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Depression

Depression is a brain disorder characterized by a persistently down mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.

“I ate too much. I’m depressed.”
“Damn, he didn’t answer my text. Now I’m depressed.”
“The store already closed, I’m depressed!”

People constantly use the word depression. I wasn’t aware of the proper definition of depression until I looked it up upon deciding to write this piece. We’ve all used the word “depressed” in a context other than what the word should be used for. I never cared about how I used the word, until last week.

Running a company at eighteen isn’t easy. I’ve said that so many times on my blog or on my social pages, and I frequently put that line in many of my articles. Owning a company is part of my story, and it explains much of why I am the way I am. Sometimes I’m super happy and over the moon, and sometimes I’m upset, frustrated, or angry. Maybe a business deal didn’t go the way I had expected, or maybe I ate too many cookies and looked in the mirror which made me feel poorly about myself... either way, we’re all human, and have a right to feel the way we feel. 

The Beginning 

I met a boy named Matt* a few months ago through one of my friends from high school, Samantha*. Samantha and I decided to throw a little housewarming party at my apartment, and a ton of people showed up. My “crew” came (about six Northeastern kids that I adore) along with a handful of people I didn’t know, and a few musician boys Samantha is friends with. Samantha came over early to help set up and brought her friend along.

When Matt walked through my front door, he had a band shirt on, sunglasses, sneakers, and jeans. He’s a cute kid; tall and lanky. I had music playing from my cell phone, and Matt wanted to show me a song once I mentioned music was my thing. Matt put on some old rock song that Samantha knew. I looked like a lost dog as he continued to put on songs that I still had never heard and never wanted to hear again.

Matt and I have very different taste in music.

Over the past four weeks, I’ve only seen him a few times because of my work schedule and his school schedule. He goes to college in Boston, and he’s into photography and film. We went to the farmers market a few weekends ago with two of my other friends, and Matt became pretty honest with me. He told me he battles depression. He also said that from what he perceives of me, he can tell I’m successful for my age.

I’ve been mentoring Matt for the past few weeks. I’ve told him things like “you can’t text a girl three times in a row if she doesn’t answer” and “call your parents and ask them to they to buy you a camera so you can get a photography internship.”

Occasionally, he texts me late at night and tells me he’s depressed, or lonely, or wanting to hang out. I didn’t fully understand Matt until a few weeks ago… I know people who deal with depression, but fully understanding depression is hard if you’ve never dealt with it yourself. 

The Understanding

The feeling started when I was in Boston a few weeks ago, and decided to stay in my bed all day on a Sunday. I’m pretty neurotic, and get bored easily. I’m always traveling and running at 100 mph, so my body rarely has the chance to relax and reset. I woke up one morning with no motivation to do anything, but I didn’t think twice of it until I got to CT for a shoot a few days later. I texted a few of my friends asking them to confirm that most teenagers spend many days in bed watching Netflix, and I got a positive response back.

I can’t tell you why (at least not right now) but that week, I felt severely depressed for two days. I didn’t get out of my bed. I didn’t check my cell phone. I woke up, cried, and went back to sleep. The only reason I got out of bed on the morning of my photo shoot was because a part of my brain knew I couldn’t handle any more criticism if I didn’t show up to the shoot.

I almost felt bad about how many times I’ve said I was depressed in the past, because I never had the right to say I was depressed when many people out there suffer from severe depression. Talking to Matt made me seriously realize how saying the word out loud, without having a substantial reason, can affect the people around you. I would never wish a feeling of depression on anyone, and especially not a kind, caring person like Matt.

I knew something was wrong because I was tempted to go on live TV with no makeup and in sweatpants. I’m usually thrilled to dress up in fancy clothing and be a princess for the day, but I had no motivation to do so on that day.

I went to the hair salon with my mom, got my hair and makeup done, and greeted my models with warm smiles. I pretended everything was completely OK. Deep down, I felt empty.

I left the station after the segment, said goodbye to my models, drove home, and got back in bed. I posted a picture on Instagram of me in a beautiful sequined dress, with my hair and makeup done, and the picture got a ton of comments and likes. Normally I would’ve felt “fulfilled” from that, but still I felt really empty.

Since I turned my phone off, people had texted me asking if I was alive or wanted to talk. I snapped back at one of my friends who asked me why I was “being rude and short” with her.

“Shut up, there’s no way you’re having a tough time because you’re young, successful and the Instagram picture you just posted is unreal.”

I wanted to write back "f**k you."

I was shocked. I never realized how much my career could impact my personal life. Because I posted a sexy picture, I didn’t have the right to be upset or depressed. I was angry and hurt that people see pictures of me and don’t realize that they are just photos. I don’t wake up with my makeup and hair perfectly done. I don’t wake up with a six-pack and soft legs every morning. The amount of DM’s I’ve received with someone making inappropriate comments about my body is disgusting. I rarely fight back, maybe because calling someone out takes more effort than ignoring them. Thanks to the power social media possesses, I wouldn’t be surprised if I rarely fight back because a part of me easily believes what someone says about me, whether they’re saying I look great or I look fat. 

Making a Difference 

I still can’t pinpoint a trigger for the complete mood shift two weeks ago. However, family, friends, and peers have always warned me (from a young age) that I’d be burnt out by eighteen because of how much I work. I never believed them. I felt invisible up until that Tuesday morning. This is a prime example of why most people are too scared to openly say how they are feeling, because they are afraid of how other people will judge them.

I personally have found that writing has helped me get through some of the toughest stuff in my life.

You shouldn’t be ashamed to be depressed, or be on medication for an illness. We’ve all been through something that has impacted us/knocked us down, whether we’d like to admit it or not.

Just look at the news! Kid Cudi just checked himself into rehab for suicidal thoughts and depression. Selena Gomez checked herself into rehab last year. Demi Lovato. Ke$ha. Just remember, you’re not alone.

I never knew how to help Matt until I dealt with what he goes through on a weekly basis. Upon dealing with my own spout of depression, I came to find out that many of my friends suffer from severe depression/anxiety, or have in the past. If I hadn’t been open and honest with my friends, they wouldn’t have been open and honest with me.

Through this experience, I’ve come to realize that every day won’t be a walk in the park. Every boy won’t be nice, and every business deal won’t be smooth. I’m training myself to constantly put things in perspective, because then you enable yourself to recover from the tough stuff once you realize it’ll be over in a few hours or days. Something like depression can last for a few days, or a few months. Overcoming depression isn’t a walk in the park, and it certainly won’t be something that happens overnight, but the first step is accepting you are good enough the way you are.

I decided to start a program called MINT: Media Impact and Navigation for Teens a few months ago. I didn’t realize how much social media negatively impacts people until social media became my lifeline. Today, I’d rather get paid $0 to speak about my life and experiences to a room full of impressionable and vulnerable teens than $1,000 to dress up. Being a face of inspiration for teenagers who feel scared or insecure is more important to me than making thousands of dollars. I want to inspire people with my experiences, with the hopes that people will feel like they aren’t alone during their journey. Fall in love with who you are, and never give up.

*Names have been changed to protect identity of the person.