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

Sally

Female
Age at interview: 25
Age at diagnosis: 19

Brief outline: Sally’s depression began when she was a teenager and her parents separated. She continues to struggle with it, particularly during times of transition. Medication has helped, as has her supportive boyfriend, her pets, and organizing her life with a combination of flexibility and structure.

Background: Sally lives with her boyfriend, dog and cat in an apartment in a suburb. She is in graduate school part time and works as a researcher. She is Middle Eastern/Egyptian.

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Both of Sally’s parents struggled with depression throughout her childhood. Her own experiences with it didn’t begin until the second half of high school, when her parents separated and questions about where she and her brother would each live loomed large. That first episode of depression lasted only a few weeks long, but when she went to college a couple of years later the same symptoms returned and this time did not quickly fade away. She felt overwhelmingly sad, struggled with basic everyday tasks like brushing her teeth, was lonely and overwhelmed, and had trouble eating, During her second year of college, her mother took her to the doctor for help and she began both therapy and medication.

For Sally, therapy has been very helpful – but only when she can find the right fit with a therapist, someone who “clicks with you” the same way you want to click with people in other non-professional relationships. This has not always happened; for example, she had one psychiatrist who projected his own values onto her in an objectionable way. She has also had some excellent therapists in the past. However, changes in insurance eligibility has made it hard to stick with that person. Medication has also been useful, helping to correct a chemical imbalance which returned in full force when Sally stopped taking it to see if it was really necessary. Medication is a bit of a mixed bag though, because it can cause weight gain and make her feel “flattened.” 

Sally works as a researcher, and also goes to graduate school part time. Repetitive tasks like laundry remain challenging, but she gets through them. She also tries to adapt her circumstances to minimize stress, for example by finding a job with flexible work hours and being able to sleep a little later some days so that her busy schedule doesn’t become “too draining” on her. Her boyfriend is an important part of her life and support system. Although he may not understand what she is feeling all the time, he has learned simply to hug her when she is feeling sad, “Just enough to be present but not overbearing”. Her cat and dog make her feel less lonely and are “very helpful” when she is sad.

Sally wants other young people with depression to know that they are not alone, but “we’re like, sort of hidden… [but] there are people around that are feeling the same way you are.” She says it’s important not to “hold everything inside” and to realize there is always some person or some pet to talk to and be with. 

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