Kate, age 21, grew up with a father who had untreated depression, and an unloving stepmother. When young, she realized she was gay and engaged briefly in self-harming. After some brief counseling Kate has used journaling to heal her depression.
Kate is an actress who works in an art gallery. She lives in an apartment with a roommate and a cat. She is white.
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Depression was always part of Kate’s life, as her dad, her only consistent parent, had untreated depression. When her stepmother and stepsisters entered the picture, things got worse and she started to experience "a lot of self-loathing. … I was never the favorite (except with my dad, of course, always dad's favorite)”. Kate tried to run away from home “not because I was trying to escape my abusive parents or anything, but because I didn't think I was good enough of a daughter for them”. By 8th grade, her self-loathing led to “self harming”. Kate says she stopped when she “saw that my dad blamed himself for it. … I thought I was the only one that I was hurting. … But it was hurting him”. Kate has used writing to “get it out in a more constructive manner” and “gain control of my feelings”.
At school Kate was quite an outsider. “I dressed funny and talked too loud and had weird ideas." Close friends “were few and far between”. Kate was further isolated from her parents when they found out that she was “bi-sexual”. Kate has had a few therapists. She stopped her seeing the first in middle school after a couple of sessions when he learned that her stepmother “went through all the emails” she had exchanged with the therapist. Kate then managed her depression by figuring “out the words to use for what was wrong with me and how to understand it and then control it”.
After graduating from high school she moved out of her “toxic” environment to a different state. Kate had several therapy sessions to figure out “what parts to unlearn or [to see] if that toxicity was still there”. But when the therapist said she was “pretty normal", Kate thought, “Maybe I haven't been telling you everything or maybe you haven't been listening. But that's not the goal here. I don't want to be told that I'm normal, I want to figure out more of me, I want to figure out, you know, why I do stuff”. Kate then studied psychology and was able to label her experience as depression, as a “kind of a self-diagnosis”. She has applied what she was studying and incorporated the “things that I saw therapists doing” into her self-management. But she says, “I still don't have a lot of words for things that I know affect me. They're simply the feelings that I have and the way I react to them.” In addition to her writing, Kate also draws and engages her emotions deeply in her acting career.
Kate recently relocated to a different city to become an artist. She is “trying to work as an entire human being, an adult person responsible for herself”. She has been consistent with her journaling, writing about her feelings and then reflecting on them later to “process them in a more objective way”. She says journaling is “a way for me to communicate with myself in the past or the future through reflecting on what I would think of myself if I were 12, and what I would ask, what I would say to myself if I were 20 years older." Kate says depression is no longer something she is trying to get rid of. “I simply view it as an aspect of myself that I need to be aware of and work with”. Compared to her younger self, she is a bit more whole when she approaches people, “The mask that I have is a bit closer to who I actually am”. But she still keeps a lot of her perceived “weaknesses very close to my chest”.
Kate describes the difficulty of separating her feelings of depression and anxiety.
Kate says she still keeps a lot in, but feels better being more honest with others.
I've worked on not having such disconnect between the inner me and the me I present to strangers. Because, you know, I have figured out that is a sign of depression, and the worse your mask, the farther away the mask is away from you, the worse you're going to, you know, hate yourself. You have to be honest with the people around you a bit more. You have to be a bit more trusting with your real self.
Kate befriends people with depression, but finds these relationships somewhat fragile.
Kate is learning to be more open about who she is, but she is still not ready to reveal anything about her depression or anxiety at work.
Kate says depression has made her understanding towards others because she knows what it’s like to be fragile.
Kate discusses how therapy wasn’t helpful because they approached her problems as something to be solved.
Kate says that depression drives her creative energy, enriches her understanding and capacity to help others, which completes, as she describes, a “self-feeding cycle” that helps her feel more valuable.
People have told me that I was a positive influence on them or that I saved them from this feeling of isolation or I provided them friendship when nobody else really did. So I kind of see that I can help people, that I'm contributing something. And that, in turn, helps me value myself and-and be nicer to myself. So that, and-and give myself a break. So that I can continue to be good. And that in and of itself is a bit of a self-feeding cycle.
For Kate, meeting daily obligations is a valuable measure of functionality. It is not easy to do, but the rewards are significant.
You talked about that sense of, getting, having something to show for the end of the day. And so what is it that you show, that you want to show, does it change, something?
Yeah, it changes. I like being able to say, well I did this, and this, and this. I, you know, got a bill paid or I finished a painting or I had a full day of work. If I feel like it wasn't wasted time, then I feel better about myself. It's exhausting [laughter] trying to get everything done. But at the end of the day when I feel like I got it done, then I can feel valuable.