I never had any reason to be depressed.

Other than my family moving to Eretz Yisrael when I was six, I haven’t suffered any significant trauma in my life. My parents and siblings are wonderful, stable people, and my school experiences were generally positive.

Yet I was depressed practically from the time I was born. My parents remember me screaming for the first six months of my life. When I was a little girl, if anything went the slightest bit wrong, I felt deeply wounded. Whether I had a tussle with my sister, or I did poorly on a test, or my friends left me out of a secret, I would retreat to my bed and sulk for hours. My parents would try to talk to me and soothe me, but I wouldn’t answer them, and they would get frustrated by my refusal — or inability — to explain what was wrong. I don’t know what I wanted them to do, but whatever it was, they weren’t doing it.

When I was 11, I started having panic attacks. These weren’t classic panic attacks, in the sense that I didn’t feel afraid; I just felt completely overwhelmed. My heart would pound, I would start shaking and sweating, my limbs and face would go numb, and I would have difficulty breathing. The first time this happened, my parents thought I was having an allergic reaction. They rushed me to the hospital, where I underwent extensive allergy testing, all of which came back negative.

Someone in the hospital suggested that I see a therapist, so my parents found me one. I didn’t work well with her, though, so after a short while I stopped going to her. In the meantime, my panic attacks became regular occurrences. I’d get upset about something someone did wrong, or about something I myself did wrong, and boom, the attack would start. During these attacks, I became extraordinarily sensitive to sensory input — even the ticking of a clock felt unbearable — so I would flee to a small, dark, quiet place where I could be alone. Once there, I would feel this overpowering urge to get out of my body. I felt trapped inside myself, in the room, in the world.

Eventually, these attacks became part of my routine, and I learned to live with them. Between episodes, I felt numb, in a depressed but unfeeling sort of way. I cruised through life, getting up in the morning, going to school, and doing what I was supposed to do, but not enjoying or feeling excited about anything.

In ninth grade, the attacks became much, much worse. They escalated into quasi-psychotic episodes in which I’d act insane, clawing at myself, pulling at my hair, and crying uncontrollably. I felt overwhelming pain and sadness, even though nothing in my life was really wrong. I can’t continue living like this, I thought. That’s when I started thinking of hurting myself. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 670)