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

Frankie

Female
Age at interview: 24
Age at diagnosis: 13

Brief outline: Frankie, age 24, was diagnosed at age 13 and took medication briefly. Later on, medications (thanks to health insurance), listening to music and taking walks help her depression. She has an eating disorder and looks forward to getting professional help for it.

Background: Frankie works fulltime in customer service and lives with her husband. She takes antidepressants is not in therapy. Ethnic background is Caucasian.

Audio & video

Frankie first noticed symptoms of depression at age 13. She didn’t really understand what it was, but felt “like there was just a black cloud over my head.” Her parents took her to the doctor, who prescribed fluoxetine. She hated the medication and stopped taking it, because she “ didn’t have the highs anymore… and felt numb”. Her parents liked it because she “was no longer being disagreeable”. After that she ignored her depression, and with her high school friends started drinking and doing drugs; her grades suffered. Frankie also developed her eating disorder at about age 13, but did not think, that it was a problem until much later. 

Things turned around in college when she started dating her boyfriend, who is now her husband. He was focused on doing well in school and she was motivated to do the same. In fact, the prospect of losing her 4.0 grade-point average sent her to student counseling. She only had a few counseling sessions, because she had no insurance and did not find it helpful. Frankie was able to manage her depression by being “self-aware” and she “knew the right things to do, get more sleep, get more exercise”. Taking long walks was like therapy to her, “just going off my own, listening to music, thinking…. it’s just cathartic”. 

Frankie decided seek help for depression as soon as she got on her husband’s insurance. Actually the “decision to go on medication was a little bit difficult”. Instead of asking for medication she said, “Ok. Here’s my list of problems. I have an eating disorder. I’m anxious a lot. I have depression. Let’s see what we can do about all of this. …It was the doctor’s suggestion that I go on medication, and I think that was probably a smart one.” She is once again taking fluoxetine. This time she has not, “noticed side effects in the medications” but feels “there are much fewer lows”. She is recovering from a major episode with her eating disorder in college and is looking forward to getting professional help for it.

She thinks all primary care doctors should screen for depression, because “more people are affected by it than even they know. … Depression doesn’t always look like a sad face. … I guess it’s the stereotype of the sad clown, …but it’s very true.”

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