Dealing with Depression as a Child

Kids get sad, too.

I didn’t know that kids could be depressed. Well, being a kid, I didn’t even know what depression was. But even as an adult, if I hadn’t experienced it for myself I would not know of any cases that involved children. I’ve never seen a kid sad without a cause. Now knowing more about depression and what it looks like, I can step back and say unequivocally that I suffered from this affliction as a child.

I just felt sad all the time, with no clear reason. Nothing was happening at school or home at the moment. It wasn’t for attention or anything like that as most often it would happen while I was alone. Or, I would go to be alone because I felt so sad. I’d be brushing my teeth in the morning and just start to cry, sometimes to the point where I couldn’t even finish because I’d vomit from crying so hard.

One time my grandmother happened to hear me. She came in and asked what was wrong. I told her I didn’t know, I just felt sad. That was the entire truth. Overall, I was generally a happy, sweet kid. I was always smiling. Always laughing with my little brother. There were just these moments that started to increase in frequency that would overtake me. Literally, being a six or seven-year-old ill equipped to understand, let alone control what was happening, these occasions would break me down. I’d be just as afraid as confused.

When I told my grandmother that I “just felt sad,” she marched me up to the front of the church next Sunday and asked the preacher to pray for me. He did, and we went back to our seats. My grandmother was a woman of tremendous faith. There was nothing in her eyes that God could not fix. So, in her mind the situation had been handled.

But I still felt sad. I just made sure to do a better job of not being found out. I didn’t want to play as much. Didn’t have much to say to anyone or care to engage. I still randomly cried. I became really shy and withdrawn, wondering what was wrong with me.

Though the overwhelming sadness would subside as I got older, being withdrawn would remain. I was likeable and never had trouble making friends. When I came home from school, however, I’d stay locked away in my room – not seeing, let alone interacting with anyone unless they came and knocked on my door. We could have a house full of people and I wouldn’t care to come out.

But at least I didn’t feel sad.

The recent news of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain committing suicide reminded me of this time in my childhood. Although they are not the first famous or “successful” people to take this route, it really just made me think about how depression affects those old and young, rich and poor, those in the limelight and those living in the shadows. We’ll never know exactly why they chose to end their lives. In my own childhood case there were likely outside factors and traumas of influence. What I do know is that depression is a very real monster that does not discriminate.

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