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


Age at interview: 23
Age at diagnosis: 15

Brief outline: Leanna connects her depression, which began early, to a difficult childhood. She was diagnosed with depression at age 15, and also struggles with some other mental health issues. Therapy has been helpful, as has the support of her husband and the joy of living with cats, rabbits and other pets. She does not take medication.

Background: Leanna lives with her husband and many pets in an apartment complex in a suburb outside a large town in a rural area. She is Caucasian.

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Leanna’s earliest memory of depression is from when she was seven years old. Because she felt so much sadness, depression and anger in her early childhood, they are feelings she got used to having. She grew up often thinking she was “supposed to be that girl who’s by herself… just being quiet and sad and… disappearing into my own little world”. As she got older, she started missing school, stealing, and having outbursts -- the “typical troubled child thing”, but her mother was an alcoholic and did not pick up on what was going on or have the capacity to help.

When Leanna was eleven, she ended up in foster care for a while and then moved to live with her father, who she didn’t know well at all and whose home was “not a good environment either”. Her mother also died around that very difficult time in her life. She got an official diagnosis of depression at age fifteen, and was also diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and PTSD. Her high school years were tough ones, full of running away, unhealthy social and sexual relationships, and a suicide attempt.

Things got easier for Leanna when she got older and moved out on her own. She got married, and worked at a lot of different jobs like sales and telemarketing and caregiving for other people who need help, which is her favorite work. She is in school part time finishing a second associate’s degree, and plans a future in horticulture - though she would “stay in college forever if it didn’t cost so damn much”. Her husband is an enormous help; he also has some mental health issues and they have figured out when to “leave each other alone and… [when to] work through it together”. Leanna’s many pets make her happy.

Therapy has been very helpful for Leanna, once she found the right therapist. It is sometimes a struggle to pay for it, but she persists. She also self-medicates with legal drugs to keep herself “calm and happy”. It has been very useful for Leanna to realize that depression is “just a reaction to what’s happened” in her life, and that “you can’t choose your childhood. You can’t choose who your parents are, the situations that you’re brought up in, so just try to make the best out of it.” She hopes other young adults with depression will focus on learning to live with it each day, and will realize that “coming out” and telling other people makes things easier. Researching on the internet and listening to other people’s stories can also help, because you realize you are not alone with your struggles when you “read a forum full of people’s experiences with the same thing that you, you deal with on an everyday basis”.


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