When I was in middle school, about 12, I started spending a lot of time sleeping. It was like an addiction, I didn’t want to get up to eat or do anything. If I wasn’t tired, I would read until I was. So I got up and went to school because I had to, then when I got home I would curl up in my bed and sleep until someone came and woke me up for dinner. Sometimes I would get up, sometimes my mom or dad brought dinner to me and tried to get me to talk, and sometimes I skipped dinner. Then I’d keep sleeping and wake up to read for a few hours, then I’d sleep again till I had to get up for school.
There were even times when I really tried not to go to sleep, but the only place I really wanted to be curled up in my cozy bed, and then I didn’t have any home staying awake after that. This went on for pretty much all three years of middle school, and when I got to high school I was on the soccer team so I was awake more in the fall, but as soon as I was home I’d sleep. I started getting a little better at being awake more, but mostly I had a 4 or 5 hour nap every afternoon.
I think I did my homework at school, because I don’t remember working on it much at home, and I can’t really think of much that I did do. When I was awake I was generally grumpy at home, cause I just woke up. So my siblings, for the most part, learned to give me my space. But my parents started cracking down on me and trying to keep me from sleeping all afternoon. This made me more grumpy, but also I realized I was emotional. I felt like life was just way too hard to deal with and I just wanted to sleep it all away. I figured it was just part of being a teenage girl going through hormonal changes.
I was frequently in moods where I didn’t want to talk to anyone or do any type of socializing, it had no appeal. I didn’t even want to look at my parents when they came to check on me, I’d hide my face under the blanket. Sometimes I think it was because if I looked at anyone, and I knew I had their full attention, I would just start crying. I think I knew, subconsciously, that there was something wrong, and I wanted help, but I didn’t know how to ask for it or explain what was wrong.
There were two phrases that I was known to say, all the time. The first was “I don’t know”. My parents would ask me what was wrong, what I felt, what I wanted, etc. and the answer was always the same, I didn’t know. I didn’t really have a sense of knowing anything about myself, I didn’t even know if I wanted my mom or dad to sit on the bed with me or leave. I was so confused about any feelings or emotions I had. Everything was just a hazy question mark.
The other phrase, I think it was when I started having suspicions about what was wrong, was “My brain is broken”. I used it as sort of a humor response to try and deflect attention off of whatever I was or wasn’t feeling, to excuse my inability to make decisions. But eventually it was seen as degrading myself and friends and family started trying to discourage me saying it or believing it. But I do think it helped me start to realize what was wrong.
In health classes we went over mental illnesses because we had to be aware of them. Depression, I learned, was feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and disinterest in activities usually enjoyed. And that’s all it was to me, a definition I needed to know for a test. It was something that sometimes happened to people and led to bad things like suicide. A serious condition that needed to be addressed and could be treated with medication and counseling. That’s all it meant to me, even in the midst of being depressed, I didn’t make the connection to myself.
At some point I did ask myself if I had feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and disinterest in activities usually enjoyed. My answer was mostly that I didn’t really know. I didn’t really know what activities I enjoyed. I liked reading and sleeping, or if I didn’t want to do something like play soccer, it was because I was tired. How did you know if you felt hopeless or helpless? I just felt tired.
Then I remember on a family vacation, we were going across the country and staying at motels, so I used the internet while I couldn’t sleep because I had slept all day in the car. My this time I was known for not hardly ever smiling and everyone knew to just leave me alone. I also knew that there was something wrong and that I wanted to be normal. So on my laptop I would google the symptoms of depression. Even then, as I read all the symptoms and matched them to what I did or felt, depression, as I understood it, was something that happened to other people.
But night after night of matching my symptoms to google’s list of depression signs, I didn’t know I had depression, I just thought I might. It wasn’t until I agreed to go to a counselor that I accepted that I had depression. When I went to the counselor my goal was to explain what was going on and get help to be normal, being normal was all I wanted. I knew my brain was broken somehow and I wanted it to be normal again. My counselor then asked, well what is normal? She pointed out that there really isn’t a normal, everyone has problems. She also confirmed that I had depression and anxiety. That was one of the biggest hurdles in my battle, having someone confirm with me that I had depression. Now I knew what it was, it had a name, and then I could start doing something about it.