Depression through the Ages and Stages of Life: Interviews with People in Young Adulthood
For those of us who suffer from depression, it can sometimes be a long and arduous battle. There are more than a few of us who will experience multiple depressive episodes throughout our lifetime. I am not trying to be dismal here but to point out the reality that depression can sometimes follow us through decades of living. So how do we cope with depression at different stages of our life? And is depression experienced differently for someone who is in their twenties from someone who finds themselves depressed in their forties or fifties? In order to answer these questions I sought the assistance of some of our My Depression Connection members to complete written interviews specifically geared towards their particular age group.
We will first hear from members Izzy and LyraStorm who are both young adults in their twenties. In a second post we will be hearing from members Fifi and Judy about their experience battling depression when you are in your forties and fifties. I hope that whatever age you are, that you will find some words of both comfort and wisdom from these interviews. My hopes are that you will share your story in return.
It is a great honor to now present Izzy and LyraStorm who will discuss what it is like to suffer from depression when you are a young adult.
How long would you say that you have been suffering from depression? And did this start in your teen-age years?
Izzy: My depression started when I was 13 I believe is started then because that was really crossroads in my life. Old enough to notice differences between myself and others, but not really old enough to change myself because at that age you're still under parental control. You notice things like fashion, weight, overall appearance but unless your parents really allow you to express yourself as an individual it's hard to make the impression that you want to. More than that it was around this time that my parents divorced, major stressor and changes, straining the already poor relationship I had with my parents, my father especially.
I have suffered from depression a lot further back than I can remember. It probably didn't help that I went undiagnosed for such a long period of time - I was ten when I first wrote in my diary that I wanted to die, twelve when I first tried to take my life (it would never have worked even if I hadn't pulled out partway through), but it wasn't until I was sixteen that it was first suggested to me that I might suffer from depression and I wasn't diagnosed by a doctor until I was seventeen because I was angry and felt pathetic and so refused to get any help.
Though I didn't have my complete breakdown until after I turned twenty (I should probably point out that I am now twenty three) my teenage years were some of the most difficult of my life. It is at this time that people really point out other's differences, take issue with it, and up the ante from childhood stunts.
How does your depression affect the things going on in your life such as dating, school, job hunting and friendships?
Izzy: Depression for me really impacts friendships, school and job hunting almost on a daily basis.
Friendships and depression:
It impacts friendships because you can only rely on your friends for so much and to pick you up emotionally before they just wash their hands of you. Essentially no one wants to be around someone who is seemingly miserable and upset all if not most of the time. I've also found that depression also makes connecting, relating with friends difficult because generally depression makes me feel very reserved and not able to disclose my feelings as often as I'd like. This seems to turn people off because they believe I'm holding back because I don't respect their opinions or help, but really it's because I can't bring myself to relive experiences mentally or emotionally because it becomes too painful and draining.
School and depression:
Where school is concerned depression often takes away any and all confidence in the classroom. It makes me feel like anything I say or do is inferior and in so doing has me pulling back from what I'm capable of. I know this to be true because there are times where I could do more or say more but I don't, because deep down inside I hear a part of me that says "you're not ready" or "they'll laugh and reject you". It's not always logical to think that way, because I generally know the answers my Professor's are looking for, or could contribute to group work more openly I just can't get myself past previous experiences and the hold I feel depression has on me in that respect.
Looking for a job and having depression:
Job hunting is a nightmare, I hate it from the moment I send out an application to the moment I find myself sitting in an interview. The reason for this is that job hunting requires a certain level of openness, of selling yourself and when I'm having a really rough patch in my depression I can't do either of those things. I become so guarded and withdrawn that I know employers are thinking that I'm not personable or that I'm not fully invested into getting a job but it's not true. I just can't allow the light I know that exists amid the clouds of my depression to shine through and show who I can be.
Depression and School:
I left school as soon as I could because I ended up finding it far too stressful - for me that was at the end of year twelve (the last year before university in Australia) because my parents wouldn't let me leave before then. They were angry and disappointed that they couldn't pressure me into going on to university, especially because before the end I had been a really good student (unfortunately my UAI, University Admission Index, was below average - not from lack of trying, I just stopped being able to concentrate, I couldn't do it anymore). I went from loving learning as a kid to fearing the confines of the place and the people I was stuck with as a teenager. I couldn't get away fast enough and felt I was being tortured every second that I had continued staying on.
Dating and Depression:
I don't date. I have only ever gone on a couple of first dates (my high school 'dates' don't even warrant a mention because they were nothing more than tools for other kids to humiliate me, I think)... well I've had one second date but though that guy was interested in me I just wanted to run for the hills. I'm quite childish when it comes to relationships really because I long ago hid myself in a protective bubble which meant that I had none of the usual experiences and thus my knowledge didn't grow. I don't like being hugged, I get only added anxiety/discomfort rather than the comfort everyone else gets, and so I'm afraid to let a guy kiss me let alone anything else (I don't believe something like that should be an endurance test but that seems to be what my reality would be).
In the past I've thought that a guy showing interest in me was a warning of an upcoming joke (not helped by this being a reality in high school on several occasions that I wish I could erase from my mind), as a consequence I've actually hurt a couple of guys, on two separate occasions, by laughing at them when they asked me out hoping to disarm the situation; pretending to find the joke funny instead of letting anyone know that it was hurting me. These days I fluctuate between thinking it might be nice to have someone in my life to laughing at that ridiculous notion because I value my own space and privacy far too much.
