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

Sierra Rose

Female
Age at interview: 18
Age at diagnosis: 11

Brief outline: Sierra Rose’s depression began in early adolescence, when she lived in a chaotic environment, moved frequently, and had some difficult family relationships. She also struggles with self-harming, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Her boyfriend is a huge source of support, and her cats bring her joy and keep her going in hard times.

Background: Sierra Rose lives in an apartment with her boyfriend, another roommate, and three beloved cats. She spent a week in the hospital shortly before her interview, and was continuing with out-patient care but struggling to pay for some of it. She is Italian and Jewish.

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Sierra Rose had a tumultuous early life with her brother, mother and a series of her mother’s abusive husbands and boyfriends who came in and out of the household. Sierra Rose’s mother was only seventeen when she was born, and wasn’t in a good position to provide a safe childhood. As a result, Sierra Rose was “forced to grow up extremely fast”. After she began self-harming at age eleven, and there was a series of conflicts with her alcoholic step-father, she went to live with her grandmother for a while. There she had a more stable environment, and began therapy, but issues with drugs and alcohol arose and she ended up back with her mother. She completed high school on line because drugs were very prevalent in her school district and her mother did not want her to be exposed.

Depression has always been a part of Sierra Rose’s life; she doesn’t know what it’s like to live without it. Sometimes depression makes it hard for her to get off the couch “except to go to the bathroom, to get food, and smoke”. There are weeks when she doesn’t leave the apartment. When she cycles into better periods she gets out and finds a job, which makes her feel great. But then depression will kick back in and “suck all the motivation” away, making it impossible to work. She also struggles with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sierra Rose never returned to her last job after she went to the hospital for a short stay because she felt suicidal. Though some things were tough about being an inpatient at the hospital, it was also very helpful - particularly the intensive therapy, group work, writing therapy, and art.  
Sierra Rose lives with her boyfriend, who supports her both emotionally and financially. They have a third roommate too. Her three cats are a comfort and a joy; knowing she is “literally everything to them” also provides major motivation to get out to buy them food and litter and to take good care of herself in the long run so she can be there for them. Since her hospitalization she is getting along better with her mother. She hopes to continue with both medication and therapy as an out-patient, if her insurance provides the right coverage. Both of these things, and group therapy too, have been helpful.

One thing Sierra Rose has come to realize is that “everything is temporary; life has its ups and downs… and to feel the good you have to feel the bad”. She wants other young adults with depression to know depression does get better and that “if you can stick with it, you can become a strong healthy human being and do anything you want in this world.” She also recommends getting a pet because “animals are perfect, they love you no matter what. Like straight up everybody should own at least one animal”.

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