DEAR ABBY: I am a 13-year-old who lives in northern Portugal, and while it's true that the vast majority of teens suffer from depression, mine is different.
Before I went to grade school, I was a happy kid, extroverted and showing some talent for the violin. When I was 6, however, I met a girl who I thought was so beautiful that I couldn't look at her.
As much as adults might insist that love in a 6-year-old is impossible, that is the only thing it could have been. The idea that she didn't love me back gave me many nights of pain and even a trip to the hospital for an emotional breakdown, from which I suffered very badly.
My parents were more supportive of my intellect than anything else. They didn't really have the time for my emotions. My intense, unrequited love turned me into a bitter person who has not been remotely happy in years. I find it very hard to wake up every day, and my family doesn't know the slightest about my inner self. What can I do to ease my pain? -- BITTER 13-YEAR-OLD IN PORTUGAL
DEAR BITTER: You appear to be highly intelligent and precocious for your age. You write like an adult, so I will answer you on that level.
The first thing you must do is talk honestly with your parents about your feelings of sadness, bitterness and pain. They are some of the classic signs of chronic depression. You may discover that, in light of the fact that you were once hospitalized for a breakdown, your parents will not be surprised and will be open to what you have to say. Depression can run in families, and you are probably not the only family member who has struggled with it.
While it is possible for a young child to fall in love -- I did it myself as a child, more than once -- you must realize that not all children do. The object of your adoration may not have been as much "rejecting" as unaware of the depth of your feelings and not mature enough to return the emotions.
Your road to happiness lies within yourself, and with your parents' help, I pray you find it. But before you can begin that journey, you must find the courage to reveal your inner self to the people closest to you.