Having gone through my teen years with depression, I am happy to report that those of us with mental illness can live healthy, full, satisfying lives. We can date, get married, have kids, have jobs, and enjoy the things around us while still acknowledging that for some of us, depression is always there. But that doesn't mean the struggle isn't *real*. Here are some of the things I wish I had known about depression when I was a teenager…

1. You are NOT alone.

A lot of people get depressed. Like, a LOT. Roughly 15 million people in the US experience depression, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. And that's not even counting the estimated 2.8 million adolescents (ages 12 to 17) in the US that reported having at least one major depressive episode in 2014. When I was a teen, I wish I had known that I wasn't alone. I was so scared to talk about what I was feeling, which was really isolating. Don't do that to yourself. Open up and let people be there for you.

2. Depression isn't forever.

Depression can come and go in your life depending on what's going on. Stressful events such as divorce in your family, loss of someone close to you (or even a beloved pet), family members being sick or being absent from your life because of military deployment, and even moving to a new house can trigger depression if you are prone to it. And while depression may feel like it will always be your constant companion, it won't be. There are things you can do to alleviate depression like talking to someone you trust, speaking with a school counselor or therapist, and increasing your physical activity. Sometimes cutting back on caffeine and sugar can help lift your mood.

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Mayim at 14-years-old when she was the star of hit show Blossom.
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3. Depression is not the same as sadness.

When I'm depressed, people just tell me to cheer up or stop thinking so much. These people always mean well, but I wish I would have known that depression is not the same as being sad or grumpy. It's not even the same as grief. Depression is its own diagnosis and it's not your fault if you feel sad. There are chemicals in your brain and body that lead to a cycle of depression that you can break free of with the right help, but you're not doing anything wrong if you're depressed.

4. Just because you start taking medication doesn't mean you'll take it for the rest of your life.

Some types of depression do not respond to changes in diet and exercise, which is when a doctor might discuss options with you and your parents and prescribe medication. Know this: Medication doesn't have to be forever. Sometimes your body needs help readjusting to chemicals that can lift your depression and your brain actually learns ways to continue that without medication – that's science! So if you're nervous about starting meds, you're not the only one. But know that many people use medication to get back on track and are eventually able to get off of them with no further problems. And if you do need to stay on medication, no need to worry. You wouldn't judge someone who needed to take medicine for a heart condition would you? There's no shame in getting the help you need to live your best life.

5. Know the line between depression and feeling suicidal.

Not everyone who is depressed has suicidal thoughts, but pretty much everyone who has suicidal thoughts or attempts suicide has a history of depression. If you have scary thoughts about wishing you were dead, or about how you might imagine killing yourself, get help immediately. Those thoughts can quickly snowball into bigger problems, and a depressed brain doesn't always have enough strength to stop that snowball.

I am grateful to have learned ways to manage my depression and I share many of these ideas in my book Girling Up. I hope you'll check it out and know that an exciting future is waiting for you no matter what you might be feeling right now.

Check out this video of Mayim explaining the real life science behind all of *the feels.*

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If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or visit their website.