Violet

Age at interview: 23
Age at diagnosis: 22
Gender: Female
Outline:

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.

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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”.

 

Violet felt different from her peers and an underlying sadness even as a young child.

Violet felt different from her peers and an underlying sadness even as a young child.

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Ok I think that I have felt different than a lot of my peers for almost as long as I can remember. Even in young childhood everyone was very happy and go lucky and I had this, not that I didn’t have moments of happiness but I always had this gnawing, underlying sense of sadness. there was I always had these very deep darker thoughts and when I would ask you know friends that were my age whether they had ever thought about that, the thought you know had never crossed their mind. And I found that so odd, why do I feel this way when nobody else does, nobody else has ever even had the concept of that before.

 

Violet says if you open up with other people about depression, you may find many of them have similar experiences.

Violet says if you open up with other people about depression, you may find many of them have similar experiences.

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Some of my friends also have depression, I didn’t know until I came out and said it and they were like “Really you too?” like “I’ve been on Prozac for this many years.” and I was like “Really?” you know, just to know that they had struggled and I didn’t even know it. You know and they didn’t judge me at all for it.

 

An outside perspective helps Violet escape cycles of negative thought.

An outside perspective helps Violet escape cycles of negative thought.

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I mean I know that not everybody can have a partner at the time when they need it, you know it doesn’t just happen that way but to have anybody, a friend, a parent, anybody that can just remind you to just take a deep breath you know “Give yourself a break, cut yourself some slack,” I think that’s been one, a very big thing in helping me realize, “Ok let me just take a step back here and before I get myself all worked up, before I’m beating myself up, let me just remember that you know everybody has made a mistake at some point.”

 

Violet found it necessary to make many changes in her life to start on the path to healing.

Violet found it necessary to make many changes in her life to start on the path to healing.

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I essentially had to over haul my entire life because everything that I was doing was bringing me down, all of it was negative, there wasn’t you know very little in my life that wasn’t contributing to my depression. You know and it, when you’re in it you don’t think that way, for me anyway, I never thought, I’m doing this you know to myself but really so many of my choices were keeping me there. I was not you know maybe it started as, some people say it’s genetic some people say it’s hormones, I don’t know but my, my life choices were making it harder for me, you know it was just making it worse. So the over haul of my life, it was certainly very hard there were moments when my depression felt worse. It felt like am I doing the right thing I was, my moments of self-doubt were very low, you know I felt, I felt like I must certainly be doing the wrong thing I must you know, I’m crazy for doing this for deciding to change my whole life in a month you know to think I was ever going to get away from it. I thought there was a period of time when I said to myself “no matter what I do I’m always going to feel like this,” and that was a very low feeling thinking that. But I did start to feel better I kept on it and I did start to feel better.

 

When she was young, Violet's religion led her to doubt herself, feelings that persist to this day.

When she was young, Violet's religion led her to doubt herself, feelings that persist to this day.

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I grew up as a roman catholic I had when I was younger a very ingrained idea of sin. I do think that I no, I no longer practice anymore. I don’t have any religious association, but when I was younger I very much used to guilt myself about “oh my gosh, you yelled at your sister you did this terrible sin, I have to go confess,” you know it, it very much, I don’t know if it necessarily contributed to anything but I do think that the overall feeling of guilt leads to negative self-worth. It makes you feel like you’re not doing well enough that you’re doing something wrong.

 

Violet keeps her depression from her daughter to protect her.

Violet keeps her depression from her daughter to protect her.

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I have, overall, made a great effort to hide any sadness that I have been experiencing. You know, childhood and innocence is just so fleeting. I’m, I’m so happy to see her happy all the time that I would never want to, you know, dull that. You know she should be care free, she should be just, you know bright, with excitement for everything, I, I never want her to be negatively influenced by what I am going through. So I’ve always, you know, waited to cry until she was going to go to bed or, you know, went to the bathroom for a minute to regain my composure, you know asked, any, anything that I could do so that she would not witness that.

 

Violet says it's critical to respect that depression creates limits on how many things can happen each day, and to create firm boundaries so as not to stretch that limit.

Violet says it's critical to respect that depression creates limits on how many things can happen each day, and to create firm boundaries so as not to stretch that limit.

