Brief outline: Teri, age 24, first had depression symptoms in high school. She was never diagnosed. Coming out, finding love, and counseling have rid her depression. She lives happily with her wife and a dog, and is working on a master’s degree in counseling.
Background: Teri is a master’s student in family counseling who lives with her wife and a dog. She has had counseling, but not medication. She is Caucasian.
Teri first noticed symptoms late in high school, amid a series of family and social issues. Her best friend moved away, “and a couple of other friends really distanced themselves… I just felt really alone”. An introvert, it was easy to mask her feelings to her family; then her isolation increased when she realized she was “not straight” and not safe in her conservative “hick town”. The few “out” people were treated poorly at school. When she came out, her parents told her she “would grow out of it.” Until the day her father died, he “was just holding on hope that I would eventually be in a relationship with a man”. Teri says it was hard, knowing that “this person that I loved so much” was not “able to acknowledge something that was so important to me”. Because Teri had always done well in school, she enrolled in a program of simultaneous college and high school. But with low self-esteem and an introverted nature, she again was socially isolated, and “kinda quit caring”. Her grades suffered as her depression ebbed and flowed, and she needed seven years to earn that bachelor’s degree.
Teri has never sought professional counseling or had a formal diagnosis, but she has been fortunate to find supportive people who gave a sense of self-worth. At 17, she moved out and worked as a bagger at a grocery store. A “wise’ co-worker took her under his wing, encouraged Teri to return to school, and taught her to “fake it till you make it”. Teri found the store a great place to practice faking a “great mood”. She then began translating that to the rest of her life by acting happy in her other relationships. “You know”, she says, “just by faking a smile can actually bring about a real smile.”
Coming to terms with her sexuality was a complex journey to a good outcome, and her first relationship did not go well. As she confided about her sexuality, the other woman “began to question herself” and they started dating. Teri says it was the “biggest mistake of my life”. That girlfriend “was more curious than anything…She had no idea what she wanted and…she ended up just going back to men”. After a two-year on and off relationship, Teri finally came to terms with the fact that “ no matter how much she might care about me, I wasn’t what she wanted and so I just decided to move on”. Soon afterwards she met her wife, a happy extrovert who “very secure in her sexual orientation”. She “wanted to be around me” and didn’t need “me to be something different”. In this relationship Teri felt “valued as a person” and this helped her self-esteem. “It was just such a shift” that helped Teri move out of her social “comfort zone” and ultimately “get out of the dumps” and finish her bachelor’s degree. Teri and her wife have now moved to an LBGTQ-friendly city, where she feels much safer, evidenced by the fact that she cut her hair. She is on a fast track to a master’s degree in family counseling.
Teri says her depression has gone since she and her wife moved in together. “I’m in a really great place. I have my wife. I have my dog. I have great relationships with my family”. She is very happy with where her life is right now. Reflecting on her journey, “I would just say that life is hard but it’s okay to ask for help. I think I was too ashamed to ask for help because I felt like I should be able to handle my own problems.” She acknowledges that she eventually fixed her problems, but that she really needed people. “I got very, very lucky. What if my friend from work hadn’t been there? What if my wife hadn’t been there?” She says the internet has very good resources, and many communities have free resources, free counseling, or places you can go just to talk. “It could be your church, it could be going out and finding a community that you feel like you fit in, but you have to find someone that really affirms that you matter”.
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