Beyond Blue

Joel Solow, 13,
September 7, 2001

"I took an ordinary kitchen knife and slashed my wrists, letting half the blade go into my arm," said Maryann*, a high school sophomore from Queens. "They found me on the bathroom floor, completely pale, completely numb."

As she described her third attempt at suicide, Maryann paused often to take a deep breath.

"It felt good, you know, the blood flowing out of my body. And every single little drop, it was life flowing out of me. I wanted to die. I wanted to die."

A Long Struggle
Maryann has been suffering from adolescent depression since fifth grade. She pointed to the scar on her arm, and said friends told her which way to make the cut because "there's a wrong way" to do it.

"You're willing to take any pain just knowing that you're going to be relieved. That's all you care about. You're going to be put out of your misery."

Plenty of Company
About one in 20 children and adolescents have serious depression or major depressive disorder (MDD), according to experts, and they have a completely different outlook on life than those who don't suffer from the illness. Nothing seems to matter to them, and they have a lot of mood swings. They don't talk to people that much and tend to withdraw from the world.

Maryann spent hours alone, locked in her room, "staring mindlessly, reading or drawing pictures." This behavior might lead family and friends to label a clinically depressed teen as weird, a lunatic or a psycho, Maryann explained. They don't know how to react to a person who talks about death and failed suicide attempts. To really understand the disease, a person has to have gone through it.

Maryann didn't feel that anyone could relate to her problems. She described grammar school as "the worst years of my life." She hated everybody, "and they hated me so much. They made my life miserable." She was an A student, but her grades began to fall and there was a drastic change in her attitude. "I couldn't even get a 60 in anything because I was so distracted."

Turning to Drugs
She turned to marijuana to relieve some of the emotional pain and hung around with "druggies," because she could talk to them about how she felt and they seemed to listen.

Maryann, who is a thin girl, described herself as "a skinny little thing." She had no appetite, wasn't able to sleep, and felt "really sad down below, like there's nothing fun, nothing worth doing. Sometimes you feel like a maniac. You do very, very stupid and crazy things." Her closest friend, who was a "punker," committed suicide a year ago. "Her depression was really really sad," said Maryann, "All she could ever think about was death, blood and gore."

There are signs that aren't always so visible. Maryann was ashamed of her condition, and thought everything that went wrong was her fault. "You always feel like crying, you feel down on yourself, you have low self-esteem."

Not Fitting the Mold
The only difference between seriously depressed adults and adolescent depression, Maryann explained, is that everyone expects young people to be happy and carefree.

"You're in a stage of growth, a stage of discovery, and you should have hope." Because of this, many teenagers do not receive the help they need. But depressed people are angry, and they're not able to feel happy about anything.

"When adolescent depression attacks, it totally destroys you. It demoralizes you," she said. "It gives you no hope, no dreams, nothing." Maryann said she didn't know what caused her depression.

Maryann said that when she tried to kill herself that night, she was going through marijuana withdrawal, and just had a bad fight with one of her closest friends. She felt depressed and sad and wanted it all to end.

A Testimonial for Treatment
Unfortunately, most people who suffer from the illness think it's normal to feel the way they do. Maryann thought she'd be depressed for the rest of her life, but her mother believed that things could change. She took her daughter to be diagnosed, and Maryann was placed in the Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS), a program for depressed teens at the NYU Child Study Center. The program accepts adolescents 12 to 17 years old and it is free to all who are eligible. She was put on Prozac and she goes to counseling.

According to Maryann, depressed people need both anti-depressants and talk therapy, because they have "so much resentment, so much anger that they have to let it out. They need to feel better. I feel better."

The change in Maryann was uplifting and inspiring. Nine months ago she was angry about everything and had a strong desire to die. Now, she looks in the mirror and sees a wonderful person. She has plans for the future, and looks forward to doing something artistic, like becoming a graphic designer, actress or writer and having a "happy life." Although she still goes through some depression, she sees life as beautiful, and feels that no matter how bad it gets, a person doesn't have the right to take her life.

"Problems are temporary, they never last forever," she said. "And suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

For more information about the adolescent depression or the NYU Child Study Center, visit www.aboutourkids.org.

*Names have been changed.

Copyright ©2001, Children's Express Foundation

 


Joel Solow, 13, and Africa Taylor, 18, are writers for the CE News Team at the Children's Express New York bureau.


#

tags