I’m 17 and I think I might be depressed, but I’m wondering if I really have to tell someone about it because I also am extremely shy. I’m so scared of people and so ashamed that I may have a problem that I’m literally shaking right now and have been trying to gather the courage to register and write this for months.

I can almost never feel anything anymore, including enjoying things I used to. I just want to sleep all the time. I feel like I fail at everything and have no talents and the only future I can see happening is that the stress I feel from homework in high school will be much greater in college and I’ll be alone and end up killing myself. I already am alone in a sense, since although I have a couple friends and family I don’t feel close to anyone. My fear of anything social probably makes this a lot worse. I do think about suicide every day, but more in a sense of what it would take for me to finally do it. I won’t anytime soon because I’m so scared that I’ll fail and everyone will know that I tried to kill myself and I can’t imagine a worse shame.

So basically, is there a way to beat this on my own? I can’t talk to anyone about it because of fear, shame, and knowing that most people I know (including my friends and family) view depression as a joke. I’ve heard that you shouldn’t be ashamed of something like this because you wouldn’t be ashamed of any other kind of illness, but I am. I hide any kind of sickness for as long as I possibly can. I think I’ve been this way for about 5 years and besides making me hate life it has also driven me to self harm a few times but even now it is very difficult for me to bring myself to burden anyone else with this question. Thanks for taking the time to read this, I hope it isn’t too long.

A: Although I can’t make a diagnosis on the basis of a letter alone, I can tell you that what you are reporting is consistent with depression and perhaps social anxiety as well. You are reluctant to tell anyone about your feelings because you are terrified of being judged. Unfortunately, there are people who will do exactly that. But such people are ignorant and unkind.

You know as well as I do that if you could handle this on your own, you would have done so already. Five years is a very long time, especially as a percentage of your life, to feel miserable. You’ve already found that self-harm may distract you but it doesn’t make the feelings go away. You do need help.

Since talking with people is so hard for you, it might help to start by talking in a way that is more anonymous. The hotline run by Boys Town has counselors on duty 24/7 who are available to talk with teens confidentially. Don’t be put off by the name; girls can call too. Their number is 800-448-3000. You can also visit their website. Please look into it.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie