Many people don’t know and I don’t go around telling people, but I too, suffer from depression. Sometimes, it’s just hard to get up in the morning. Then, when I am up it’s hard to get going with my day. I’ve suffered from depression for many years and have even been hospitalized for my depression.
My depression started when I was 15 years old and my family moved from Long Island, New York to Hollis, New Hampshire. I had never experienced depression prior to the move. My family life was amazing, my friends were plentiful, we were well known and popular, and I was involved in so much. I don’t think life could have been better as a teenager.
Then, my family moved. The day was July 4, 1987. The truck moved our house in Port Jefferson, New York to the new house in Hollis, New Hampshire. I had met the girl who previously lived in the house and she took me around to show me the area, school, some people. I remember thinking to myself, “Really?!?!?! WTF am I going to do?” I went from a high school of 1250 kids in Long Island to the new high school in Hollis, New Hampshire of 300. The basketball bleachers had four rows compared to about 20 rows in Port Jefferson. This is when it hit me.
My friends were back in Port Jefferson. The team that I wanted to play with and the varsity coach I wanted to play for was several hours south. My first ever girlfriend was now alone and I was left alone to just think about her. We didn’t have facebook, texting, emails, skype, etc. My parents forbid me to speak with her because they thought she was the reason for my sadness. I used to sneak out of the house and run two miles to a pay phone at midnight, just so that I could call her.
The minutes became hours, and days became weeks. Sadness turned in to uncontrollable bouts of tears and anger. Thoughts of sadness turned into thoughts of dying because I thought being dead would be better than living in New Hampshire. Then it was the fear of a new school. I didn’t go to Hollis. I ended up at Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua, New Hampshire. BG was known for its sports and academic standards. I went there because of basketball.
After a month, I ended up in the hospital for depression and suicide. I tried so hard to fit in and become a student athlete at BG, but that was a challenge. “Who is this new kid from New York?”, it seemed like everybody had their eyes on me. It was tough.
Then, I met another beautiful young lady who then helped me to adjust and live a normal life. She was a blessing in my life and was good for me to settle in. She was with me during the whole basketball season and I adjusted pretty well. Then, the varsity basketball coach stepped down and that sent my spiraling downward. Then, my girlfriend went to college and we broke up. My senior year was a challenge. Bouts of anger, resentment, fear of not being good enough, and fear of failure led to me quitting my senior year and led to me sabatoging any success I would have playing basketball in college. I didn’t think I was good enough. I was a failure and my relationship with my family was a mess.
Here I am 23 years later. I am a man. I have two daughters and I am married to a wonderful woman. What changed? Honestly, I don’t think anything every really changed other than I learned to accept it and move on. I learned how to deal with it and keep my depression in check. I still have plenty of issues, but now I do great work that I truly enjoy and the work I do gives me the gratitude that I feel every day which gives me satisfaction with my life.
For those that suffer from depression, I have come to learn that it is an every day disease that haunts us, but I’ve also learned there are three questions that I ask every night that helps me to stay balanced with my emotions. Here they are:
1. Is my life fulfilling?
2. Is my life meaningful?
3. Is my life rewarding?
Those three questions I ask every night. It’s these three questions that motivate me every day to live my best life. Allow me to interject, I am also in counseling. I have had two counselors for 20 years and one I see regularly and enjoy every visit because she also knows me and I lay everything out to her. She is amazing. Also, I am on medication. I take the lowest form 37.5 milligrams of Effexor, which is a drug to balance the serotonin in the brain. Works great for me. As a matter of fact, sometimes my wife will ask me, “Honey, are you taking your meds?” That is a hint to take one immediately. Take your meds every day!
Today, I am a youth motivational speaker. Actually, for 20 years I have traveled all over the world as a teen and youth motivational speaker speaking at high school assemblies, middle school assemblies, and youth leadership conferences. Many of today’s high school speakers see me as the veteran of all youth motivational speaker and high school speakers because I have been around the longest and am the most booked youth speaker to high school assemblies and teen leadership conferences.
My depression is in check, but one thing that really keeps me feeling IN-PURPOSE is working with teens and speaking in high school assemblies. I am so proud of the work I do and I am real. The teenagers like it because here I am a simple man that shares a life of pain, but how I overcame some of the adversities. I don’t tell them how life is great. Life is hard and we face challenges every day, but we have to fight hard to go after what we want. I fight hard every day to live a life of purpose and speaking to teen audiences is what I am truly passionate about. They bring the sadness and tough days right out of me and I am a different person when I speak to them. I like speaking to teen audiences so much because I speak to them in a way that I wish someone had come and spoken to me.
Here are four tips to help teens battle with depression:
1. Make new friends. Friendships with peers are important to self-esteem and give you a social outlet. Don’t get caught up in gossip and judging. Just be a friend and love your friends. Support them and be positive. Think positive and be positive. No room for being negative, gossiping, or hateful. Friendships make you laugh and laughing is something you have to do every day.
2. Get involved in sports, school activities, get a job, but stay busy. Staying busy helps teens focus on positive activities rather than negative feelings or behaviors. Furthermore, being busy will keep you away from negative influences and will keep you off drugs and alcohol. Get involved! Be a player not a participant.
3. Join local clubs and programs for young people. Special programs geared to the needs of adolescents help develop additional interests.
4. Seek the help of people you trust and respect. Seek the help of people whose opinions you value. When problems are too much to handle on your own you need professional help and counseling. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.
If it weren’t for me asking for help, I don’t think I would be here today. If it weren’t for doing what I do, I don’t think I would be as happy and fulfilled as I am.
Don’t chase the money in your life. Go after what makes you happy and fulfilled. Go after answering, “Yes!” to those three questions I talked about earlier.
Live your best life today!
** Jeff Yalden is one of the top youth motivational speakers in the world today. He travels nearly 150 days a year speaking to teen audiences sharing his message about life. If you want more information on Jeff Yalden and him speaking at your high school or middle school assembly, please visit www.JeffYalden.com today!