Looking for a job when you are depressed: I haven't worked in over three years now. I had a breakdown when I was working at my last job which coincided with a change of management - they said I could hand in my resume to get rehired but when I took my uniform and keys back I couldn't find it in myself to hand over the CV I had brought with me because I was such a mess. In fact I went to the movies straight afterwards to try and make myself feel better and had a panic attack whilst stuck in the cinema. At that time I would go red-faced and teary at the mere thought of talking to another so when I tried to get work I really didn't make the best impression and thus had no hope of ever getting hired. I finally ended up admitting that I might need to go on a disability allowance (and apparently I really needed it cause normally they try to get those on the allowance to work at least a little bit but in my case they recommended that I shouldn't work at all).
I think I've come a long way since then but I'm afraid of returning to work and falling to pieces again. I am, however, looking to get into the acting industry because acting is one of the only things that can ever make me feel really alive and so I'm hoping that will help replace the energy I'd lose travelling, dealing with people, and working hard to earn my own wage... it's all so draining.
Making friends when you are depressed: I've gotten lucky over the last couple of years. Whilst I was at school I was very unlucky. I had a whole group of imaginary friends because I was so lonely (I sent them away when I was twelve thinking I was too old for that and shortly after I had finally banished them properly, they kept reappearing because I'd forget and bring them back, I first tried to take my life). I was in a weird position in that people chose me as one of the first, if not the first, for things that mattered to them (to get good school marks, win in team sports) and they would invite me over or come around my house when they were bored (I have an imagination second to none) but if they just wanted to have fun or had a better offer I would become miss invisible, or I was bullied.
But now I have three friends who are really patient with me, meet up with me one-on-one because that is all I can handle, go to the effort of getting in contact with me (I suck at initializing contact), text me because I hate talking on phones, and offer to listen to my problems (I only tell them some things because they never know what to say and get worried but at least the option is there). I get to feel good because I help them out with their problems (I'm good at that), and I get to feel normal for short periods of time (whatever I can handle) as I do what everyone else does (movies, dinner, just hanging out, etc), plus they tell me that they really enjoy my company and I know they go out of their way to spend time with me (they all have much busier lives than I do). Depression isolated me for a while but now I have very understanding friends who put up with all my stuff so I know that I'm very lucky.
Do you feel that there are unique stressors and circumstances related to young adulthood which may cause people to be more prone to depression during this time?
Izzy: I think during this time of life everyone is looking to find where they fit in society. That means working harder, achieving higher, and really making that leap between living at home and independence. This transitional period in life is hard because if you're a more eclectic or perhaps "othered' individual you have the threat of societal norms trying to bring you down and shaping you in a way that you will never be content with. You're always fighting those norms and eventually you just get tired and the depression sets in stronger then you can compensate for.
LyraStorm: I think that the teenage years can be difficult for anyone and everyone goes through some pretty dramatic changes but it isn't a trigger as such. It can be a bit like if you go through a day with a headache compared to going through that same day without one - in the day with a headache you are more likely to be irritable/lose focus/screw up. But depression is complex and young adulthood itself is not enough to make a person depressed, maybe a bit vulnerable, but no more than any other time really (my problems started as a child and I know of some who were okay until they were well into their adult lives).
Looking back at your own life, what words of wisdom do you have for teens who are suffering from depression?
Izzy: Looking back now I would have to say first and foremost don't hide, if you think that you are suffering from depression seek out help and support. More people have this issue then you'd believe possible, you're not alone. Moreover I think that it's important to realize that for every dark day there will be some light, find what makes you feel good inside and surround yourself with it. Allow yourself to find balance between the stress in life and having a chance to let your hair down. Lastly I would say to take each day at a time, each moment, each second if need be because trying to attack everything all at once it just becomes so overwhelming that you feel like you will never get out. A teacher once asked "how do you eat an elephant?" the answer "one bite at a time" apply that to your life and you will never fail.
LyraStorm: I'm not great at giving general advice - I think everyone has their own individual issues and solutions, but... I guess it can be helpful to learn to segment you life. During teenage years especially you can have a lot of things happening at once but if you can break that stuff down, dealing with each part on its own, than perhaps it wouldn't be quite so overwhelming. Much easier said than done but definitely do-able.
Any last thoughts?
There will always be those who tell you that you don't measure up, or that there is something "wrong" with you. The key is not to internalize their words because doing that is only adding to your depression and proving them right. Fight hard and stand tall you are beautiful, and unique your life will be what you make it.
I don't know if I have always suffered from depression, I certainly cannot remember a time when things were any different, but I now know that depression doesn't define me. It may be something I have to work around, and I try to take from it what I can (life lessons, just like with any experience), but I will always be my own entity. I need to accommodate the mood swings, the aches and pains, and the way I shut down, etc, but I also need to allow myself to live, do things I like, accomplish stuff.
I've also had to learn the hard way to be patient and not to let others try to dictate what I should do and the time frame that it should occur in. Only I know what is going on inside me, I'm the one who has to deal with the consequences, and so I think it is only fair that I be the one who decides how I live my life (as long as I'm not hurting anyone in the process of course). It may not always be easy, in fact I'm sure it very rarely will be, but I've fought long and hard to be here (even though I didn't want to) and I deserve to see some fruits from my labor.
I feel that I need to keep fighting for all storms can be weathered and though another storm may brew up to replace it there are rays of sunshine in between that can make it all worthwhile.
Thank you, Izzy and LyraStorm for contributing your personal stories here. I am sure you will help a lot of other people who are entering their twenties and want to know how to cope with their depression. I am hoping others will share their stories as well.