Casey

Age at interview: 22
Age at diagnosis: 15
Gender: Male
Outline:

Casey’s depression began in high school. It continues to be an issue in a cyclical way. College was a supportive environment where he began coming out as transgender. Therapy, friends and a supportive family have been helpful. He tried but discontinued medication.

Background:

Casey grew up in a rural place but now lives in a city with a roommate. He recently graduated from college and is considering graduate school while also looking for work. He is White.

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Casey grew up in a rural environment on the East coast. His first experience with depression was at age 15. A particular moment when he was unable to complete a school exam stands out for him as the dividing line between thinking he was just having usual feelings of “eh, high school sucks” and realizing “something was not right in a major way.” With the support of his parents, he soon began therapy — a step that felt normal since Casey’s father is himself a therapist. Casey’s therapist offered him medication, but he didn’t take it because at that age it felt to him like doing so would be conceding he could not heal “on his own” and would somehow be “cheating the system of life.”

Depression was part of Casey’s life in cycles — sometimes much better, sometimes worse — for the rest of high school and through his years at college. Because high school was “really not working,” Casey and his parents agreed on a plan for him to graduate a year early. At college, where there was significant dialogue and openness about mental health issues, things got somewhat better. Casey also began understanding himself as gender queer once he was away at school, and later began a public gender transition. He hopes this transition will make his depression better, but is not yet sure what impact it will have.

As he grew into adulthood, Casey became increasingly aware of things that seem to make his depression better or worse. Having supportive friends around is a major “thumbs up.” Therapy is also useful, as is being in urban settings where it is easier to break through depression-related isolation and get out to the store or into a social environment. Being far from social supports, or in places where there is less diversity and acceptance, can be a trigger for depression. The same is true for going home to the rural house he grew up in, despite the close relationship he maintains with his parents.

As a young adult Casey tried medication, but found it made him feel “zoned out.” He lives with a roommate in a large city where it is easy to get out and walk, is looking for full-time work, and plans to go to graduate school. He has an avid interest in film making and in capturing people’s stories for good public uses. He has many periods of feeling fine or even “spectacular,” and others more overshadowed by mild depression. He wants other young adults with depression to know that people everywhere are having similar experiences, and also that friends and support groups can be “really super systems” — sometimes for talking about problems, and sometimes just to say “hey friend, pizza today?” He wishes he had been less resistant to medication when he was younger, and wonders if it might have helped has he tried it.

 

Life circumstances were generally pretty good for Casey, so he thinks genetics and biology are likely explanations for his depression.

Life circumstances were generally pretty good for Casey, so he thinks genetics and biology are likely explanations for his depression.

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I have always assumed possibly because it’s, it feels better as an explanation for me but also possibly because I think it’s probably true, that it’s like genetic and like naturally occurring, because I think it just doesn’t, for me at least it doesn’t make sense the way I some, the way that when I’m feeling depressed that I like react to… I think depression doesn’t make sense as a reaction to my external circumstances, because I’m generally pretty lucky nothing terrible has happened to me.

Several people pointed out that their family’s history with depression had been hidden from them. One reason people gave for this secrecy is that depression is stigmatized in their culture, and therefore it is not spoken about much or at all. Another is that their parents wanted to protect them from knowing about this history, or were simply trying to conceal their own depression.

 

Casey worries that if he tells other people about his depression it will exhaust them.

Casey worries that if he tells other people about his depression it will exhaust them.

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I feel like, I’m a very, kind of private person, in general, I have my like, my emotions or my understandings of things and I, I tend to keep them to myself until they’re fully formed because it can take me awhile to like figure out what they mean to me. And I think this is partially because, like, I realize, on some level, that if I were to, in these periods of depression, be like, “Here’s how I’m doing, here’s what’s up,” like, it would just be exhausting for the people I was near and that — is, is hard, because there are some ways that I would really like to be more, like, like, like, I don’t know, like open with my feelings and communicative and, and whatnot.

 

For Casey, being present in his body can make him more vulnerable to depressed feelings.

For Casey, being present in his body can make him more vulnerable to depressed feelings.

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I like, don’t want to be having sex I don’t want to be having, you know? But also I don’t want to be not doing things that I would otherwise enjoy, and I might actually enjoy once I began, because of depression. And that makes that very difficult to, to navigate for me, especially because, I don’t know, if, if it’s decent, at least it requires you, to actually be like present in your body a certain amount, which, can be hard and scary for me in times of depression because like, things can feel really scary if I’m present in my body and things can feel like too much and too, you know? And so it’s just a whole fuckin’ mess. Just sucks [laughs].

 

Casey felt less alone when he went to college, where there was significant public discussion about mental illness.

Casey felt less alone when he went to college, where there was significant public discussion about mental illness.