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I need to realize that ok some things are going to have to go until tomorrow. You know just very more of an acceptance, you know, that you can’t do everything, has helped me cope a lot, to, just, you know, understand that some things are physically impossible you know, that you can’t physically do everything. And again with the affirmations I’ll just tell myself “ok some of it’s going to have to wait until tomorrow I just can’t do it today, you know and I just need to accept that.” And I think that practice really has helped with that, even things like scheduling wise; I know that I can only schedule up to three things in one day and after that I’m just asking, for myself to, to trigger, to be unhappy, to be stressing myself out but I think that takes time for everyone to learn their own personal limit.

 

Lists help Violet to be proactive and counteract the way depression can make her feel out of control.

Lists help Violet to be proactive and counteract the way depression can make her feel out of control.

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Also, I’m very much a list person, it helps keep me organized, it helps make, it makes me feel proactive that I am, that I am attempting to at least, at least attempting, to organize myself, to keep myself on point and that has helped with, it has helped with my depression in the way that it makes me feel like I am taking steps to control it I guess, to control my situation. I’m very much when I have like a lack of control I notice it’s a trigger. I feel like things are out of my hands, I get overwhelmed, suddenly it’s giving me thoughts of “I can’t do this,” you know, “I, I’m not ready for this, I’m not equipped to do this, I can’t do this.”, so take, making the list, it really kind of paces myself the way I need to be that gives me thoughts of I’m getting this done, I’m doing it at my own pace, you know I’m not going to forget to do anything because I have this list and I can check it off as a I go…

 

Violet says a bad diet triggers her depression, and eating well makes it better.

Violet says a bad diet triggers her depression, and eating well makes it better.

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… the diets of people I think are a very big trigger, eating tons of fast food, tons of processed food, preservatives, I mean god knows what. But again we don’t really know where a lot of our food source comes from I notice an absolute difference when I, I’m a vegetarian so I’m eating mostly fruits and vegetables you know I eat some grains but to have fresh food, I very rarely eat processed food at all you know even cereals I barely eat you know. So fresh fruit and vegetables it makes an overwhelming difference it really does to eat to have something that is, makes your body feel clean, it makes your mind feel clean and that’s what I connect them with, when my body feels clean my mind feels clean. I feel a clarity that I really do link to eating crappy food, I do. I, in high school I mean I wasn’t cooking because you know what teenager cooks for themselves but I was eating a lot of fast food and I really do think that it weighed my body down in a way not that I like gained any significant weight or anything but it made me feel sluggish, I didn’t have any energy which again linked into feeling bad you know, in general. Also like high sugar diets.

 

Violet says her depression kept her in an abusive relationship until her daughter got worried and she decided not to 'let her think that this is what her life should be when she grows up.'

Violet says her depression kept her in an abusive relationship until her daughter got worried and she decided not to 'let her think that this is what her life should be when she grows up.'

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My partner, emotionally, mentally abused me and I would feel low, and I just stayed because I felt so low, I felt I couldn’t possibly do this, you know, on my own. I couldn’t, you know, have my daughter on my own. It wasn’t until, it wasn’t until my daughter started witnessing and commenting on things, you know, “Why are you crying, why does daddy say those things to you, why aren’t you happy?” That I said, “Alright this is enough.”

 

Tensions from depression during Violet's teen years had strained some and torn other family bonds.

Tensions from depression during Violet's teen years had strained some and torn other family bonds.

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My depression has affected my relationships with other members of my family, for sure. My, specifically, my mother and my sister. Because there are periods of time, especially in high school when I was using drugs, that my mood swings were all over the place, it was very unpredictable and I’m pretty sure I was actually probably nasty. I was just very, I was just angry, I was mean. I, couldn’t see anyone else’s point of view, I was probably very selfish. So I’m sure that my depression and mental instability contributed to that and I’m sure that them, not knowing really what was going on, you know, I’m sure they blame me for that. You know, our relationship has severely deteriorated over the years. My sister and I don’t speak what-so-ever anymore.

My mom and I still do speak, but I think there’s a lot of grudge there. You know, I don’t know if we’ll ever truly forgive each other for things that were said, you know? And, I do think that that boils down to the fact that, I was miserable and I wasn’t getting help and I didn’t really know what was going on.

 

Having a partner who was depressed was hard for Violet, but it also made her address how depression affected her own relationships with others.

