A-Z

Kate

Age at interview: 21
Age at diagnosis: 12
Brief Outline:

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.

Background:

Kate is an actress who works in an art gallery. She lives in an apartment with a roommate and a cat. She is white.

More about me...

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.

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I know that my depression causes anxiety. And my anxiety causes depression. I can see how anxiety makes me want to do things and it-it makes me feel like I have to, it-it makes me feel like I have to be the best I can, or else people will judge me. And then that depression comes in like, yes, people will judge you because you are awful. So they kind of work hand-in-hand. They're they’re sometimes very hard to separate in my own head. I'm sure looking at me, you'd be able to say, well, yeah, that's probably more of an anxiety thing than a depression thing. They're both just things that I have to deal with together. They fit into each other.
 

Kate says she still keeps a lot in, but feels better being more honest with others.

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When I was in high school and I still had that kind of disconnect between what I wanted other people to think me of, think of me as, and what I thought of me as [cough]. Very few people got to see what I viewed as my weakness of being very self-conscious, being very self-critical. And now as I approach people I'm a bit more whole because the mask that I have is a bit closer to who I actually am. But I do still keep a lot of things that I perceive as weaknesses very close to my chest. So, you know, a lot of people could probably guess that I have depression, anxiety, and what have you. 

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.

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A lot of the people that I live with also the same illness, and the people that I'm friends with have the same illness. So I am also dealing with them trying to push me away, as-as I'm doing my own pushing other people away as well. And it's hard to sometimes even take into account, okay this person is struggling in a very similar way that I am. I've got to give them a break. And it's hard for others to give me a break because I am so consistently, you know, positive and supportive and all that. And then when I'm not, it's kind of a shock. And it's frustrating or-or exhausting to feel responsible in that way. To-to have to consistently be that way because I'm not a lot of the time.
 

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.

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… when I was in high school and I still had that kind of disconnect between what I wanted other people to think me of, think of me as, and what I thought of me as [cough]. Very few people got to see what I viewed as my weakness of being very self-conscious, being very self-critical. And now as I approach people I'm a bit more whole because the mask that I have is a bit closer to who I actually am. But I do still keep a lot of things that I perceive as weaknesses very close to my chest. So, you know, a lot of people could probably guess that I have depression, anxiety, and what have you. But I wouldn't really be very open about that, especially in some kind of professional environment. They don't really need to know that about me. I’m fine with not telling them.
 

Kate says depression has made her understanding towards others because she knows what it’s like to be fragile.

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It gives me a strength and an understanding towards others because I know what it feels like to be fragile. I know what it feels like to be on the verge of killing yourself or on the verge of harming yourself. So I'm more capable of being sympathetic. And it helps me deal with my friends who have depression. It helps me understand them better and they seem to be drawn to my energy and positivity because that's something that a lot of people with depression don't have. And that's the reason I have it, that's the reason I project it, is because I understand that so many people just don't have it. So it's helped me realize where others might need help and where I need help and how that can fit together.
 

Kate discusses how therapy wasn’t helpful because they approached her problems as something to be solved.

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I tried to do therapy in high school for the college part of my high school. And I was in a college, they gave free therapy for students. So I tried that but the therapist that I had was still learning and they approached it as a problem to be solved. And I always felt bad coming back to them and saying well I'm still having this problem even though you told me how to solve it, it’s still there. It's part of me. So I stopped going to that therapist and simply tried to study the techniques that she'd been using that were getting some progress but I didn't feel the need to try and to achieve something or solve a problem. I could simply reflect upon myself.
 

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.

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Depression is one of the main drives that I have in being creative. I can't not be creative. Or else I will self-destruct. So depression gives me that drive to get something out. It gives me a strength and an understanding towards others because I know what it feels like to be fragile. I know what it feels like to be on the verge of killing yourself or on the verge of harming yourself. So I'm more capable of being sympathetic. And it helps me deal with my friends who have depression. It helps me understand them better and they seem to be drawn to my energy and positivity because that's something that a lot of people with depression don't have. And that's the reason I have it, that's the reason I project it, is because I understand that so many people just don't have it. So it's helped me realize where others might need help and where I need help and how that can fit together.

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.

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Mostly I measure my normality by my functionality and my productivity. If I can make it to all my appointments and not get lost, if I cannot cancel anything that week, if I can get the dishes done, if I can make sure that my cat gets fed, if I can be functional, and if I can have something to show at the end of the day, then that would be me being a normal person. But the way I got about things is different and the way I think about things, and the way I handle things is different. But I believe that normal is relative, so I'm relatively normal [laughter].

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.
 

Kate accepts that depression will sometimes make it harder to live her life.

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I'm not trying to get rid of it any longer. I simply view it as an aspect of myself that I need to be aware of and work with. I kind of view depression like the weather. If it rains, I can't really be upset about it. I simply have to wear a coat. And I have to be prepared for where my depression takes me sometimes. And I have to just understand that I need to give myself a break sometimes. But it's not something that I think can be solved or cured. It's just my perspective in life sometimes.
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