1 in 4 Australian teenagers live with mental illness. Mental illness is a major risk factor for suicide. With R U OK? Day this Thursday, we are privileged to share this piece written by a teenage girl explaining what it is like to live with depression. We thank her for her courage in writing this, and for helping others understand how it feels to be a teenager like her.
Depression, to most, can be seen and interpreted as a crazy, uncontrollable phase which hits in sets and waves. When you are suffering from depression, it’s as if you are surrounded by an early morning mist over the shore and it doesn’t fade till the sun is out to warm up the day. When this mist surrounds the shore, you forget to appreciate the surf and the sun and all the beauty that surrounds you. Your mind and body is so indulged with its own thoughts, you tend to forget what’s around you.
Sometimes, like the surf, depression can be wild and uncontrollable and can hold you under to an extent where you feel that you’re suffocating. When the surf is rough, you can get caught under in a cycle where you can’t breathe and you feel like you can’t get out. It’s as if you’re being held captive by a monster which you can’t escape. Things may just seem so unbearable that the weight the waves of the ocean hold on you may just feel like it’s too much.
“You’re caught in this washing-machine like cycle and you’re thrown around till you’re physically exhausted”
When the waves are heading toward you at fast speeds, you feel overwhelmed and you feel like a thousand tonnes is weighing you down. You’re caught in this washing-machine like cycle and you’re thrown around till you’re physically exhausted. Likewise with depression, you can feel like your emotions are so unbearable that you’re trapped in a suffocating cycle and there is nothing you can do and no one who can help you conquer it, so it becomes a pressure which seems normal to you, even though it is weighing you down and is hard to take.
When you’re under, and you’re in the arms of the surf, like depression, your vision is clouded, disoriented, nothing is as it seems. Peoples shapes and sizes are interpreted in a cynical nature, particularly your own. You believe that your looks become deceiving, your ability turns into inability and you feel so useless that you are dragged under. You can’t see the outside, you can’t feel the outside, all you can feel is the pressure that is surrounding you and it is scary, incapacitating and breathing-taking.
“You are no longer your own. You’re overtaken by an uncontrollable negative energy which surpasses everything in its path”
Like the waves of the ocean, when you are depressed, you are no longer your own. You’re overtaken by an uncontrollable negative energy which surpasses everything in its path. Depression can be incredibly intense and hold you in a position where you feel so deep that you can’t resurface, like when you’ve been knocked over by a powerful wave and you’re caught under. Depression is far less physically demanding than the surf, but still can manage to have the same effects of exhaustion, powerlessness, suffocation and teary eyes. But like the surf, you can learn how to ride the depression wave to the shore, surf the waves till there are no more.
However, to some, the surf can be an escape, the calm after the storm. When depression hits its lows (critical point) and is finally on the rise up, the clouds start to disappear and the sun and blue sky is visible again. You feel warm and connected, no longer afraid or isolated. You don’t feel overwhelmed by a surge of energy which seems to be beyond your control. Instead, you are the master of your own life, your own happiness and your own fate.
R U OK? Day is a national day of action on this Thursday, 13 September. On that day, everyone across the country, from all backgrounds and walks of life, are encouraged to ask family, friends and colleagues, “Are you ok?” Please share this message with your teenager, and encourage them to start a conversation with a friend or other student.