One day, when I was about 7 years old, I felt deeply sad. I couldn’t tell you what I was sad about. I wasn’t able to articulate it at the time, and the trigger(s) have been lost to the sands of time.
I do remember talking to an adult in my life and trying to explain how sad I felt and that I didn’t know why I felt that way. I wanted them to help me feel better. Instead I was told, “feeling sad and not knowing why is a part of growing up. Be prepared to feel like this a lot.”
This filled me with anxiety. I didn’t like feeling sad. I didn’t want that to become a normal part of my day to day existence. But I trusted this person. So I decided to accept this as fact, and await my fate.
And I waited.
And I kept waiting.
I did experience hardship. I struggled, like all pre-teens and teens with understanding my own place in the world and all of the big feelings that come along with that. I had days where I felt deeply sad or just felt “down” due to things happening in my life.
But I never did experience sadness as a normal part of my everyday existence.
I eventually took a good look at the person who told me to expect this feeling of sadness to be a constant. I realized they were describing their own depression. This was something that they’ve likely experienced their whole life, and they’ve never known any different. They assumed that their experience is the normal human experience. And so they taught an impressionable young child that unexplained and chronic sadness should be accepted as normal.
Understanding mental health is important.
Understanding our own feelings is also very important.
I want us to be aware of what depression looks like. I’ve included links at the bottom of this post that describe how it may manifest in particular stages of life. But here is a general overview of symptoms:
• “Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
• Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
• Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
• Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
• Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
• Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
• Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
• Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
• Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
• Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
• Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
• Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
For many people with depression, symptoms usually are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships with others. Some people may feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.” – The Mayo Clinic
If you, or someone you know, has these symptoms, please reach out and find help. Your doctor will be able to connect you with resources. There are also hotlines that you can contact.
Everyday sadness is not normal. And it should never be treated as if it were.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1800 273 8255
Suicide Prevention & Support in Canada: 1 833 456 4566
Depression in Children (Cleveland Clinic)
Depression in Teens (Mental Health America)
Depression in Older Adults (National Institute of Mental Health)
Mental Health America
Mood Disorders Society of Canada