Being a teenager with depression feels lonely, dark, and wrong in every way. Why should I be sad when I have an amazing loving family and a group of friends to always laugh with?

The constant ring in your ear of, “What’s wrong with me?”

There’s not always an answer to why you are feeling sad, and that’s what people often don’t understand. I hid this from my friends, my motto was “fake it ‘till you make it.” I was the sunshine, high-energy friend, I could never be sad. I had one friend I thought I would be able to tell, my best friend I told everything to. The one friend I confided in repeatedly said, “Just be happy.” She made it worse… she didn’t understand that it’s not like a light switch you can turn on and off (I wish). She thought I was crying for attention and that I had no reason to be depressed.

As I grew up my friend’s voice was always stuck in my head, “Just be happy.” I never wanted someone to feel that stabbing pain as I did. I strived to help others, I became the friend with a listening ear. I helped others feel seen, heard, and not alone. I made sure they knew that it was OK to not be okay.

Emotions are things all humans feel. There is no right or wrong emotion. No emotion defines YOU. You can be sad some days, happy others, angry, anxious, excited… Whatever it is, FEEL IT! Embrace it!

Now I am a middle school teacher. “Why the heck would you do that?!” everyone always asks. My response,

“They are in a season of great change. They are developing, growing, and discovering who they are. Middle Schoolers are wonderful preteens and teenagers who I get the opportunity to help shape. But most importantly, I get to be someone they can confide in, look to for advice, learn from, and grow with.”

My goal is to help these kids know that it is alright to have a bad day or two. To help them be themselves, instead of trying to fit in. Stand out, be yourself, and love the skin you’re in. Middle School can be a dark and lonely time for some, and I hope I can be a light in as many lives as I can.

Sarah Lawrence, 7th Grade Language Arts & Social Studies Teacher