Leanna

Age at interview: 23
Age at diagnosis: 15
Gender: Female
Outline:

Leanna connects her depression, which began early, to a difficult childhood. She was diagnosed with depression at age 15, and also struggles with some other mental health issues. Therapy has been helpful, as has the support of her husband and the joy of living with cats, rabbits and other pets. She does not take medication.

Background:

Leanna lives with her husband and many pets in an apartment complex in a suburb outside a large town in a rural area. She is Caucasian.

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Leanna’s earliest memory of depression is from when she was seven years old. Because she felt so much sadness, depression and anger in her early childhood, they are feelings she got used to having. She grew up often thinking she was “supposed to be that girl who’s by herself… just being quiet and sad and… disappearing into my own little world”. As she got older, she started missing school, stealing, and having outbursts — the “typical troubled child thing”, but her mother was an alcoholic and did not pick up on what was going on or have the capacity to help.

When Leanna was eleven, she ended up in foster care for a while and then moved to live with her father, who she didn’t know well at all and whose home was “not a good environment either”. Her mother also died around that very difficult time in her life. She got an official diagnosis of depression at age fifteen, and was also diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and PTSD. Her high school years were tough ones, full of running away, unhealthy social and sexual relationships, and a suicide attempt.

Things got easier for Leanna when she got older and moved out on her own. She got married, and worked at a lot of different jobs like sales and telemarketing and caregiving for other people who need help, which is her favorite work. She is in school part time finishing a second associate’s degree, and plans a future in horticulture – though she would “stay in college forever if it didn’t cost so damn much”. Her husband is an enormous help; he also has some mental health issues and they have figured out when to “leave each other alone and… [when to] work through it together”. Leanna’s many pets make her happy.

Therapy has been very helpful for Leanna, once she found the right therapist. It is sometimes a struggle to pay for it, but she persists. She also self-medicates with legal drugs to keep herself “calm and happy”. It has been very useful for Leanna to realize that depression is “just a reaction to what’s happened” in her life, and that “you can’t choose your childhood. You can’t choose who your parents are, the situations that you’re brought up in, so just try to make the best out of it.” She hopes other young adults with depression will focus on learning to live with it each day, and will realize that “coming out” and telling other people makes things easier. Researching on the internet and listening to other people’s stories can also help, because you realize you are not alone with your struggles when you “read a forum full of people’s experiences with the same thing that you, you deal with on an everyday basis”.

 

After a bout of intense sadness and crying, Leanna feels the numbness of depression descend. This is the scariest part of being depressed.

After a bout of intense sadness and crying, Leanna feels the numbness of depression descend. This is the scariest part of being depressed.

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I usually felt a lot, like it was like a nice comfortable numbness afterward, of just like how, what I would just think of someone who is like on hard drugs like heroin would feel, like just like a calm, nothing can affect me now. Like now I can actually just go through my day like a cement block, and that’s terrible because that numbness from the depression is something else in itself honestly. The numbness is like the scariest thing that I think my friends and family have witnessed with me. It’s just that literally where is, where is she? Because that’s, that’s her body, but that’s not her.

 

Leanna talks about how her negative thoughts can lead to panic attacks.

Leanna talks about how her negative thoughts can lead to panic attacks.

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I feel like the depression gets me to where I start questioning a lot of things and kind of like how my mindset is. I’m very pessimistic in that state and I’ll kind of just send myself like a mental self-sabotage spiral of just, doubt, self-doubt and it just sends me into that panic attack. Because then I start to feel really small and just scared about this whole life thing, it really starts freaking me out.

 

Journaling is still too difficult and emotional for Leanna because it opens a floodgate of emotion.

Journaling is still too difficult and emotional for Leanna because it opens a floodgate of emotion.

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I’ve tried journaling, but something about just like, writing the words. I kind of felt like how saying your experiences and how you feel, like how it just makes you like actually cry. Like every time I start journaling I just start crying because there’s just like so much, like I can’t slowly let the floodgate open, it just crashes down. It’s just too much. Maybe someday I can work myself up to that, but for now it’s kind of just like small little mental journal snippets in my head, yeah.

 

Leanna links her depression both to neglect in childhood and to self-destructive behaviors in her teenage years.

Leanna links her depression both to neglect in childhood and to self-destructive behaviors in her teenage years.

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I realized that like with my depression, that a lot of insecurities came from not really having the parental unit that I needed growing up. I started becoming insecure. So, to fill up that hole with the depression, I was very promiscuous throughout middle school and high school, early college years, until about age nineteen, is when I decided that wasn’t a good way. It wasn’t making me feel any better. It was making me feel worse, and I was just like “what am I doing?”

 

A partner who also struggled with emotional problems offered Leanna a source of understanding, support, and insight.

A partner who also struggled with emotional problems offered Leanna a source of understanding, support, and insight.

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I told him about that shortly, like, before we got engaged. I just let him know like, I have these mood swings, I have these, you know, certain things about me that, if you’re going, you know, we’re going to be married, we’re going to live together, you’re going to need to know, because we’re probably going to have some problems here and there we’re going to have to work through … and, and he understands. He’s a, he actually has PTSD too, but from, from Afghanistan, so, it’s a different, it’s a whole different … We actually help each other, in a weird way, you would think that wouldn’t work out, it would be like, too, like butting heads and stuff, but we actually find a way to like help each other out with it and work through it together because we can tell when we’re triggering each other and like that’s when we just, leave each other alone, let it cool down and stuff and, work through it together.

 

To her own amazement, Leanna found she would sleep the whole day away, missing class and reversing day and night.

To her own amazement, Leanna found she would sleep the whole day away, missing class and reversing day and night.

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…but I would just not go to class, because I just felt like, I would just look outside be like, “You know? I just, I just kind of just want to sleep this whole day away.” [laughs] And I would, just sleep the whole day away. It was kind of amazing, but then I’d be up at night, and, you know, everyone else is asleep, so then I’d just be alone. The hell am I gonna…? I would just walk around at night, by myself. It was really, yeah, really actually rather, like, depressing how I would just – I still kind of do, to this day, walk around just by myself. But now I’m not depressed, now I’m just like, “Oh, chilling by myself.” But, back then I was, kind of just moping around, just wallowing in my depression, letting it, just kind of, letting it overcome me.

 

Leanna says her rabbit is 'nice and chubby, so it's a good squeeze.'

Leanna says her rabbit is 'nice and chubby, so it's a good squeeze.'

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I like to like, my rabbit right there. I like to grab her and hug her. She’s nice and chubby, so it’s a good squeeze. Just, I don’t know, it just makes me feel happy. It’s just, animals just have this way of like, you know that they can tell how you’re feeling and they want to help and it’s really nice. Like when I’m sad, my cat, she knows. She’ll come and rrrr and purr.

 

Leanna describes how working with schizophrenic patients gave her a sense of empathy and happiness.

Leanna describes how working with schizophrenic patients gave her a sense of empathy and happiness.

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I mostly worked with schizophrenic patients and they, they would entertain me every day. They, they would, they’re special. I would try to remember I too have technically a mental disorder as well and respect them and I’m not going to you know, joke, you know, they’re stereotypical. They’re making up crazy stories and stuff. It was pretty entertaining, just dealing with them and I liked taking care of them, I loved cooking for them and just watching these like old people with schizophrenia eat just made me so happy.