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So I went to, I went to like a, very kind of like, progressive, liberal arts school, and there was a, a pretty large dialogue there surrounding like mental health and that like, it exists, and everyone has it, whether or not it’s going great, and that there’s like a huge stigma around it and you should be able to talk about it. And I like, so I would like literally just like see posters about this. I knew people who talked about having mental illnesses .. and, and like things that like, things like I deal with but also things like, I think probably way harder than what I deal with. You know? And were like, this doesn’t, you know, make me somehow like less than, or whatever this is, just like a thing that is in my life … and I was kind of like, “hmm.” And I never like, I never looked at any of the like student groups or whatever but I think it really changed the way that I thought about things, just to be around kind of like, that dialogue in the, in the air almost.

 

Casey discusses the unique challenges that trans people face when attempting to do activities that could lessen depressive symptoms.

Casey discusses the unique challenges that trans people face when attempting to do activities that could lessen depressive symptoms.

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…Here’s another very specific trans and depression issue for people who, like me, like wear like a binder – like flatten my chest – that is painful and I, you know, I do it like safely, wear like the appropriate size but you’re not supposed to wear it for a ton of time a day and that like, that’s a huge barrier being like if I want to go outside to not experience dysphoria I have to wear this thing but it’s summer and it’s disgusting and it makes it like it’s hotter and it’s less easy to breathe and it’s like, so that’s another like, very, very annoying barrier in dealing, dealing with things.

Mhmm. Right

I remember last time…

Right because it comes into conflict some of your other strategies like of like “go take a walk outside” or keep moving or yeah?

Yeah or even just like, you know there’s also been the thing of I should like I’ll go for this walk but I shouldn’t stay out like for a ton of time because like I don’t know where in that area there’s like a bathroom I can use without being plausibly either in, in, at worst, in danger, at best, looked at as scance. You know? So that’s another kind of area that like should I go to this event tonight? Who knows?

 

Casey felt less alone when he got to college, where there was significant public discussion about mental illness.

Casey felt less alone when he got to college, where there was significant public discussion about mental illness.

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So I went to like a very kind of like, progressive liberal arts school and there was a, a pretty large dialogue there surrounding like mental health and that like, it exists, and everyone has it, whether or not it’s going great, and that there’s a huge stigma around it and you should be able to talk about it. And I like, so I would like literally just like see posters about this. I knew people who talked about having mental illnesses and like things that like, things like I deal with but also things like I think probably way harder more than I deal with. And we’re like this doesn’t, you know, make me somehow like less than, or whatever this is, just like a thing that is in my life and I was kind of like hmm. And I never like looked at any of the student groups or whatever but I think it really changed the way that I thought about things just to be around kind of like that dialogue in the air almost.

 

Casey doesn't want his future children to suffer depression, but at the same time he wants to affirm the value of his own life by remaining open to parenthood.

Casey doesn't want his future children to suffer depression, but at the same time he wants to affirm the value of his own life by remaining open to parenthood.

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I don’t want to pass this on—it’s shitty. It’s not fun. [Laughs] But also like I don’t wanna like, I don’t know, kind of like cheapen my experience as a human person in the world by being like, this thing makes it unworth, you know, being, being alive about. Because I don’t feel that way, I very much enjoy being alive. I really, really like moving through the world as me and this, I had, I have a friend, I’m actually seeing this weekend, which will be nice, who, who struggles with, with depression in a way that is more intense than, than I do and I remember we were talking about this at some point – I think first year of college – and I remember—I don’t know how it came up—but I remember the question was like, “Would you like if you like had the option to not would you not? And I was like, “Fuck it, yes! This is awful! I would really rather not!” and he was like “No, like this is really, really part of who I am.” And I remember being sort of like horrified by that being like “Dude, like, why? What is? Why would you not trade this?” And I do think it’s, it’s more integral to his personality than it is to mine because I think it’s harder for him. But so I, so like part of my instinct is like “No, I should not have biological children!” But also like I don’t know, I, I don’t want to be existing in the mindset that my way of being in the world is not worth continuing.

 

Casey would like to know if he will keep experiencing depression, but figures he had better be prepared either way.

Casey would like to know if he will keep experiencing depression, but figures he had better be prepared either way.

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When will it end? Will it end? Can it please end? Really, really I would want to know if there and my guess is, greatest expert or no, they would not have an answer for me but I would really like to know if this is something that I will be experiencing my whole life or if there is a chance that I will not and if it is, fuck man, like how can I like, how can I best deal with that and make kind of long-term plans because I don’t long-term-plan about it and if it’s not, how can I get to that point because that, unlike my friend, I think that would be ideal. And I do not think it is, I think it shaped me but I don’t think it’s necessary for it to continue to be part of who I am.