Growing Up With A Mental Illness

One in five children are diagnosed with a mental illness.

I became a part of that statistic with the diagnosis of chronic depression when I was just 10 years old. The signs of my depression started at the age of three. It began with simple night terrors that soon lead to my refusal to eat or sleep. I was hospitalized September 2001 under "Failure to Thrive," for my doctor feared labeling me as mentally unstable at such the young age of three. I would continue to struggle with my mental health throughout my life. Since I had some symptoms of attention deficit disorder (ADD), my doctor could not place me on antidepressants do to the fear that of advance my slight ADD to a more dramatic cause. Therefore I would start eight long years of counseling with two different counselors. Up until recently, I was afraid to admit that I had a mental disorder because society loves to place labels on people, and I feared what society would say about me.

Children with mental illnesses are not misbehaving. They do not have behavioral problems. Mental illnesses start with the same basics as every other part of a human, genetics. Some mental illnesses can be genetic. I inherited my depression from my mother, who was diagnosed at a young age too. Children with mental illnesses do not choose to act they way they do. Their brains cause them to act they way they do. I am not depressed because something "bad" happened to me. I am depressed because my brain and hormones do not function properly. Society wants people to believe that humans cannot be flawed, that any abnormality a person possess is by choice.Even my first counselor, who had a degree in physiology, told me that there had to be a reason I was sad and depressed because "people are not made to be sad for no reason." She let society tell her that there had to be a reason for everything that was wrong with a person and that there was a simple way to fix those "flaws."

Children with mental illness are not lazy or attention seeking. There are days when getting out of bed is just too much. It's not because I am lazy or want someone to come get me out of bed, it is because I am too mentally drained for my body to handle a simple task. Just like when exercising, a human body is built to only take on so much pressure and exhaustion before it quits. Children with mental illnesses can only take so much before they shut down. Some children can handle quite a bit while others can only handle a little, but they all have limits. Each child reacts differently to the stress of different activities. Some children will scream or act out while others may shut themselves away. I would enter a "blank state" where everything would go numb and dull. This would lead me to having panic attacks where I would attempt to do something to reconnect myself with the world, healthy or not.

Children are not their illnesses. Our illnesses may be a part of us, but they are not us. My depression caused me to distance myself from my peers and remain quiet in the classroom. One day during my agriculture class, we were discussing our plans for the future. When I voiced my desire to become a nurse or teacher, my teacher plainly stated that I was too quiet to ever be successful in any field that involved human contact.The person who was supposed to help build me tore me down because he could not see me as a person. He saw me as my illness.

Everyday there is a child who is forced to live without the proper treatment because people do not see their illness for what it really is. Every day a child is told they are wrong because people are taught that everyone is the same or that people cannot be flawed while also being human. Everyday society tells children like me that we are worthless because we do not fit into society's "perfect" category. Someday, we will defy society and rise above the standards and limits they set before us, soar past the judgment looks and words, break free from out illnesses to become amazing, wonderful people.

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