How young can depression start? It’s a question most people ask, and I truly don’t think there is a straight forward answer. Personally, however sad it may seem, I cannot remember a time in my life when I was truly happy. This may be because many of the events I remember are the bad ones, it seems as if I only remember the bad things and never the good.
I think I was around 7 when I first had thoughts of suicide, I would constantly think about what it would be like to not be around, and several times between the ages of 9-14 I had small attempts of killing myself but I never did tell anyone. I remember specifically one time, I think I was around 10. I knew what I was doing was not right, but 10-year-old me thought it was either something very normal that nobody talked about, or I was really strange and in that case, I shouldn’t tell anyone.
I think I went to my first therapy session when I was 7, I have suffered from a tic disorder (involuntary twitching) for most of my life, I think however for a long time this physical symptom masked a lot of the internal pain I was going through. It was at my local CAMHS unit and they asked me to draw a picture. I can’t remember the exact question they asked me, but I drew myself with a boulder attached to myself by a chain. Even at that age I felt weighed down by the life I was in, and every day was a struggle.
I first tried to self-harm when I was around 9. I didn’t actually do it, I chickened out. I thought that if I cut myself or stabbed myself the pain would go away. I thought that these were normal thoughts people had. Around the same time I stopped going to school, there were some mornings when I just couldn’t get out of bed. I would fake a cold or a stomach ache just so I didn’t have to be around people, I wanted to stay in my bed all day and not exist in the outside world. I don’t think it was necessarily the school that was the problem, but more the feelings I was having inside.
In year 7, when I was 11 my tics worsened, I did anything I could to stay out of lessons and would spend the whole day in the nurse’s room. I think because of my tics, as there was a physical symptom that made life very uncomfortable for me people did not question it. However I think the tics were caused by underlying feelings, I was experiencing the same feelings I had had the majority of my life, I can’t describe it, but it has felt like as the 7-year-old me drew, there is a boulder that I must drag with me everywhere I go, and at times it gets heavier, and other times it’s lighter. This period of my life was a heavy one.
I managed to get through ok until I was around 14, this is when things really took a turn for the worst. Instead, however of my tics being a coverup for the internal anguish, I was in, my mood was explained by me being a ‘grumpy teenager’. I wasn’t a grumpy teenager, I just could not continue with life any longer. I started self-harming, I stopped eating, I would go to school early every morning and come back late just because I felt the more time I spent at home, the more likely I was to get discovered. I was lonely. I felt as if I was the only one going through what I was going through. It was only a week before I attempted suicide that it crossed my mind that I might have been depressed. I didn’t think I was, I mean I had felt varying degrees of the same for the whole of my life, I hadn’t been depressed my whole life had I? I still don’t know the answer to that question. I still don’t at times feel like I have ever been depressed because to me it was so familiar. Still, now the feeling is familiar, the boulder I am carrying is not the heaviest it has been but it is still there, and it is still a struggle every day that I must fight through.
So how young does depression start? I have no clue. I don’t think anyone knows for definite. For me, this feeling has been an omnipresent aspect of my life for as long as I can remember. There are varying degrees but it has never, ever gone away. All I ask is that you keep a lookout for the signs. Don’t let persistent physical symptoms distract you from the fact that the problem may be internal, and with teenagers, keep an eye out, depression can often be confused for being a moody hormonal teenager instead of something more sinister.
Despite a loving mother and a supportive family depression has plagued much of my life. Much more of my life than I have ever had the courage to admit. There is no definite cause for why I have suffered from it, and there is usually no reasoning to me as to why my boulder is heavier at times than others. It happens, and there are things that can help manage and help you get better.
All I ask is please don’t give up. Things may be rough and hard, but don’t give up. It is worth getting through, and there isn’t a simple fix, heck there are still times I am in a bad way, but it’s worth soldiering on.