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

Elizabeth

Female
Age at interview: 28
Age at diagnosis: 17

Brief outline: Elizabeth was a sensitive child. She was diagnosed with depression and an eating disorder when she was in high school. The worst period for her was as a teenager, but transitions into and out of schools or jobs were also hard. Her husband is tremendously supportive, and her career as a parent educator is a source of satisfaction. Depression now has a minimal impact on her life.

Background: Elizabeth lives in a house with her husband. She works as a parent educator. She is White/Italian..

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Elizabeth was moody, quick to cry, and often “down” as a child. When she reached adolescence, these long-standing sensitivities combined with growing self-doubt and lack of good coping skills to create “a big fireball of depression.” Her high school years also included trouble with drugs and alcohol, a problematic group of peers, and struggles with eating. Her parents, both of whom are social workers, supported her as much as possible, but her late teenage years remained difficult ones. She saw a psychiatrist, who diagnosed her with major depressive disorder and anxiety and prescribed anti-depressant medication - but that first medication did nothing or even made her “in some ways feel worse”.

An all-time low point for Elizabeth was when she took a bottle of pills at age 17, then immediately told her mother what she had done and went to the Emergency Department. Being in the hospital as an out-patient was frightening and “horribly embarrassing,” but it also led to a change in medications that put Elizabeth on a steady path to health and healing. The new medication changed her life profoundly, helping “calm down the noise” in her head and to “focus on working with a therapist, working on behavior, working on coping skills, and problem solving”. She stopped taking the medication after a few years, but continues with behavioral therapy which also “helps so much”, especially with learning about herself, other people, and relationships.

In college, Elizabeth developed a close relationship with a “very funny, sweet and down-to-earth” man whom she later married. That relationship, which includes a lot of acceptance and support as well as love, has been and remains crucially important. Transitions of various kinds -- for example, between school and work or between jobs -- are still challenging, but for the most part her mood is good. Moving out of college and into the work world was a “really positive” step because she loves what she does and knows she is good at is. Her current job is as a home visitor supporting at-risk families.

In order to maintain a steady good state, Elizabeth avoids drugs and alcohol entirely. She wants other young adults to know that “it’s up to you to work at it” to get better because “it’s not going to just happen by a magical potion, which I have hoped for many times…but if you put in time and effort and energy and you really really address and confront who you are and what depression is all about, it’s easier.” Reaching out for support was crucial for her, and she hopes others can also find a way to stop feeling trapped in “that really tight lonely bubble” and connect with others who can understand and help.

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