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.
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.
More about me...
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.
Sally says a lot of people don’t realize that depression is a real thing – a chemical imbalance you can’t just make yourself correct.
Sally talks about how depression is a mental illness, and the fact that violent acts that are sometimes committed by mentally ill people increases stigma around depression.
Sally did eventually tell her partner about her depression and the relationship survived, but she wished she had told him sooner.
And he didn’t know about your depression at all before that?
No, it was too new. You know, it was like, way too personal of a thing to tell someone that. We were dating for, I don’t know, I guess like 2 or 3 months. So yeah, we saw each other most, you know, a few days a week and you know, he would spend the night and stuff, but it was very like new. So it’s not something that you want to like air your, I don’t want to say dirty laundry but like, you know the negative things about yourself to someone you are trying to impress. So, you know, proceed with caution I guess, have to kind of tread lightly with that kind of stuff. That’s kind of where it came from, I guess.
Yeah, so if you were advising someone else you would say, on the one hand, be a little cautious but don’t let it go too far before you tell somebody you were close to?
Yeah, at least like give them some hint or some, I don’t know, anything, say anything about it but don’t just leave it in the air, just act like you’re perfect. Because no one is perfect and like, you know, if you have diabetes you wouldn’t be embarrassed about it, but you know, everyone is a more of a stigma with depression but you know, you definitely have to say something if you’re the type of person that can switch from normal and everything’s great and then all of a sudden you have no desire what so-ever.
For Sally, tasks that need to be done repeatedly, on a daily or weekly basis, are hard to manage. Anything she has to do just once is much easier.
Sally notes that in her insurance network, psychiatrists are considered specialists and the co-pay is a lot higher than for doctors who are not specialists.
Sally describes how to her a sign that the therapist is a good fit is that she thinks about the points that were made in the session afterwards.
The suicide of a fellow student was Sally’s wake up call to get help for her depression.
… He jumped off like the 17th floor of the other tower.
… And I got to that point and I saw the cops and I saw, I heard it like I heard like, the ‘splat’ pretty much.
… It was hard, it was horrible and at that point I was like, “Oh my god.” Like I never, you know, that wasn’t ever like my thought like to jump from the tower, but like I need like, I don’t want it to ever get to that point, like you know, like, I don’t want to keep thinking it’s going to get better and it’s not.
… So like that was kind of a revelation for me