Dear GZ Advisor,
Please help: Some days I'm really really, happy (like when I get an A on a really hard test or a boy asks me out or something like that) but then, the same day, I get really sad and I don't feel like doing anything. I don't know what's wrong. I go to school and I'm so happy and perky and everything that everybody wants to be around me (I'm really sorry if that sounds snobby -- I didn't mean it to) and then in the afternoon, I don't know what happens, but my happiness just leaves me and I'm sad. Everybody notices it. All my friends ask 'Laney, what's wrong? You look so sad!' and I tell them it's nothing. I don't know why this is happening to me.
I know that I have a reason to be sad, though. In fifth grade (I'm in eighth now) my dad died and now it's just me and my three sisters and Mom. I miss him a lot, but I don't show it. I used to cry. I used to cry with my mom and my sisters, but now I don't. I think it's because if I do, I don't think I can stop. Today I after I got home from school for no reason. But the more I thought about it, I knew it was because of my life. No one was home, so no one saw me. I don't want my friends all to think that I just cry all the time, even though I know it wouldn't really matter.
But I don't know why my moods just change all the time out of the blue. This morning I was so happy. I kept smiling and everybody around me was smiling. But by seventh period... I was gone. My happiness just left me and I was just... sad, I guess. There's no other way to put it. And my friends noticed. They always ask me what's wrong. Some of the time I'm not even sad yet but then it comes and I am.
I feel so depressed sometimes, I don't know why and it kind of scares me. None of my friends ever feel so sad. But some people always think of me as happy because I try not to let my sadness show, and so the people that aren't my best friends think I'm just happy all the time. That's okay with me. I don't want everybody to think that I'm sad a lot. But I don't know why I feel like this. I know that I'm sad because of Dad and everything else that's happened in my life in the past three years, but it's so weird when it comes. I'm smiling and then... I'm not.
Can somebody help me? Because I don't know what to do to get this to go away. I don't want to be sad. Because I know that if I stay this way, I'll just start to cry one day. I just know that I will. And it's bad because most of the time, I'm really happy. I like my life. I would like it more if Dad hadn't died and everything, but I'm really okay. I didn't have to move into a smaller house, I actually get better clothes now, and I have my friends, who I can count on for anything. But then, even if I'm not thinking about Dad, I just get sad. Practically in a second. And then I don't feel like doing anything, though I don't try to let it show. I try to look happy but I'm not.
I WANT THIS TO GO AWAY!!!! I don't want to feel like this anymore!!! Please help me and tell me what to do. I really need it because I don't want to feel sad anymore.
We're so glad you wrote to us because there is help available for you, and you don't have to keep feeling the way that you do. Reaching out is the first step in taking care of yourself, and you've shown a lot of courage by doing so!
In your letter you mention that you're in 8th grade which means that you're probably right in the \par middle of puberty. This time of life can be very confusing, mysterious, and challenging. During puberty your body is growing and changing faster than at any time in your life--with the exception of your first year. Your brain and certain glands release hormones (powerful natural chemical substances) that help you to change and grow toward adulthood. One of the confusing things about puberty is that you and your friends experience it at different rates, and the physical and emotional changes you go through can really shake things up. But rest assured, all of your peers are experiencing ups and downs, highs and lows, even if they're not talking about it or showing it. The bottom line is that at your age it's very normal to feel happy one minute and down in the dumps the next.
Here are some things that can help right away:
1.) Make sure you're getting some fresh air every day (taking a walk or riding a bike can make a world of difference).
2.) The cliché "You are what you eat" is true. If you eat healthy food you will feel better.
3.) When you're feeling sad you may feel tired. Give yourself a break and rest (take a bath, call a friend, doodle, daydream, and tell yourself about the good things that are going on in your life).
In your letter, you said that you get sad in the afternoon each school day. Sometimes a change in feelings is triggered by something physical. Do you get tired, hungry, thirsty and worn out? This might explain some of the sad feelings. Do you have a certain class in the afternoon that you don't like? Maybe you start thinking about going home in the afternoon and these thoughts, for whatever reason, make you sad. One thing that might help you is to write down when these feelings hit you. Get a journal and use it to figure out your emotions. You may also want to talk to the school counselor in the afternoon.
It's very important for you to find a trusted adult to talk to. Consider a favorite teacher, counselor, neighbor, parent, coach, relative, or other person you feel comfortable around. Although it can be scary to open up and talk about your feelings, someone will listen and do anything they can to help. You can start a conversation by saying "Sometimes I feel really sad and I don't know why. I think I may be depressed. Will you help me?" Or you might say "Have you ever felt sad and afraid, like you'll never be happy again?" Getting things out in the open may be a relief. Keep trying until you find someone who will help you.
With respect to your feelings of sadness over your father's death three years ago, please know that you are perfectly normal for still missing him, and for crying about your loss. Dealing with death takes time and grieving comes and goes. You mentioned that you don't always feel sad and that's a good sign. But it's common for people who have lost a loved one to experience a cycle of feeling up and down. Give yourself permission to let your sad feelings come out. And remember that crying is a way to set feelings free. When you allow yourself to grieve, your hurt will get smaller and smaller as time goes on.
Here are some resources we recommend:
When Nothing Matters Anymore: A Survival Guide For Depressed Teens by Bev Cobain, R.N.,C.
When A Friend Dies: A Book For Teens About Grieving And Healing by Marilyn E. Gootman, Ed.D.
For more information go to The Healing Place.
Take good care Laney. Know that we care and we support you 100%! Let us know how you're doing.
Signed GZ Advisor