Why Don't You Just Cheer Up? | The Column
It all started age 13. Everyone told me I was just going through those awkward teenage years, complete with mood swings, acne and that all-too-familiar sense of self-consciousness.
Whilst everyone was probably right (because I was an awful 13-year-old), there was something much, much deeper going on which was only “diagnosed” 5 years later – after I’d navigated through the murky waters of moody adolescence.
THE QUEEN OF AWKWARDNESS
Now, it was around this time (age 13, take yourself back), that I started attending a badminton club – I was a super cool kid. Coolness aside, I was painfully, painfully shy and awkward and that translated into me being a bit of a loner. As a social person by nature, this made me feel the lowest of the low.
I just couldn’t relate to anyone else – after all, I couldn’t even talk to them. Couple this with an anxious personality, low self-esteem and a budding mental health issue, you’ve got yourself one unhappy teenager.
I think it must have been super obvious that something was up because the happy-go-lucky coach came bounding up to my awkward sad, little self to ask why I wasn’t getting involved. And somehow it just came pouring out. I didn’t tell him I was depressed or anything – how could I, I didn’t know. But I came as close to it without actually saying the word as you can get.
And the response? You’d think a child telling you that they’re deeply unhappy would inspire at least a little sympathy, right? No. In this case, the wise words from the adult I’d confided in were this: “I don’t get people who say they’re depressed. There’s no such thing as depression. You don’t need a doctor, just cheer up”.
Inspiring, helpful words from someone I’d (accidentally) trusted. It was these words that caused me to keep my mouth shut until I was 18. And even then, it was my parents noticing my unhappiness that caused me to actually get any help.
NOT ALL WORDS ARE WISE
I’d be staggered if I was the only one who’d ever had a mental health issue simply brushed off – over the years I’ve heard it all. My teariness, anxiety, panic attacks and sense of desperate hopelessness and unmotivation have all been palmed off as hormones, stress and, worst of all laziness and apathy.
I’m sorry, excuse me? Do you think I like feeling this way? Do you think I do it for the attention? No. Anyone who knows me will tell you that’s not me. Now, over 10 years on from my teenage confession, I’ve come on in leaps and bounds when it comes to opening up in terms of how I’m feeling and it’s made all the difference. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my badminton skills.
I GUESS WHAT I'M TRYING TO SAY IS:
Yes, we’re starting to see some progress when it comes to mental health awareness, but there’s a long way to go in educating people.
It’s OK to be depressed and not try and pin it on some other extenuating factors. You wouldn’t blame the flu on PMS or stress, why is depression any different?
Telling the right people can make all the difference.
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