Age at diagnosis: 16
Brief outline: Julia, age 25, first noticed depression symptoms at age 14 and was diagnosed in college. She has experienced neglect, toxic relationships and eating disorders. Medication and therapy, pets, and the support of her boyfriend and friends are helpful.
Background: Julia is a family therapist. She is single and lives alone in an apartment with a cat and a dog. She takes medication and sees a therapist. She is Caucasian.
Julia’s story starts with a very lonely childhood, as a single child whose parents divorced when she was age 14, and a mother who was working or out on dates. My friends “would complain that their parents make them have milk with dinner and I would be like, my mom’s never made me dinner”. Her transition into adolescence “was just kind of depressing.” Freshman year, Julia was “really anxious” and “struggling in a couple of my classes, but … I never felt like she really cared how I was doing in my classes”. For the rest of high school Julia “was really rebellious… and very apathetic about school”. Julia was “hanging out with a bad crowd”, drinking and smoking cigarettes and pot. “I had this kind of ‘fuck it’ mentality. You know, like what’s the point? No one cares”. Following her mother’s example, Julia had an eating disorder. “I couldn’t control whether my mom was going to be home or not and I couldn’t control feeling, like I had someone to go home to, … but I could control things like what I put in my mouth”. This led to obsessing over food and working out excessively; “my anxiety and depression was just like through the roof”.
After graduating high school Julia attended a community college, which she says “was probably the best decision of my life”, as university would have been “a total failure”. Her first psychology class was pivotal. She bombed the first test even through she knew the answers, but the professor let her take the test orally and accepted the A grade. “It was amazing that she would take like almost an hour after class and literally go through every question. I mean she really believed that I knew the material, and I did. “ Julia decided to give herself a second chance and in the next year became “very perfectionistic” and pulled herself together academically. She then attended a university and stopped drinking and smoking. She says “the way that I coped in undergrad was still not productive because I was busting my ass”. She took rigorous courses, worked on several research projects, had an internship and volunteered. “I was never home and I kept myself busy and I think that perpetuated my eating disorder”. Julia says, “I like testing myself to see what I can handle.” She also says having “no concept of my own boundaries” and her high “need external validation” fed these behaviors.
While studying psychology as an undergrad and grad student, Julia continued her pattern of “dating people who treat me like shit…Rationally, I know that I deserve better but I don’t believe that I do”. This boyfriend was alcoholic, had depression, put her in role of total caregiver, and threatened suicide when she tried to break up. They finally broke up when he went into residential treatment for substance abuse. All this occurred while she was dredging up her family relationships for a master’s seminar. “I was just working out compulsively and not really eating a lot. … I felt really out of control… I had a really bad breakdown. … I was pretty suicidal for about like two months”. She was so depressed that her supervisors offered her a chance to pause graduate program, “I said no because then I would feel like a failure”.
Julia finally entered therapy, realizing that how she was living was not sustainable.
“I knew I was depressed, but I never like said that word. … I always felt like shit. And I thought that was my normal.” She was diagnosed with anxiety, major depressive disorder and then Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified. She found a really good therapist. “She’s very hard on me but there’s so much compassion behind it. … It’s not coming from a judgmental place, it’s coming from, you know, she values me as a person. She values our relationship”. Julia has a few valued friends and is dating an “amazing” man. Recently graduated, she is now a therapist. “I think having my own experiences with not feeling safe and feeling unheard and feeling, you know, like at the end of my rope, I think that makes me a better therapist. … I want to be a safe space for people”.
Audio clips with transcripts are featured under the following topics: