Brief outline: Tia, 28, was shy and embarrassed about having no father. She masks her depression and refused a formal diagnosis. She stopped self-medicating, and does art to heal her depression. Work and relationships remain challenging.
Background: Tia works as a patient advocate. She is single and lives alone in an apartment. She is African American.
Reflecting on her childhood, Tia thinks she “could have been slightly depressed”. She describes herself then and even now as “quiet or some would say maybe withdrawn”, and “very nervous” in social situations. She says that much of this stems “from not having a father figure. …I guess you could say not having love from a man made me question my entire existence” and “insecure about everything.” In middle school, “people would talk about, oh my dad ‘this and that’. I would kinda make up stories sometimes” so she did not feel “even more like an outcast”. Tia describes additional feelings of loss, “you wanna father for like prom or parent teacher conference or just simple things like first heart break”. When “I get married or engaged, who would walk me down the aisle”? To this day she says these “insecurities about myself affect the relationships I do have’ and explain “the reason why I’m not in one”. Protective of her mother, Tia has never asked about her father, “I know it wasn’t her fault. …I just imagine that she felt maybe ten times …the hurt that I was feeling”. Friendships for Tia have been complicated and a source of sorrow. She feels “people may prey on that weakness of mine” and as a result, “I isolated myself for a very, very long time”.
Tia’s said two doctors diagnosed her depression, and both offered “some sort of medication” and information about counseling, which she refused. “I was a little shocked and surprised that a stranger would know. … I didn’t tell him anything that I was going through.” A second doctor, also a “regular physician”, likewise recognized her depression, which she thought was “kinda weird that a stranger would recognize without me even saying much”. Yeah, I answered all questions that they had. I was in good health so I felt that it was kind of, kind of impressive. Cause it’s something I hide”.
While acknowledging that, “the whole idea or feeling towards depression actually needs to change”, Tia is sensitive to the fact that “depression is frowned on in the African American community”. Thus she has not reached out to anyone. Many of Tia’s friends rely on her advice and support, because, she thinks, “I am a good listener”. She says she took pride in being able to help people and thinks say it “raises my self-esteem”. But now, she notes, “I have never been in a situation where anyone cared, but I was always the one that people run to for advice”. With all her recent, “mid-life crises” of “deciding about my career”, and a devastating relationship break up, Tia says, “You would think that people would sincerely ask and continue to check up on you to see how you’re doing”. She hopes “someone would ask and maybe I would tell”. Tia thinks they might assume that she is “okay since I give advice”, but she wonders why people nobody asks, “How does she know so much?”
Tia is not “a fan of medication” because at one time she used increasing doses of prescription drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, until she realized where that would take her. She later became obsessed with sugar. She redirected these negative things into “something that’s positive and beneficial as well and comforting”. She started painting, which she says is “expressive without saying much” and makes her feel relaxed and calm, “I feel gratification when it’s done” especially when “others say ‘oh, that’s cool’ …or ‘oh you did that?’” Tia dreams of inventing a phone app that would be “a friend in your pocket and you can just talk, say whatever you want to say” and you could have it respond with inspirational quotes or even nothing”. The idea is “just to get it off your chest”.
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