Having a partner who was depressed was hard for Violet, but it also made her address how depression affected her own relationships with others.

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Ok I think that I have felt different than a lot of my peers for almost as long as I can remember. Even in young childhood everyone was very happy and go lucky and I had this, not that I didn’t have moments of happiness but I always had this gnawing, underlying sense of sadness. there was I always had these very deep darker thoughts and when I would ask you know friends that were my age whether they had ever thought about that, the thought you know had never crossed their mind. And I found that so odd, why do I feel this way when nobody else does, nobody else has ever even had the concept of that before.

 

School assignments provided a structure that helped Violet overcome the lost motivation that comes with depression.

School assignments provided a structure that helped Violet overcome the lost motivation that comes with depression.

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I think that the structure of school actually helps me, I personally have a personality that likes structure. I look for it. I look for routine. So that, not only that, but I very much, I like to be intellectually stimulated, I want to learn new things, I … it actually genuinely brings me joy to learn about something that I don’t know about, not all classes are interesting, but, I do think that it has helped me, it’s given me something to focus on. It’s given me, what did my counselor say? Clear obtainable goals, you know, that I will feel great about when I achieve and everyone needs something to work towards.

 

Violet reduced the pressure of college by going part-time.

Violet reduced the pressure of college by going part-time.

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…it’s taken me, you know, 5 years because, like I said, once I recognized that I couldn’t, I couldn’t over work myself like that, I said, “I’m going to take it easy.” And it took me longer, but it’s done and I’m happier, you know, that I didn’t rush through it and I didn’t, you know, over work myself because, that wasn’t making, you know, it wasn’t making me happy to do so. I am going to continue school, my education, I’m going farther for my bachelors and I’m going to take it one or two classes at a time …

 

Violet needs to manage her time very carefully to prevent stress, which is a trigger for depression to recur.

Violet needs to manage her time very carefully to prevent stress, which is a trigger for depression to recur.

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The overwhelming feeling that happens when I realize that I have X amount of things I need to get done and only Y amount of hours … it very, it, it does, it really lowers my mood. I start to feel very anxious. That’s a, that’s a big thing, I get very anxious just knowing that I have so much I need to get done. You know, I need this much for bills and I can only work this many hours. Or I need to get A-B-C done and I only have this one hour to do it in, you know, time management has been super key. I mean, when you’re raising a child, in general, I’m sure that’s coming into play. To be a student, and working and raising a child, I think that that stress, in general, probably, contributed to my depression – like, when I was a new mom. Now, I’ve had time to adjust to it, I, I know the ups and downs …

 

An outside perspective helps Violet escape spirals of negative thought.

An outside perspective helps Violet escape spirals of negative thought.

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I mean I know that not everybody can have a partner at the time when they need it you know it doesn’t just happen that way but to have anybody, a friend, a parent, anybody that can just remind you to just take a deep breath you know “give yourself a break cut yourself some slack,” I think that’s been one, a very big thing in helping me realize, ok just let me just take a step back here and before I get myself all worked up before I’m beating myself up, let me just remember that you know everybody has made a mistake at some point.

 

Violet says medication helped her feel better than she had in her entire life.

Violet says medication helped her feel better than she had in her entire life.

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I continue to take my medication, you know the medication did take about a month to get in your system and after that I was, I felt amazing, I was like “I cannot believe that this is how I was supposed to feel my entire life but I’ve never felt this way before,” I’ve never felt like that cloud wasn’t hanging over me anymore and I finally felt it. I was like this is, I was overjoyed.

 

Violet's devotion to her daughter has repeatedly motivated her to change her life for the better and address her depression.

Violet's devotion to her daughter has repeatedly motivated her to change her life for the better and address her depression.

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It wasn’t until, it wasn’t until my daughter started witnessing and commenting on things, you know “Why are you crying, Why does daddy say those things to you? Why aren’t you happy?” I said “Alright this is enough.” because I’m not going to let, you know the same catalyst that while I was pregnant I wanted to be changed. I wanted to be aware for her, was the same thing that pushed me more recently. Because I wasn’t going to let her think that this is normal, I wasn’t going to let her think that this is how she should be, that this is what her life should be when she grows up. And I started, I went back to counseling I left her father, you know I moved back in with my parents and I made some significant changes to my lifestyle.