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Just Tired and Sad? Or is it Depression?
Just tired and sad?
...or is it depression?
Dear Lori and Liane,
Am I normal? My friends are calling me sensitive because every little thing upsets me. I can be watching a commercial and burst into tears. I feel sad a lot and when they pick on me I feel even sadder and I just want to hide. I wish I never had to go back to school sometimes. When I try to be happy it feels fake and I mostly would rather just be alone or sleep.
~ Tired and sad, PEI
LIANE: Dear Tired and Sad, We are sorry to hear you’re going through such a rough time. We’ve talked to many girls in similar situations, I’ll respond first. I bet that sometimes it feels like you’re all alone and no one really understands how you feel. Maybe it feels like there’s just too much pressure and the whole world is against you. You mentioned people picking on you. There is no excuse for anyone deliberately mistreating you and if this indeed is the case, you need to speak to a trusted adult who can help you handle this. Sometimes when we’re feeling down, even the smallest things can hurt and feel like everyone’s against us! A thoughtless comment made on a good day might not faze you. On a bad day, the same comment might seem like a horrible insult.
This “sensitivity” you describe may be due to different reasons. You’re body is going through some pretty significant things right now and hormone changes may be contributing to your feelings. You also may have a lot of things to think and worry about: acne, body image, periods, school pressure, boys, peer pressure, and family life may be just a few. It’s hard to imagine that anyone could sail right through this without ever feeling upset.
How are you doing in school? Are your marks falling because you’re cutting classes or because you just can’t concentrate? Are you withdrawing from your friends and family? Are you spending lots of time alone in your room? Do you still enjoy the things you used to do like sports, music, dance etc.? Are your friends telling you you’re too quiet or “just not the same”? When these things happen over a period of time, they may be signs that there is something more serious going on. You could be at risk for depression and may need to seek professional help from a doctor or mental health expert so that it doesn’t get worse or lead to other challenges.
Please remember that you are NORMAL and feeling upset doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. Whether it’s depression or normal teenage mood swings, here are some ways to deal with this roller coaster of emotion:
• Talk to someone that could give you a fresh perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in the negatives. Find someone you trust who’s had some life experience, like your parent, an auntie, or a guidance counselor.
• It is so important for teens to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to lower self esteem and even depression. Get to bed at a reasonable time even if you feel like chatting with your friends on the computer.
• Try journaling, or writing poetry. Write down your feelings and if you’re afraid someone will read it, read what you’ve written out loud to yourself and then rip it up into a thousand little pieces.
• Try to resist the urge to hole yourself up in your room. Even if you don’t feel like being with people, make the effort to be.
• Try not to react by spazzing out to what others are saying. Take a deep breath and mentally tell yourself to think before responding. You owe it to yourself and others around you to keep your emotions in check.
• If you ever feel so hopeless that you don’t feel like you can go on anymore, tell someone right away! If you can’t think of someone to call, remember the Kid’s Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, it’s anonymous.
One of the worst things is to cram all your feelings deep down inside. I always tell kids it’s just like throwing things into your locker and slamming the door as fast as you can. You can only do that so many times before everything comes pouring out. The important thing to remember is that:
you're not alone!
The teenage years are an exciting stage of life but they can be pretty tough too. You can bet the kid sitting next to you in math is going through at least some of what you’re going through. Ask for help and surround yourself with people who are rooting for you. Talk it out. You don’t have to go through this alone!
LORI: To me, what you are describing sounds like more than sensitivity. Only a qualified professional like a doctor, nurse practitioner or mental health professional can diagnose whether what you have is depression or something else, but regardless of what anyone wants to label it, you would likely really benefit from talking to someone. Tell your mom, dad, or an adult you trust how you are feeling. It really sounds like this is not just a bad day. An adult you trust needs to know that things aren’t going well so they can help you get back on track.
Symptoms of depression include: being sad most of the time, tearful, losing interest in activities that normally interest you, low energy, difficulty concentrating, a change in appetite, trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping, and even thoughts of harming yourself or others. As a Nurse Practitioner I see a lot of people with these symptoms. It’s very common and happens with people you would least expect. The great news is that there is a lot that we can do to help! Unfortunately, the very nature of the symptoms (not wanting to talk) are what prevent people from coming in to see me. For example, you describe wanting to be alone or sleeping. I often tell people that that’s the depression talking. It is not the real you. You have to overcome that though to get help.
Depression is thought to be caused by three changes: biological (levels of hormones like serotonin, norepinephrine, and cortisol in the brain); genetic (something one or both of your parents have and can be passed on to you); and/or environmental factors (stressful emotional situations that can trigger it if you are vulnerable to depression). Treatment is aimed at increasing these happy hormones in your brain. This can be done with talk therapy or even medication.
People who feel depressed describe it as painful, being in a dark hole, lonely or hopeless. If this sounds like you, don’t suffer with it, there is so much out there that can help you get your life back. Talking things out with someone qualified is a good first step, even if you feel like no one would understand. You won’t be judged or belittled, you’ll be listened to with compassion and understanding for what you are going through. You will be supported to find solutions so you aren’t alone. Maybe you are suffering from depression, and maybe not. Either way, it doesn’t really matter because talking to someone is beneficial for everyone at any level of sadness or uncertainty.
You are worthy of support and a great life, take the first step now to getting happiness back into your life!
Keep your feet on the ground!
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