Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rampant Hormones or a Chemical Imbalance - What's the Difference If You're Really Fucking Sad?

In high school, I was the sad one AND the drunk one

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released a study today claiming that 1 in 10 teenage girls suffer from clinical depression. As a (formally teenaged, since I'm now 20) girl suffering from and medicated for depression, whenever groups do these studies, I'm always left to wonder who my fellow depressives are. Because it seemed to me that, in high school, none of my other friends locked themselves in their room for days at a time, crying and listening to Dave Matthews Band. I never witnessed them have colossal meltdowns because they couldn't get a necklace untangled, or couldn't find their car keys. Perhaps, unlike me, they hid it well. But mental diseases are often just as hard to conceal as physical ones. I cried in the bathroom at school all the time, and it was obvious when I would reemerge red-faced and bleary-eyed that something was up. The handful of my friends who (inevitably) developed eating disorders were always super obvious about it, counting carrot sticks and treadmill miles. And the anxious among us, namely me, would get visibly freaked with a mere schedule change, and popped Xanax like tictacs in the school cafeteria. If 1 out of every 10 teenage girls is depressed, why did I feel so isolated and alone in my struggle against sadness? Why weren't there more of us huddled in the bathroom stalls with the heaviness of life crashing down on our already overburdened shoulders?

I'm not saying these statistics are false - there are a number of reasons girls develop depression at higher rates than boys. I can think of a few obvious ones right off the bat: the pressure to be perfect, the media, hormones, the fact that girls overanalyze way too frequently.

But the problem is that every girl experiences hormone-induced ups and downs that might potentially be labeled as "depression." There is a difference between staying in bed one night watching Law and Order: SVU reruns and staying in bed for an entire WEEK doing so. There is a difference between bursting out into tears in a public setting after your boyfriend breaks up with you, and crying everywhere and anywhere for NO REASON WHATSOEVER except that life is just so chillingly SAD.

I stopped blaming my hormones when I threw a champagne bottle against the wall in a hotel room in Rome because I was in Europe and couldn't understand why I couldn't just BE HAPPY. I scared my friends. I scared my family. That was when I knew it was more than just a little PMS.

I mean, it doesn't really matter what chemical, or lack thereof, is causing you to be sad, if you're sad anyway. But if it is just hormones, there's no way going on Zoloft or Prozac or any of the other antidepressants aggressive drug company shove down your throat is going to help you. I owe a lot to my Zoloft, namely um, my existence. But there's a difference between PMS and depression, one that may be potentially difficult to recognize in teenage girls who are walking hormone bags anyway.


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