Age at diagnosis: 22
Brief outline: Violet, age 23, experienced depression beginning in childhood. She received a diagnosis for it at age 22. Since having a daughter at age 21, she has become increasingly proactive at addressing her depression with a combination of medication, working out, eating healthy food, and counseling. She is a part-time student who stays engaged but not overwhelmed by scheduling no more than three things each day.
Background: Violet is the mother of a young child and a part-time student. She has worked as a nanny. She lives with her father and daughter. She is Caucasian.
For as long as she can remember, Violet felt a “gnawing, underlying sense of sadness” that made her feel different from the “happy, go lucky” people around her. When she reached middle school issues with low self-esteem hit her hard, and by high school she was hanging out with other teen agers who felt bad about themselves. She and her friends all self-medicated with drugs and alcohol, because they were all “searching for something that we weren’t going to find… [to] feel whole”. Many of the relationships she formed with both friends and boyfriends at the point in her life were “toxic”, with unhealthy ups and downs and in some cases emotional abuse.
Violet knew what depression was, but neither she nor her mother thought her struggles might be caused by it because they thought people with depression would be unable to get out of bed or function. When Violet became pregnant with her daughter, she stopped using drugs and alcohol, began taking better care of herself, and worked hard to break out of her negative thought patterns (with the help of a counselor) so she would not “transfer these dark thoughts” to her daughter. As she moved away from her pessimism and towards positivity, she also saw how destructive her relationships with the baby’s father was and that she needed to get out of it.
After a debilitating bout of depression during her baby’s infancy, Violet got professional help (with her mother’s assistance) and began both regular therapy and medication. One of the things that worked best for her as she moved out of depression and into “genuine happiness” was writing what she wanted to think — affirmations such as “I am worth it” or “be patient with yourself” which she would write over and over until her thought pattern changed. Another important element it healthy lifestyle choices such as eating good food and exercising. She has also learned to avoid triggers like stress, and to recognize her own personal limits and adapt to them by, for example, scheduling no more than three things each day and working freelance so she can have some flexibility. Good friends her new partner are critical supports, and — above all — being with her young daughter brings her “an overwhelming sort of joy… just seeing her…carefree kind of happiness”.
Violet is living with her father and her 2-year-old daughter, and going to school part time. She wants to remind other young adults with depression to “cut yourselves some slack”, and remember not to let low self-esteem lead to being hard on yourselves for mistakes because everybody makes them. She also encourages others not to hide their depression, and not to be in denial, because when you do so “you’re giving up years of your life that you could be dealing with this or you could be working towards happiness if you give it a chance”.
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