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

Shayne

Female
Age at interview: 27
Age at diagnosis: 13

Brief outline: Shayne, age 27, began to experience depression in high school. Other mental health issues have also played a role in her life, and she has an additional diagnosis of PTSD. Things got more difficult for her when she left a supportive home for college, but in recent years she has developed many effective ways of addressing depression including medication, therapy, exercise, and art. Friends, family and roommates are strong sources of support; cats are sources of humor and joy.

Background: Shayne lives in a house with two roommates and three cats. She works in research, exercises regularly, and does art. She is White.

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Shayne’s experiences with depression began in high school. Her mom is a mental health professional who quickly recognized that Shayne was crying and sad a lot, had low energy, and had stopped hanging out with friends. Shayne’s mom found her a therapist, and also a psychiatrist who prescribed medication. Shayne describes her time in high school as “the best depression I ever had” because she was living in a loving and supportive environment, and got the professional help she needed. 

When Shayne moved away from home and went to college and then graduate school, things became much harder. She went off her medication for a while, which resulted in a downward spiral. Her depression worsened some as she got older, and she developed additional symptoms. In early adulthood Shayne also experienced some trauma, and its difficult aftermath. The environment at school and living on her own didn’t support her as well as her family at home had done, and she did not yet have good coping skills. Looking back, Shayne says “I wish I had known that it was going to get harder as you… move away from really strong support systems and become an adult.”

Shayne completed her college degree and a master’s degree in chemistry – accomplishments she describes as “fucking impressive.” Struggles with mental illness made it hard for her to continue with a doctoral degree in her earlier twenties, but she plans to complete this in the future. After she finished school, she moved to a part of the country far away from difficult parts of her past, and where she feels a healthy lifestyle is possible. She works as a researcher teaches at a community college, and volunteers as an educator. 

Shayne understands that her depression is not her fault. She is a “big proponent of medication and therapy”, and wants others to know that “therapy only helps if you want the therapy and you like your therapist. That’s the only way therapy works. Medicine works whether or not you want it to work.” She has supportive friends and roommates, and two amazing “therapy cats.” She takes care of herself and copes with depression in lots of ways including exercising, doing art, and knowing she may feel more depressed at some times than at others. She devotes a lot of energy to being a “stigma buster” for mental illness, and says “depression has made me want to share, it’s made me want to be a teacher in a lot of ways”.

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