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.
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”.
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