Here is the second in my series of depression profiles. Again, the questions are mine, the answers are theirs. Nothing is edited. I want to share other people's stories too because, well, in my mind the more perspectives we add the better. If you would be willing to be profiled e-mail me at lolapalooza AT hotmail DOT com. Please put "depression profile" in the subject line so I know you're not a spammer. (I'm happy to include stories of women who are not mothers, of men, and people who have only had short bouts of depression. Honestly, EVERY STORY COUNTS!)
Name (has been changed): Jer
Occupation: SAHM and sometimes Mary Kay consultant
1. Have you ever been officially diagnosed? How do you classify your depression? (i.e. post partum depression, anxiety/depression, clinical depression, etc.)
I have never been officially diagnosed. I believe I had post partum depression after my first was born. The other time was my senior year in high school, and I think that time was circumstantial more than anything.
2. How long have you been depressed?
I’ve always been a really emotionally intense person. I can remember even as a child that often my feelings felt too big to fit in my small body and I couldn’t—or didn’t know how—to contain them. I think I will always feel that way to some degree, though I’ve learned to temper my emotions a little as I have gotten older. I don’t really consider myself depressed anymore, though I still go to therapy occasionally for what I call “maintenance work.”
3. What kind of treatments have you pursued?
Mostly therapy. In high school I tried Prozac. I know this sounds really cliché, but I try getting outside myself (for example, making friends, keeping friends, serving my family and others, etc.) on a regular basis. Also, doing my best at doing what’s right, so there’s less things to beat myself up with guilt about—I make enough reasons to feel guilty as it is. [Note from Laura: Jer! It's not cliche to try getting outside yourself. One reason we talk about service so much in our Church is because it's a true principle--it does make us feel better!]
4. How have those treatments worked for you?
Therapy has been great. I love it and would recommend it to anyone, depressed or not. I just really like having that objective third party to bounce ideas off, and also a safe place where I can spout off any kinds of emotional distress at any level, yet know it is confidential and I won’t be judged for it. In high school I didn’t stay on Prozac long enough to find out if it worked for me. I really do think that surrounding myself with upbeat people really helps me. I’ve also found that it’s a fine balance between trying to do my best, without being too hard on myself. If I can find that balance and stick with it, I think it also helps me.
5. How do you feel your depression has affected your spirituality?
It varies depending on the time in life. Right after I had my daughter, I was so depressed that I had a hard time believing that God loved me, or anyone for that matter. I didn’t pray or read the scriptures. I was so low that I lost a lot of perspective. But as things got better, I think my testimony was strengthened as I became capable of feeling love again. Almost like I had to know what it was like not to feel God’s love to appreciate its importance in my life. I think ultimately I have been strengthened spiritually by my struggles.
6. What do you wish other people understood about depression?
I wish people could sympathize with depression (or mental illness in general) the same way they do with any other physical illness. I sometimes feel that people blame depression on the person, as if the depressed person chooses to be that way, though they would never do that for other physical ailments that are less taboo.
Thank you so much, Jer, for sharing your story. I know there are people out there who will identify with your story and be strengthened by it. You are awesome!