Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Dave Romano, 19, has been described as gifted and involved. He has also been described as a normal student.
"I was a popular kid. I was excellent in sports plays, drama. Everything like that," said Dave.
But, behind the smiling mask Dave didn't feel normal. He couldn't focus in class. He was distracted by suicidal thoughts. Eventually Dave sought help from a therapist who diagnosed him with depression and put him on medicine.
"It actually got worse," said Dave. "I got impulse thinking from the anti-depressants. Tried to take myself off of them, went back on them. I got in trouble with the law."
It was down hill from there.
"Couldn't control anything, suicide, cutting, I went through all of it."
Dave says he was able to hide his depression while in school. On a good day he'd be goofy. On a bad day he would be quiet and become easily mad.
Medical experts say there are varying degrees of depression. In Dave's case, it was situational.
"Kids could function beautifully in school and go home and completely fall apart because they've worked so hard holding it together during the school day," said Rick Gertsema, a licensed psychologist at the Essentia Health Hermantown Clinic.
Gertsema has worked with Dave for the past year and says the teen has struggled with where he fits with high school, family and future. Gertsemsa says for Dave, trust in oneself is the first step to recovery.
"That probably was the greatest thing for Dave to learn about himself, that he could be his own best friend, he could be in a relationship with himself and like the guy that looks back at him in the mirror."
Dave says he's slowly coming to terms with understanding that he likes himself but along the way he's realized there are no shortcuts in fighting depression.
"I just to need to be happy with who I am, embrace who I am."
Once he graduates, Dave is planning on attending UW River Falls where he hopes to major in social work and eventually become a clinical therapist.
He says the counseling saved his life and he wants to help others going through similar emotional and mental problems.
Written for the web by Kevin Jacobsen