Young Adults’ Experiences of Depression in the U.S.

Casey

Age at interview: 22
Age at diagnosis: 15

Brief outline: Casey’s depression began in high school. It continues to be an issue in a cyclical way. College was a supportive environment where he began coming out as transgender. Therapy, friends and a supportive family have been helpful. He tried but discontinued medication.

Background: Casey grew up in a rural place but now lives in a city with a roommate. He recently graduated from college and is considering graduate school while also looking for work. He is White.

Audio & video

Casey grew up in a rural environment on the East coast. His first experience with depression was at age 15. A particular moment when he was unable to complete a school exam stands out for him as the dividing line between thinking he was just having usual feelings of “eh, high school sucks” and realizing “something was not right in a major way.” With the support of his parents, he soon began therapy -- a step that felt normal since Casey’s father is himself a therapist. Casey’s therapist offered him medication, but he didn’t take it because at that age it felt to him like doing so would be conceding he could not heal “on his own” and would somehow be “cheating the system of life.” 

Depression was part of Casey’s life in cycles -- sometimes much better, sometimes worse -- for the rest of high school and through his years at college. Because high school was “really not working,” Casey and his parents agreed on a plan for him to graduate a year early. At college, where there was significant dialogue and openness about mental health issues, things got somewhat better. Casey also began understanding himself as gender queer once he was away at school, and later began a public gender transition. He hopes this transition will make his depression better, but is not yet sure what impact it will have.

As he grew into adulthood, Casey became increasingly aware of things that seem to make his depression better or worse. Having supportive friends around is a major “thumbs up.” Therapy is also useful, as is being in urban settings where it is easier to break through depression-related isolation and get out to the store or into a social environment. Being far from social supports, or in places where there is less diversity and acceptance, can be a trigger for depression. The same is true for going home to the rural house he grew up in, despite the close relationship he maintains with his parents. 

As a young adult Casey tried medication, but found it made him feel “zoned out.” He lives with a roommate in a large city where it is easy to get out and walk, is looking for full-time work, and plans to go to graduate school. He has an avid interest in film making and in capturing people’s stories for good public uses. He has many periods of feeling fine or even “spectacular,” and others more overshadowed by mild depression. He wants other young adults with depression to know that people everywhere are having similar experiences, and also that friends and support groups can be “really super systems” -- sometimes for talking about problems, and sometimes just to say “hey friend, pizza today?” He wishes he had been less resistant to medication when he was younger, and wonders if it might have helped has he tried it. 

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