The Internal Toxins of Teen Depression

Posted: January 16, 2012 in Your Magazine Section
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Depression among high school students can bring deep, deep lows.

 

 

Our Reporter shows how depression can be costly

By K.

Depression is a serious mental disorder that affects many people of all ages.
Often, suffering teenagers are pushed aside and classified as “moody” due to hormonal changes.
Doctors once thought that teenagers couldn’t suffer from depression; this is dangerous as the depression will feed into their adult years and become more extreme.
Depression is a real illness, and over looking it because of a person’s age can be dangerous.  

Adolescence is the time period between childhood and adulthood. So, naturally the adolescent brain differs from an adult brain. However, scientists only recently discovered that the brain reaches full maturity until the average age of 25, according to http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=141164708. Previously scientists believed that the brain was fully developed by the teenage years. The study on the depressed teen brain lags behind studies on adult depression, because the brains are different.

Significant changes in a young teenagers’ life can cause depression to boil. Such as a move, parents divorce, or the death of a loved one. All three of these events have happened to a specific girl (referred to as K) who suffered Dysthymia Depression. Dys coming from the Greek word “ill” and thymia coming from “mind” or “emotions”. A chronic form of depression.

In the summer of 2007, the girl’s family up-rooted themselves and moved to Fredericton, New Brunswick. It was a long distance from the small town of Lantz,Nova Scotia, and she didn’t have a single friend in this foreign land. She adjusted herself to always having a friend near by, to none. She was a shy girl with low self-esteem already eating her away at age 13, so she had great difficulty in making new friends. Her old friends she had met in the early years of elementary school.

In May, 2010, she suffered the loss of a family member. Not a person, but her be-loved pet. It was like losing a dear friend. K was nearly 16, and she had gained the companionship of her cat when she was only a year and a half. Even though the cat was an animal, she still felt like family. The cat, Nyla, had always slept in K’s bed, and was always there to give her comfort on those sad days. Nyla had a seizure, and when taken to the vet they found a fairly large amount of bone infected by cancer. She was put down that day, and our girl was heart-broken.

Some teenagers can develop a habit of self inflicting pain, such as burning, cutting, hitting themselves; plucking out hair (in the eyebrows, scalp, eyelashes); or, in some cases, could even drink cold liquids or shaved ice to cause pain in the throat. In K’s case, she started off with poking herself with scissors to make a paper-cut sized cuts on her legs. Eventually this turned into purposely cutting with her razor when shaving; and then to tearing it apart to get at the individual blades, and cutting her calves.

K easily hid the evidence of her cuts and scars. But, as her depression worsened, she started making small cuts on her wrists. “It may have been something I did for attention, or so I could see it myself and be reminded of how much of a freak I was. I don’t know.” K recalls a girl in her tenth grade English class asking about the tiny red marks on her wrists, but K brushed it off and pretended like it was nothing. “I was embarrassed,” she says.

At the end of her grade ten year, her parents divorced. They called her down from her room, claiming there was to be a “family meeting.” It wasn’t diner time yet, and the family rarely got together out of the blue for nothing. She was scared. She went down and took a seat at the dining room table. Her mother held her hand, tears running down her face. K doesn’t remember how her parents unveiled it; just that she started crying hysterically. She had never cried in front of her brother or parents before. “What the hell is going on?” she recalls her brother saying. It was a terrible night.

“I was so angry at my parents.” K says. It was the night before her brother’s graduation. “This is the last time we will ever be a family.” She thought, as she waited for her brother to gather his diploma.

Depression can affect any gender, social background, race, income level, school or other achievements, according to http://www.teendepression.org/stats/teenage-depression-statistics/. Girls are more likely to report their depression then boys. This is most likely due to social expectations; where boys are encouraged to hide their feels and girls tend to express their feelings among close friends. However, dependence on social relations can affect a girl stronger then a boy. Depression can affect either gender, but in different ways.  

According to http://www.teendepression.org/stats/teenage-depression-statistics/, 20-50% of teenagers with depression have family members who have had depression or other mental illnesses. K explains that her grandmother, on her mother’s side, had a brother who committed suicide. Also, her mother had a case of depression as well. K is unsure that her facts are correct, but she thinks her great-uncle had jumped off the Princess Margaret bridge, and that her mother had attempted suicide in another way. She was too afraid to ask for the correct information. These are just things she had picked up in conversation.

As depression continues without treatment, it grows and can eat away at a person, and their loved ones. Susan Shears, the mother of a depressed daughter, says that life before her daughter’s treatment was “Challenging. It was difficult to admit, although all the signs were there. Ignorance was easier than acceptance and stereo-typing the teen as a teenager was easier than asking the tough questions.”

She pauses for a moment, gathering the right words, “Assuming that all teenagers make their way towards adulthood with many bumps and bruises was an easy cover up. Although all those factors were present, I was still in denial. My child was different than another child. I blamed the outside influences for her withdrawal from life and never focused the blame on her. After all, she’s my baby. She’s me. I remember the hardships of being a teenager and the strength I accrued from all those bumps and bruises. I knew some day she would make it through. She just needed time.”

Often times people who feel depressed gain a feeling of isolation or feel that they are alone. As Susan says, “she just needed time.” Leaving K to deal with things on her own caused her to feel as though no one saw the physical injuries or the emotionless state she was often in near the climax of her depression. K was left alone to face the world, and as her downward spiral went deeper and deeper, she obtained an “I don’t care” attitude. She acted reckless, forgot about the importance of school and paid no attention to her friends. She didn’t care about life; she couldn’t see a future for herself. “I was going to die anyway, so who cared about life?” K thought about her past state of mind.

Things became worse; at least internally for K. Everything on the outside stayed the same. Until August 2nd, 2010, a Tuesday afternoon, K attempted suicide. She tried to over dose on a bottle of prescription pills of her father’s and various pain killers. Her father found her around 1:00pm passed out in her bed, and rushed her to the hospital where she lived for a week. Her family had finally noticed her illness. She was sent to a physiologist and her doctor prescribed Prozac, an anti-depressant.

For about a year afterward she was under close surveillance from her family. But her parents divorce issues and her brother’s career became more important. Everyone thought she was better. She was trying hard in school and entered a loving relationship with her boyfriend. She was happy on the outside, and the inside storm was stuffed under the bed.

K was still in a rut through the first few months of her relationship with her boyfriend, Derrick.  “It’s hard knowing that the person you really want to make happy is past the point of being upset,” he says with a hint of pain, “ and every time you try to help you make little to no progress and it makes you feel horrible. Like you’re worthless; weak; helpless; and useless. Like nothing you do makes a difference and you feel trapped.”

From Derrick’s heart-filled words, it is obvious that one person’s depression affects everyone within their reach. Depression is toxic. It hurts everybody, but it takes everybody to help one person.  

I was that girl.

The girl who was attacked by depression.

But, now, I am a grade 12 citizen of Fredericton High School.

I live with the haunting of the depression everyday; and over come it everyday. I do not believe everyone becomes 100% recovered from terrible sufferings; a person only becomes stronger. However, I am happily working hard to fulfil my dream of becoming a Registered Nurse, and to make the best out of life. I hope to use my story to help others in their troubles. Life is worth living, and sometimes we all need a little push to help us over a mountain.

 

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