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

Ryan

Male
Age at interview: 19
Age at diagnosis: 13

Brief outline: Ryan’s depression began when he was 8 and entered the foster care system. He was diagnosed with manic depressive disorder and severe anxiety. Therapy, medication, supportive relationships, and expressing himself through writing and music have all been helpful.

Background: Ryan lives with his girlfriend and her family in a suburb but is looking to move. He works as a janitor. He is White.

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When Ryan entered foster care at age eight, there was a terrible “turning point” in his mental health: he dates his depression as well as anxiety and mania back to that time. When he was young, he would write down his feelings in a journal and this helped. He was finally diagnosed with manic depressive disorder and anxiety when he was twelve or thirteen. At that age he also began therapy for the first time -- an experience that was “really hard” and also relieving at the same time. One thing he learned immediately is that his struggles are not as “common place” as he had thought, and that it is possible to not always feel depressed and anxious.

Ryan moved out of foster care and was adopted into a new home, which was a great place to live for a number of years. However, when he was about 18 he hit a new low, with drug use, hopelessness, depression, and self-destructive patterns. Eventually his parents asked him to leave, so he has been staying with his girlfriend and her family. He works as a janitor, and regards his job as a “productive distraction” from thinking about how he is feeling.

Ryan’s girlfriend is “really supportive”, someone he learned over time to trust and who he can now “tell whatever”. He finds medication helpful for his anxiety, but does not feel it addresses the root turmoil of his depression. He also thinks his depression is caused by real feelings and circumstances rather than by a chemical imbalance, so he no longer takes depression medication. Instead he lets his feelings “naturally occur” and “ventilates naturally” with his therapist because for him talking to somebody is “a healthier way of dealing with depression”. Ryan’s guitar playing, rap, and poetry are also all helpful, as long as his investment in these creative pursuits does not cross the border into obsessive.

In the future, Ryan and his girlfriend plan to get a place of their own. He wants other young adults with depression to realize it takes time to get better, but “you are the first step, you’re the only person who can actually seek treatment, seek medication, anything that’s gonna help you as an individual... each case is individual, so you have to find out what works for you.” It’s also critical to realize that depression is not your fault because “it just really opens doors when you realize that.”
 

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