10/11/2012 10:03 am ET Updated Dec 10, 2012

My Biggest Secret

This is the story of my struggle with something not even my closest family members and friends know about, until now.

Last December I went to get my wisdom teeth pulled out, and when the doctor asked if I take any medication, I looked to my sister nervously. I never took much thought into answering a question like that before -- it was always no, no and no. But four months earlier I was diagnosed with depression. Diagnosed. Now that makes it sound like a disease, I thought, when my doctor used it. The doctor went on jokingly about how kids these days have everything imaginable at their fingertips and it got me thinking that money can't buy happiness. As corny as it may sound, it is true. Five years ago it was found by Statistics Canada that over a quarter million youth between the ages of 15-24 qualified to have depression, and I have no doubt that figure has risen since.

The fact is, teens are ashamed and scared of coming forward and expressing how they are feeling, and this needs to change. I would like to share my story.

I believe that my condition began after I moved from Victoria to Edmonton. It was a big move, from the glistening oceans and tall prosperous trees to the flat, dry prairies. I moved when I was just about to go into junior high, a time that can be described in one word: awkward. For the first three months of school I was miserable. I came home crying every day and I purposely missed my bus or pretended I overslept so I would not have to go to school. It was the only way I could escape. I cried several times at school in the washroom and once a classmate confronted me in front of everyone, and the only thing I could do was deny, deny, deny. Talking with the school counselor did not help either. I felt trapped in the school, in the city, in life. Finally, I switched out of the school and into my cousin's school without telling anyone because I had no friends and did not think anyone would notice. But they did. I received an anonymous message on Facebook a couple weeks later from a former classmate. It was terrible. I sat there in shock as I read the message and did not know how to respond. I had never received hate mail before, so at the advice of my older sister, I ignored it. This started a whirlwind of insecurities.

Then came high school. I got my first job, and it was a dream job. I was working at my favorite store, and not for minimum wage. But the fantasy soon faded. Minimum breaks and late hours on school nights destroyed my dream. I dreaded going to work and while I was there I often had to hold back tears because I just wanted to leave, to run. Many thought it was just me getting used to a new chapter in my life with new responsibilities, and I began to think something was wrong with me. I described how I felt to my sisters and mother and the suggestion of quitting was brought up. I grasped at a way out of the dreaded mornings, afternoons and nights that possessed my day. So, after just a week of working, I quit. This was followed by ridicule from friends and family, which I dwelled upon. I seeked for reassurance from everyone and when that was not received from even one individual, I felt regret. But I have now learned a valuable lesson. Do not seek other peoples' approval -- just do what you want.

A couple months later I got a great executive position for a school event but had to quit because the same thing that had happened with my job was happening -- I was filled with regret, desperation and dread.

The situation escalated to new heights the following school year as I found that I did not have friends in my classes. Panic settled in. I knew this was a direct cause of my first school experience in Edmonton, which made me feel insecure about myself as an individual. I felt desperate and dreaded going to school each day, yet again. I began speaking with the counselor and something happened that was rare for me -- I broke down in tears. I needed help. My counsellor finally, on a special case, changed my entire schedule, allowing me to have close friends in each of my classes. I felt relief, but this did not last. The feelings lingered, and she suggested I talk to a doctor. The visit was awkward, as I do not like sharing my feelings with people, but it was the best thing I ever did. The doctor said depression and my heart sank. I knew it. I knew deep down when I thought about my feelings and the opportunities I had lost that something was not right, but I was still shocked. I was prescribed medicine, which was the hardest. I felt weird taking medicine -- it felt wrong. I felt people would treat me differently if they knew, so I kept it a secret -- until now, that is. After just a week I felt better, and ever since, I have felt like a renewed, refreshed version of myself. Through these experiences I have been able to get through even health scares which would have previously destroyed me.

Although this has been difficult to write about, if it helps even one person, it will be worth it. There is no shame in asking for help. I feel that depression, especially in teenagers, is not recognized enough. This needs to change, otherwise people will continue to feel ashamed and not ask for help, and I have realized there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of because this is who I am.

If you are stressing about any situation, ask yourself, will this matter a year from now? If not, save yourself the heartache.