I’m a 16-year-old girl. I recently realised that I’m suffering from depression: always feeling tired, unhappy, sad and dejected, I also feel lonely with the urge of crying. I’m not that popular and when I do go out with friends and compare my life to theirs I get more and more depressed. They all had boyfriends even the ugly ones! I am not attractive and I have never dated anyone. My social abilities are considered weak. I feel like a nobody. When I was younger, I used to watch a cartoon where one of the characters attracted every girl in the village. To get rid of my loneliness I started to imagine myself as that person and still do that. Is that normal? I just don’t know what to do. In addition to that I don’t trust anyone and can’t talk about my feelings to anyone not even my mom. Plz help!
I’ll do my best. First of all as I’m sure you’re aware you couldn’t be at a more predictable age for such feelings. Only those with skin as thick as elephant hide can hope to sail through their teen’s unscathed by self-doubt and bouts of depression. Those friends you are comparing yourself to will be having similar misgivings, they may just be better at hiding them.
I’m all for this fantasy life where you play a more positive role, it’s good practice for when it’s real. My guess is that your current romantic status is more connected to your state of mind than to your appeal. There’s a healthy degree of self-preservation attached to closing yourself off from the opposite sex. Heartbreak coupled with your current emotional vulnerability would make a volatile cocktail, so makes dodging the dating game a positive choice rather than a confirmation of your perceived shortcomings just for now? We’re naturally programmed to endure a muddle of emotions as we leave childhood behind and move toward autonomy and independence. It feels personal as you are going through the motions but it should be a relief to know that few of your contemporaries aren’t consumed by similar thoughts in the privacy of their bedrooms? Not that you should continue to bear the burden and suffer in silence. It’s likely that you’ve self-diagnosed correctly and while depression certainly isn’t uncommon in teenagers you shouldn’t simply try to brush off it’s lingering malevolence.
Your first piece of positive action should be a visit to your local GP in order to establish how severe your symptoms are. Much of what you describe is part and parcel of teenage life; from exhaustion to tearfulness but it’s important to establish where on the scale you register. Having your hormones out of kilter can impact seriously on your self-confidence. That’s definitely something your doctor can help you with and you’ll be surprised how much of your present pain may simply be down to such an imbalance. These are happy days for depressives with a much better understanding of the condition and how to treat it than there was in my youth. Back in the 20th Century you just had to accept the companionship of the metaphorical black dog through periods of your formative years. Clinical depression is not to be ignored but some things are less worth worrying about at some stages in life than others. As a middle-aged woman I am particularly capable of empathising, as there’s not a single ailment, from a headache to sadness to indigestion that isn’t dismissed as a sign of menopause; even more annoyingly the assumptions are often right! The emotional angst you outline is definitely connected to your evolution into adulthood but you’re probably just more vulnerable than most to the surge and scourge of hormones. The insecurity of your teens is on a par with the invisibility of old age for its ability to intimidate. For that reason both are good periods in life to do something a little different, mature adults escape their own thoughts by enrolling for courses, cruises and charity endeavours and sensible teenagers would do well to do likewise. Whether it’s volunteering to help build a well in an African village or joining the local debating society to build your confidence pushing your boundaries is the best way to see beyond them.
Many people your age find themselves consumed by insecurity and a low sense of their own worth but you can’t just wallow in such irrational definitions. Along with medical help I’d suggest you try to step out of your own head for a bit and open up to potentially trustworthy individuals around you. There’s nothing tangible to fear. If the first person you confide in doesn’t help simply move on to your next choice. You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I’m sure your mum would be flattered if you turned to her and eager to discuss your issues, she was a teenager once herself. If for whatever reasons she isn’t the obvious port of call then look further afield, a godparent, aunt or uncle, or a contemporary who appears similarly despondent. It’s impossible for you to see how far your lifeline stretches and how many of your best adventures lie ahead. Negotiating your teens is a tricky business but emerging the other side of the hormonal storm will more than make up for the turbulence you’re encountering. As the old adage goes, “this too will pass” so seek help soon because you’ve got your whole fabulous life just waiting to be lived fully.