My YA Disconnect- The Future when you have Depression
CW warning: discussion of Suicidal Depression (I'm fine now), mentions of abuse and sexual assault, and a gross allusion to STDs.
Admittedly, I'm a millennial, so there's a small disconnect with Z already, but there's something that's been prevalent in YA forever that I haven't understood: Gotta go to , here is my life planned out from Freshman Year.
While we won't talk about the part of my depression that led to my failure in school the first time, I wasn't allowed to go anywhere big. I lived in a town of less than 20K. The idea of “gangs” was prevalent. A “big city” in the state was well-known for its gangs that I'm pretty sure it doesn't have. The day I graduated high school, my mom told me how to use keys to stab someone, which did wonders for my anxiety let me tell you. I was allowed to go several hours from my hometown, maximum, which really sucked because it prevented me from going somewhere with competent mental health, and from escaping my mother.
Even if that hadn't been in place, I don't think the idea of going to Yale or UCLA or whatever was on the table. In these books, you have someone who took the SATs (never the ACTs) and scored a bajillion, and is also volunteering to look good for admissions. I was too depressed to volunteer. To be honest, I passed several of my classes because professors didn't want to see me again (which they told me) or because they knew something was wrong with me and I just needed some help. I am not condemning their decision, because I know that staying another year would have been horrible for my mental health and probably lead to another, different breakdown. It's not like my grades were bad, they were three point something, the main thing dragging it down was one bad semester, which my school also didn't teach me that you can explain that away. Schools fucking love stories of “overcoming” your depression. I know, because I got accepted to a different school because of a letter about that.
I guess you could say my school let me down, but here's where I pull back the curtain. I was in a certain state that is always 49th or 50th in paying teachers. Every teacher was either married or living with their parents.
Not all of it was school's fault, but enough of it was. I was suicidal because I was being emotionally abused and neglected (the abuse came from teachers, too), and dealing with being raped at 12 (not that my family knew about that. How could I tell them? Our sex ed did not have a section on bad touching. Ever. Just “don't masturbate” and “here's pictures of blue waffles”), and while I was getting mental health help, it didn't help because A. I wasn't diagnosed with Aspergers until several years later, which if I had had the diagnosis would have helped LOADS. B. I couldn't talk about my trauma because I was afraid my therapist would tell my mom. (I have no idea if she would be obligated with the rape, but I have a lot of experience of people tattling about my problems and making things worse. C. I didn't realize I was queer. Definitely not a good time to realize it, though I don't think my mom would have kicked me out, but I didn't go to prom because I didn't want to go with a boy (I'm doubtful I could afford prom anyway) and our school specifically forbid same-gender couples from attending.
At this point you might be going “I thought this was about a disconnect in YA, not bitching about your life”, and that's fair.
My point is, is that teens are depressed all the time, and while they don't have to reach my level of depression with the ECTs, I wish that they touched on teen depression more. How hard it is to think of the future when you can barely conceive living until graduation. When I see YA books dealing with Depression, (if it's discussed well) I love them.
I feel they're necessary. A writing teacher in college discussed writing characters with mental illness, specifically not to, because of being able to achieve your goals. It may have been disabilities in general, but if I recall, it was specifically mental illness. I get that it's a writing class targeted at newish people, but that's just wrong. After that, it became my goal to write characters with mental illness and/or neurodivergence, because we need the representation. Just because I couldn't go to Harvard doesn't mean I can't be a “productive member of society”.
I'm sure they're hard to read, but if you have any YA dealing with this depression and/or neurodivergence, please @ me on booktoot with recommendations.