Age at diagnosis: 14
Brief outline: Jackson, 27, experienced childhood abuse, father’s suicide and mother’s imprisonment. Diagnosed at 14 with depression and PTSD, he used and stopped medication. Therapy, self-care and coming out as a transgender male have healed Jackson’s depression.
Background: Jackson works in customer service and lives in a rented house with a roommate and a cat. Ethnic background is Fijian Indian.
Jackson has been severely depressed most of his life. His “super depression”, diagnosed at age 14, faded away a couple years ago after he came out as a trans-gender male. Being raised as a non-white Jehovah’s Witness in a “pretty rough” rural environment and having a “complicated history with trauma” was the foundation for Jackson’s self-described “heart wounds”. While “dad was a pretty good person, mom was very abusive and attracted people into our family’s life that were abusive”. Jackson experienced “a lot of repeated physical, emotional and sexual abuse”; he “became invisible” and “attempted suicide many times”. When Jackson was 13, his father died from an “overdose of prescription medicine”, that was “probably suicide”. Later that year Jackson’s “mother went to prison—a blessing” he says, “because she was a very horrible person”. Jackson was then “tossed around between family members” and experienced even more abuse. Life between age 14 and 16 was meaningless until “my older brother reconnected” and said, “Let’s let’s live together. We’ll let you finish high school”. Still “very severely depressed”, Jackson says “strangely identifying as a lesbian kept me going. … ‘I’m a one-person parade, hoorah. No one can stop me. ‘Damn all of you for you trying to stop me from being who I want to be’”.
Jackson tried a number of strategies and eventually the heart wounds and depression healed. First was the required counseling while in high school after his mother went to prison. “It was and it wasn’t helpful. … I could tell that they were very affected by what I was going through. [But] I felt dead inside and I just wasn’t really receptive to what they had to say”.
Second was medication, which Jackson describes as good, but too effective, “I wasn’t able to experience or even really feeling joy or excitement. … An intuitive part of me felt like I …needed to experience my emotions”. After being on meds for a couple of years, Jackson decided to taper off them, “My severe depression seemed directly linked and influenced by the situation in my environment, not so much of just my inherent state”. Going off meds, “was pretty scary, to put it lightly, but I think it was the best thing I could have done for myself”. Jackson also notes that, “My brother was a great support.” And without that support, “it would have been a very ill-advised thing to do”. Third was education. “I threw myself into school. It was the only thing I could do to remain sane”. This paid off in really good grades. “People can just be so amazing”, Jackson says. “My teachers knew about my problems and that I was barely holding on. And they worked together to get me a full ride to the University”.
Fourth was Jackson’s young adult journey from lesbian to transgender male. When arriving at college, Jackson had serious PTSD and wondered if “I had a future”. Struggling with coursework and making friends “for the sake of curiosity”, Jackson decided to keep going, to creep out of a depression cycle where “I would have three months where I’ll be like, OK life is good…the sun is shining. And then I would … suddenly revert back to this deep sadness”. Studying abroad was a sunny time. “What was so profound…was that people in other countries…are living completely different lives. But also there’s this very strong common thread between humans. … I felt accepted by strangers. It gave me hope, but also reminded me of that sadness that I had. It was a great wake up call.” Returning home, engulfed by the traumas of parents and abuse, Jackson realized, “I need some help … to give meaning to these feelings, or give meaning to my life, find meaning. Working with “an amazing counselor”, Jackson says, “completely changed my life”. During a Reiki massage session Jackson had a “vision of ‘I think I’m a trans– I’m think I’m trans.’ …I didn’t know what it meant and started reading about people experience and I was like, oh my God, that was like everything I’ve always felt and, and I’ve felt … another weight was lifted”. Jackson felt safe “to explore my transgender identity” after moving to a LBGTQ-tolerant city with a “lot of great resources” and “a lot of great people”. Jackson says, “I still have a lot of moments of like sadness when I reflect on some of my past experiences but it doesn’t– it doesn’t overcome me…anymore”.
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