"Clueless" Parents + Untreated Depression = An Unhappy Childhood and Substance Abuse
I am 31 now and have enjoyed many successes in life and am now a happy wife and new mother, but this wasn't always the case. I was a very depressed child from age 7 to 14 then I had a couple of good years. The depression came back at around 16 and lasted on and off until I finally got help for the first time when I was 25. Since then, I have been in control of my depression and anxiety and although I will always be prone to having episodes, I have an extensive toolbelt of things that help me control it, mainly CBT (ed. note: cognitive behavioral therapy).
The main symptoms for me as a child were chronic sadness and severe guilt. I now know I have always been a very obsessive thinker - I would re-enact painful or sad thoughts over and over again until i would end up in a severe panic hopeless stupor, then I would start again. I spent most of my time in my room with my tv and my hopelessness. I had no friends; looking back now I must have been an unlikable character, completely devoid of the ability to have a good relationship with someone. My school results were average to poor. I began drinking alcohol very regularly (once/twice weekly) when I was 13, usually on my own. I left home when I was 16, started taking drugs and lots more alcohol and became very sexually promiscuous. I am lucky to be alive, considering the situations I put myself in. I was a desperate, troubled soul who had no idea that what I was experiencing wasn't "normal".
I spent the next 10 years in a similar state, but with an unimaginable anger for everything and everyone. Still, I managed to finish college and get a good job, I would never progress in my career due to my bad attitude but I wouldn't know this for a good few years down the line. I also would never be happy until I really started asking myself some questions, but at this point I didn't know that, either.
I had the worst experience of my life when I eventually hit rock bottom, I was 25 and on drugs at the time. I wont go into detail, but it was a life changing drama. I could no longer hide from my feelings and my unhappiness, I could either curl up and die or get help fast. I begged the doctor to admit me to a psychiatric hospital, or sedate me so that I didn't have to feel what I was feeling any more. I was absolutely teetering on the edge of sanity and life. Anyway in summary, I got through it and life from that moment on got better and better and now I feel so lucky because I really know what happiness is and I can appreciate every second of it.
I don't exactly know why I was depressed as a child, I asked my sister and she says she had a happy childhood. I know there is a family history of depression, anxiety and alcoholism. I know that the age I started being depressed coincided with my family moving from the outskirts to the town centre where I had no friends and was no longer allowed to play outside. I know that my parents left us to our own devices most of the time. I know that I was very overweight and bullied at school. I know that I had no hobbies or interest. I know that I was very unfit and never took part in any exercise. But I still don't really know why???
My family never talks about emotions. This meant that I learned to be a very secretive depressed child. Never did I utter a word of how terrible life was for me to my parents. They still are unaware to this day of the desperation and hopelessness I suffered.
They aren't bad people, they were just very young parents who were pretty clueless in what a child needed. This, fused with the underlying principle that emotions NEVER got talked about, resulted in a very empty existence for me. I must admit I am confused and a little angry as to how come they didn't realize something was wrong with me all those years. I have never asked them.
I am blown away by some of the stories I have read on this website, I am gobsmacked at the care and love some parents have shown their kids. For me, I would have loved my parents just to have asked me if I was sad, nevermind the lengths some of you all have gone to to help your kids.
I once went to the doctors myself when I was around 12. This took weeks of planning, intricate lies to get away on my own for a few hours, storing of money so I could pay for the bus myself. I walked in and was immediately in floods of tears. I managed to get out that I was very, very sad and that I didn't know why. The doctor told me to come back in two weeks if I still felt the same. I knew when I walked out that I couldn't come back.
Just asking the question of your kids about how they are feeling is a massive contribution to their happiness, and says volumes about you as parents.
Happy For Now