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.