can a Child be Depressed?

My earliest memory of being depressed was in kindergarten.  I didn’t know what it was at the time, I just remember feeling sad and disconnected.  I spent a lot of time at home with imaginary friends, and most of my time at school, I was known as the cute shy kid who blushed all too easily.  I was terrified to make anyone upset, ever.

I can recall a cluster of events that happened to me around that time that left me feeling confused and dirty.  Being the age that I was, I didn’t know it was wrong at the time.  I just knew they made me feel sad.

As I got older, my imagination became even more active and wild.  My stuffed animals talked to me, they would comfort me.  I would have whole conversations with people in my head, things I knew I would never say out loud because I was never brave enough, and the more I grew, the more I was consumed by anger.

By the time I hit the fifth grade, my emotions were not manageable, and I saw my first counselor.  We joked at home and called it anger management, because that’s exactly what she was trying to get me to do: to control my outbursts at home.

No one on the outside world was aware, only my family bore witness to my moments of rage and attempted fist fights.  I always thought it was normal though, as the rest of my family seemed to have loud burst of anger and emotion too.  We were a very physical family, I was just following suit.  Somehow, I was the one singled out.  Probably due to the moments where I would just shut down, stop talking and acknowledging my parents, or my siblings.  I just didn’t know how to function at times.

My mother, and later on, my father were religious.  They did not understand at the time that depression or outburst could be a chemical problem, all they knew was the spiritual side of things.  My mother used to take me to church specifically to have the pastor and elders pray over me.

I never saw another therapist or doctor for my dark cloud as a child after that.  I quickly learned, that in order for me to survive, I had to fake it as best I could.  It was safer to be happy, and put on a smile for everyone to see.

Often I wonder, if my parents knew and understood the signs of childhood depression, if my adult life would have turned out a lot differently.  Or, maybe, they were both too consumed with their own depression to notice their shy, cuddly child was a sufferer too.

As an adult, I have more control over my mental health.  I still feel guilty and ashamed for admitting I am struggling from time to time.  It is still humiliating to reach out, because I still wear that happy go lucky mask all to well.  People around me still assume I am fine.

However, now I have a small group of people I am close to.  They recognize when I am struggling, and they never make me feel ashamed when I reach out.  I feel more blessed now than I ever did as a child.

If you are struggling today, don’t be afraid to reach out.  You would be surprised to find out who has walked in your exact same shoes.