Teen’s experience with divorce sparks mental health issues


This is part two of a three-part series about divorce and how it can affect a person’s life from childhood to adulthood. Jakki Thompson is sharing her experiences dealing with the divorce of her own parents in the hopes that it will help others who are coping with this common social issue.

How do I begin to tell the story of how everyone left me, and
then how I ended up leaving myself?

Since the beginning of my parents’ divorce, I knew something wasn’t right with my emotions and how I felt around people. For more
than five years of my life, I have struggled with mild depression and extreme

Living in between two houses during my parents’ divorce, I
never really knew what to do with myself. I was always told what to do, where I
needed to be and how to act. When I lived with my father, he always told me
there was nothing wrong with me.

“You aren’t sad. You need to be happy,” he said ”You don’t even know
how good you have it, Jakki.”

These were the words I had to live by for a solid chunk of
my adolescence. For three weeks of my life, I was completely silent. After not seeking help for my depression caused me to hit an extreme low, I decided
to just be silent. 

Compared to the talkative, extroverted person I like to
think I am now, I was a completely different me. For three weeks of bouncing
between houses and attending school, I didn’t answer anyone and just looked at
the ground. 

I used my voice as a defense mechanism. Instead of getting
in trouble for the rage I felt and had built up inside me, I stayed silent. No
one knew why. No one in my family really does know, even to this day, why I was
silent for that time.

Depression is something I have always struggled
with. After seeing others near me self-harm, I could never do that to myself. When I
wanted to feel something emotionally, I went for a different type of physical
pain: I got pierced. Every piercing I have ever received is the result of a bad
day or a bad month. Every piercing has a story. I had 19 piercings on my face
and ears by the time I was 15 years old.

I constantly felt this hollowness inside me. I felt like I
wasn’t complete. I felt every negative emotion I humanly could, while having to
bottle it all inside and pretend I wasn’t feeling anything. When I began to struggle with social anxiety on top of my depression,
I didn’t know how to handle that either. I never had the resources to seek
help for my emotional problems or a national hotline to call.

I hit my lowest point when I couldn’t even walk down the
sidewalk to get to work. People would walk by me and say, “Good morning,
Jakki.” I didn’t know how to answer them, so I looked down at the sidewalk and continued
to walk even faster. 

I began to walk the absolute longest and furthest route
from my parking ramp to my building in order to pass as few people as I possibly could.
I would arrive at work breathing hard and disoriented due to a
panic-induced anxiety attack.

It was in that moment that I finally had to explain to my mom,
after three years of dealing with these feelings on a daily basis, that I thought I
was struggling with depression.

“Jakki, you realize depression runs on both sides of your
family, right?” she said. “We should have gotten you checked years ago.”

Biologically speaking, I was doomed from the get-go. Both
sets of grandparents, both of my parents, my sister and many of my cousins all
struggle with depression. Of course, in my family, mental illness has a stigma.
It was shameful and I was shamed because of it.

When I would visit my mother’s side of the family, no one
ever really talked to me. No one asked me how I was or how school was. I
coexisted with them during family gatherings, but I wasn’t really a part of
the family. People would talk around me, as if I were the elephant in the room. Everyone knew I was there, but no one wanted to talk
about it.

Despite being biologically predisposed for depression, my
parents’ divorce intensified my depressive characteristics. According to a Huffington Post article, reprinted from the Naples News, “Children of divorced parents
are seven times more likely to suffer from depression.” It’s cool to learn that the
ticking time bomb of my depression was cranked to have no minutes remaining at
the beginning of their divorce.

Waking up today, it’s the same struggle it was five years
ago. My depression and anxiety haven’t changed. I have my good days and bad
days like everyone else. Mine however, tend to be more extreme.

Every day is a struggle for me. Every day is a new uphill
battle. Some days, I feel like life has finally plateaued. Those are the days I
know there will be a new battle to face tomorrow.

 Jakki Thompson is a sophomore in journalism, women’s studies and American ethnic studies. Please send comments to edge@kstatecollegian.com