Natasha

Age at interview: 20
Age at diagnosis: 19
Gender: Female
Outline:

Natasha (age 18) grew up in a small-town religious family. At college she was lonely and started skipping classes. Upon failing a class, she was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety. Medication and counseling, as well as having friends, have helped.

Background:

Natasha is a student at a large university who lives in a dorm room on campus. She is African American.

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Natasha did not really suspect she had depression until entering college, but looking back, she realizes she’s had depression “for a long time.” In middle school, she remembers feeling “sort of down, like weighted down all the time”. Being on the soccer and track teams, “always around like friends and family,” and having “a pretty stable social group” helped during middle and high school. But moving from a small high school to large university “was a really rough adjustment and I think that exacerbated my problems”.

Reaching college, she did not make many friends and “was feeling down a lot”. By winter quarter, she was “really, really down and missing classes.” Failing a class made her realize that she had a problem, “because I had never like failed a class or a test or anything ever in my life”. A counselor at the psychiatric center on campus gave a “preliminary diagnosis” of depression and social anxiety disorder. She was referred to a psychiatrist who gave her the formal diagnosis and started taking Zoloft, switched to Prozac, and now to the highest dose of Wellbutrin, which is “working pretty well”. When she forgets to take her medication for a week or so, she gets “super, super down again”. Counseling was also “really helpful …I hadn’t ever really talked about my problems with depression or also my social anxiety”.

Natasha says depression and social anxiety disorder “affect each other directly all the time.” With social anxiety, “I’m not super comfortable meeting new people, that can also like trigger a depressive state”. Her triggers for depression include excessive stress, anxiety and isolation, “like if I haven’t seen my friends or family in awhile”.

Being “queer” was another factor that “was getting me down a lot”, she says. Although her mother is accepting, her father is “the most sort of Conservative Christian of the two” so they have not discussed that subject yet. Connecting with queer people and people who also have mental illnesses is “a good thing” that helps her be more open to new people. Natasha says she’s “managing pretty well now”. Her medications are under control, and she is feeling a lot better about her “social life and myself in general so I’m more in a calm sort of stable state so I don’t get super down a lot.” Overall, finding people “I’m like really, really comfortable with has been the most important part.”

 

Natasha finds comfort in friends who understand without judging, and who provide opportunities for low stress socializing.

Natasha finds comfort in friends who understand without judging, and who provide opportunities for low stress socializing.

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It’s been good, really good. A lot of them are people I can like talk to about my mental illnesses, which is nice because then they like understand what’s happening. Like if I don’t talk to them for like a week or two or if I like haven’t been out. They’re not like, they’re not judgey and angry about it, they understand…

Yeah one of my friends, we like, we’re the same age and we do a lot of the same projects together so whenever we have projects or whenever I’m feeling like not super great I can like go to her apartment and hang out and it’s like low stress, low anxiety and it sort of gets me feeling a lot better. And we do this thing, it’s probably not healthy but we will like camp out in the [building] that you were at, like we did that last quarter for maybe two days during finals week. We were like hanging out in there watching movies and doing work and that was a lot of fun so, sort of having a place to go and people to go to.

 

Natasha describes how being depressed changes her sleep patterns.

Natasha describes how being depressed changes her sleep patterns.

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I guess, usually when I’m like feeling like very bad and depressed I don’t sleep normal hours or like, healthy hours. I’m like up all night and then I sleep through the day. So, I would like set my alarm to get up for class I would ignore it and go back to sleep and then I would wake up and feel bad that I missed class and I would get even more down and then it’s just sort of like a spiraling kind of thing but you feel bad about missing class so you stay in and feel bad and then you start missing stuff and it piles up and you feel even worse and worse, so yeah. I guess when it starts it’s like very difficult to stop it. If I don’t stop it quickly it, like, gets out of control.

 

Natasha describes how bad social interactions trigger her depression.

Natasha describes how bad social interactions trigger her depression.

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I think, the sort of social anxiety thing where I’m like not super comfortable meeting new people that can also, like, trigger a depressive state, for me at least. Like having a bad interaction with someone, having like an awkward conversation or encounter with someone, I would feel like bad about that throughout the day andit would sort of, I guess like having those encounters over and over and over, would, they sort of get me down and if it happens enough, it sort of triggers one of the badder, longer cycles.

 

When Natasha could no longer follow her parents' faith, it created a rift that intensified her depression.

When Natasha could no longer follow her parents' faith, it created a rift that intensified her depression.

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I was brought up like, what is the specific term? Some sort of Christian, like a small group of Christian and some time during early high school I started to like not identify with those values but my parents were still making me go to church so I had a sort of antagonistic relationship with religion for a while. Now it’s sort of, I guess, agnostic I guess. I don’t really know but like I don’t know but I can’t say that it doesn’t exists because I don’t know so I think it’s only an interacting thing with my depression as my parents are concerned because they’re super religious and I’m not so, not being able to relate to them on that level, yeah. It’s sort of depressing at times.

 

For Natasha, depression is constant rather than cyclical.

For Natasha, depression is constant rather than cyclical.

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It’s sort of, I guess it’s just like I don’t think it’s really cyclical. It’s sort of a constant thing for me. And like back in high school it was a constant that I didn’t really recognize what it was so it was just like a feeling of like sadness but not knowing why. And like now it’s like still a sadness, a sort of a down-ness, but I know what it is and so it’s not, it’s like easier to get myself out of it.

 

Natasha found treatment readily available in college, but was disappointed that only the first few visits were free, since she was unable to afford additional treatment.

Natasha found treatment readily available in college, but was disappointed that only the first few visits were free, since she was unable to afford additional treatment.

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I like started realizing, “oh this is probably a problem, I should talk to someone about it.” So I went to the psychiatric center on campus and talked to them about it and the counselor there sort of gave me like a preliminary diagnosis, thinking that I might have depression and also social anxiety disorder and he sent me to like a more licensed psychiatrist … and he formally diagnosed me. So, yeah, since then I’ve been taking antidepressants that have been working really well. I think it’s seven free sessions for you to sort of figure out what’s going on and then after that, you can’t really go anymore so that was a bit of an issue, because at the time, I couldn’t really afford to like get an off-campus psychiatrist, but other than that bit like, getting in and talking with someone wasn’t very difficult.

 

Natasha discusses the process of talking with her doctor about how she was feeling on medication in order to find the medication that worked best for her.

Natasha discusses the process of talking with her doctor about how she was feeling on medication in order to find the medication that worked best for her.

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I guess I didn’t know anything about medications when I started out so he just picked one that he thought would work for me and it wouldn’t be like too crazy to start out with but it’s really, I guess it’s more me deciding things than him like what I feel is working. I’ll like tell him how I’m feeling on it and then he won’t, I was worried that he would be like pushing things on me but he’s really open about sort of switching up medications if something’s not working or like trying different combinations. Yeah, so I would try something I think for four or five, four to six weeks I would say and then come back and check in to see how that’s working. If it’s not working switch to something else, take it for a while and see what’s going on and, yeah. We did that for a while until we found what I’m taking now.

What do you think about that kind of negotiating with your doctor to…?

Yeah, I think that’s a good thing, I think it’s important to sort of be able to like talk to them freely whenever something’s not working or whenever something is working, being comfortable I think is important.