What I want to tell any teen that’s struggling with depression


Nobody had that childhood you think you want. The stable marriage with a caring, flawless dad and a selflessly doting mother. All that unconditional love dogma or a rocksteady emotional baseline. Two Mr. Rogers giving birth to 2.5 children made of sunshine and sweaters.

Nobody got that. Some kids got a steady ride in a middle or upper middle class bubble. Maybe they got to play football/marching band/whatever they wanted while mom and dad sat right to the side, so proud of their sterling brood. You can count those people 1 out of, say, 30.

The rest get passive aggressive control freaks that never quite figured out how to be sober. Even if they have 20 years in whatever 12 step hive-mind that cures them of booze, pills or old people fucking, they just can’t quite function. They don’t know how to talk to anyone. They try to have an intelligent conversation without it morphing into self pity, fear or anger. Lots of anger comes from that unfulfilled need to get shit faced. It’s our greatest relief, forever out of reach.

Maybe I’m projecting a bit too much. But the success rate for AA is 5 to 10 percent. That’s a lot of dropouts that are getting married, having kids, still trying to have that perfect life. The road to disfunction is paved with best intentions.

You don’t even need alcohol these days. You can start on Vicodin and end with methadone if you fake something long enough. Pop 60 pills, chew a pain patch, down a 5 Hour Energy or slap yourself to keep from passing out in traffic. Repeat for 10 years until a few trips to rehab. Does wonders for a childhood.

But hey, that’s just the addicts. Other people just carry all that weight heaped on them from their parents, that eternal voice in their head that’s always so disappointed. They try everything to not repeat the cycle and treat their kids perfectly. The problem is it’s hard to live as an ideal. Anger, self loathing, egotism, loneliness. It all rubs off on the kids to complete the oldest self fulfilling prophecy.

That’s where it all comes together to create the little cloud we call depression. It hangs over your head, getting bigger every year, overshadowing every moment in your life. It eats at you during the day and gnaws on your bones when you try to sleep. It feels like a merciless void that dropped down onto your life for no reason.

The good news is that there is a reason. That lack of a perfect, nuclear family childhood. It’s not the only thing that creates depression, but it’s the antecedent to a lot of people’s baggage. You can get past it. You have the root of your own personal shit cloud, which means you can start to fix it.

It’s going to hurt like hell. You can forgive your parents. You can live long enough to truly understand how much of an endless cycle of shit addiction becomes. You can get therapy, take antidepressants, talk it out with a refreshingly trusting bartender. You can work through this.

It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not always going to be easy. You’re going to be ripping open those old wounds, one by one, examining the exit wounds. But it gets better. It’s not a fucking YouTube feel good circle jerk. It does get better. I promise you that.

Even if it isn’t, you remember that perfect childhood? Some kids got it, and they’re boring as fuck now.

(Image courtesy of Pavel Voinov, from Unsplash.)