By Faith Labatos
When you hear the word Depression I’m sure you don’t think of anyone in elementary school.
If you even think of kids being depressed, you might think of teenagers. You probably think of people who have something bad happen to them. But almost certainly, you don’t think of a little girl still in elementary school, like me.
I want to tell my story because I want everyone to understand that depression is not limited to a certain age group or only felt by kids being bullied or who are being abused.
Let me start from the very beginning.
It started during the fourth grade. My father had a stroke the year before, but during fourth-grade things started to get harder. There were fights at home, money problems, and things that parents have to concentrate on.
It was when things started getting more complicated at home that I started to feel invisible.
I felt like since I was not the smartest in the class, or the prettiest, or the most outgoing, I was in the shadow of my talented and beautiful friends. I wanted to be pretty, and popular, the girl in the class everyone wanted to be friends with. I felt like the only reason anyone noticed me was because of the people I hung out with. Without them, no one would even know that I was there.
I was at the lowest point I could possibly be. I was broken and hurt. I didn’t think anyone cared.
I looked for ways to stop the pain.
Before I tell you the next part of my story I need to say this: No matter how hopeless you feel, how broken you think you are, you should never, ever hurt yourself. There is always someone there; a parent, a sibling, a teacher, a friend. There. Is. Always. Someone. There.
I was depressed, and lost, and thought I was alone, and self-harm was what I turned to. It was a way for me to test myself to see if I was really ready to leave, and yes when I say leave I mean I wanted to die.
This continued until the sixth grade. I felt like I was getting better, but I wasn’t really ok. I had breakdowns at night but came to school with a smiling face.
During this time I was also rebellious at home, not listening to my parents, and not caring about school at all.
And then I got caught.
A group of friends noticed what I had been doing and told our teacher. The thought of him knowing overwhelmed me. I didn’t want my parents to find out – I didn’t want to disappoint them.
When my teacher brought me to the principal’s office, she was waiting with a concerned smile. We talked about what my friends said I was doing, and for the first time in a long time I felt like someone cared about me.
She never asked, “Why have you been acting like this,” referring to my rebellious behavior and poor school performance. Instead, she asked about me. She wanted to know if I was okay, and she told me to be honest. For so long I had been lying every time I was asked, “How was school,” or, “How are things at home?”
I broke down crying. I had been longing for someone to really ask if I was okay. I showed them my scars and explained how I felt, and for the very first time, I didn’t feel like I was lying. My teacher told me how important he thought I was and they called my mom to come too. I was able to finally let out my feelings. I had been holding everything in, afraid I would be laughed at, or people would think I was only trying to get attention.
And now here I am. I’m still here.
People at school helped me learn different ways to cope. After years full of pain and suffering I am finally able to be the happy me that I was before. I was saved by my amazing friends, the people at my school, and my family.
I still have scars. But when I look at them I am not reminded of the pain of being invisible, I am reminded of how much I have come through. I am reminded that I am still here, that I am important, and most of all that I am loved.
Authors Note: Writing this article was a way for me to reach out to kids who feel like I did and let them know that no matter what, there is someone who cares, and you are not alone. It was also a way for me to help people understand how depression or self-harm can go unnoticed, even by close family members. Please, ask for help if you feel depressed or that you could hurt yourself. You can go to a parent, teacher, counselor, even a friend. You are not invisible.