Ryan

Age at interview: 19
Age at diagnosis: 13
Gender: Male
Outline:

Ryan’s depression began when he was 8 and entered the foster care system. He was diagnosed with manic depressive disorder and severe anxiety. Therapy, medication, supportive relationships, and expressing himself through writing and music have all been helpful.

Background:

Ryan lives with his girlfriend and her family in a suburb but is looking to move. He works as a janitor. He is White.

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When Ryan entered foster care at age eight, there was a terrible “turning point” in his mental health: he dates his depression as well as anxiety and mania back to that time. When he was young, he would write down his feelings in a journal and this helped. He was finally diagnosed with manic depressive disorder and anxiety when he was twelve or thirteen. At that age he also began therapy for the first time — an experience that was “really hard” and also relieving at the same time. One thing he learned immediately is that his struggles are not as “common place” as he had thought, and that it is possible to not always feel depressed and anxious.

Ryan moved out of foster care and was adopted into a new home, which was a great place to live for a number of years. However, when he was about 18 he hit a new low, with drug use, hopelessness, depression, and self-destructive patterns. Eventually his parents asked him to leave, so he has been staying with his girlfriend and her family. He works as a janitor, and regards his job as a “productive distraction” from thinking about how he is feeling.

Ryan’s girlfriend is “really supportive”, someone he learned over time to trust and who he can now “tell whatever”. He finds medication helpful for his anxiety, but does not feel it addresses the root turmoil of his depression. He also thinks his depression is caused by real feelings and circumstances rather than by a chemical imbalance, so he no longer takes depression medication. Instead he lets his feelings “naturally occur” and “ventilates naturally” with his therapist because for him talking to somebody is “a healthier way of dealing with depression”. Ryan’s guitar playing, rap, and poetry are also all helpful, as long as his investment in these creative pursuits does not cross the border into obsessive.

In the future, Ryan and his girlfriend plan to get a place of their own. He wants other young adults with depression to realize it takes time to get better, but “you are the first step, you’re the only person who can actually seek treatment, seek medication, anything that’s gonna help you as an individual… each case is individual, so you have to find out what works for you.” It’s also critical to realize that depression is not your fault because “it just really opens doors when you realize that.”

 

It's critical, Ryan notes, to find a way to stop blaming yourself for depression.

It's critical, Ryan notes, to find a way to stop blaming yourself for depression.

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So you just have to recognize that, and while you should support, I mean seek people who support you, ya know you shouldn’t, I guess you shouldn’t be super negative to them. Or make it their fault because it’s not, it’s not anybody’s fault, not even your own…

The last thing I said, it’s not your fault. I think I was just really blaming myself and doubting myself for feeling the way that I was. And so once you move past that it just, it just really opens doors.

 

Ryan says it's essential to have someone who can support you without judging.

Ryan says it's essential to have someone who can support you without judging.

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Well I, I don’t think you can do it solely by yourself, I think you need somebody who actually can support you and not judge you basically to say like, “You’re normal, you’re okay”. You know because when you feel like this, you feel like nobody has ever felt like this. No one could possibly be as low as you feel right now. So somebody who understands, maybe somebody who’s been there and then the coping mechanism, a healthy one, you know, like an outlet you know? Whether that’s talking to somebody, whether that’s exercise, whatever. I think there’s positive ways to deal with this still…

 

Ryan's perfectionism makes it hard for him to counter depression with any sense of satisfaction about his accomplishments.

Ryan's perfectionism makes it hard for him to counter depression with any sense of satisfaction about his accomplishments.

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… definitely the self-doubt factor plays in. Because no matter how I’m doing, how good I’m doing I’m always in that perfectionist state of mind and that’s actually self-destructive sometimes without me knowing it. Everybody will be like “this is great [name] this is great.” Ya know, and I’ll be like “no, it’s no where, where I want it.” You know, with my music it’s always been like that, with my writing it’s always been like that. And definitely with my work it’s always been like that. So I think that’s just one of the things that kind of alters my everyday life is that.

 

Ryan describes how his use of other drugs led him to not be prescribed a medication that would have been useful for panic attacks.

Ryan describes how his use of other drugs led him to not be prescribed a medication that would have been useful for panic attacks.

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But I am only using it for panic attacks so, it’s, I’m not addicted to it or anything.

Yeah.

Yeah.

So it’s the occasional thing?

Yeah, it’s the occasional thing, I think they were seeing the other drugs I was doing as, you know, “Oh you’re addicted to those. You’re dependent on those, so you’re gonna be dependent on anything the doctor prescribes you, basically.” So, it, that’s not how it is, but, that’s how they saw it, unfortunately.

 

Ryan says he has experienced cycles of depression his entire life.

Ryan says he has experienced cycles of depression his entire life.

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Yeah I would say it’s, it’s kind of like, it’s kind of like if you’re taking a drug, it’s like you relapse sometimes when you go back into depression after you’ve been happy for a while. That’s kind of how I’ve been dealing with it my entire life. It’s like I’ll go through a cycle, like I’m great for two weeks and the next week I can’t frickin’ sleep.

 

Ryan was placed in foster care when he was eight years old, and continued to struggle with family issues even after being adopted.

Ryan was placed in foster care when he was eight years old, and continued to struggle with family issues even after being adopted.

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I was in foster care, and I got adopted into a new home. And this new home was like, really great up until probably a year ago, once, as I described, I kind of hit rock bottom, with drug usage – and I understand that might have been mostly my fault. But I kind of started getting these feelings that my parents weren’t there for me, and I guess I started feeling hopeless again, and a lot more depressed than I had in my entire life. And I became very self-destructive. I started doing things, like hitting myself, and I didn’t really realize, like, why I was doing it, and I was, I kept telling myself, “I don’t want to do this.” You know [laughter], but it, it just got worse. And so, eventually, my parents were like, “You’re too much to handle.” So they kicked me out. And that’s, the, that’s where I’m at right now.

 

For Ryan, talking with a professional for the first time was a relief, but also hard because it brought up things he had never told anyone before.

For Ryan, talking with a professional for the first time was a relief, but also hard because it brought up things he had never told anyone before.

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Yeah. It was like, it was like I was having to talk about stuff that I had never told anybody about and so it was really hard at first obviously. Like it was relieving at the same time but it was kind of like, it was kind of like sweeping all that dirt out from under the rug I guess is the best way to put it.

Mhmm. Yeah.

A lot of stuff comes forward that even maybe you didn’t actually think about when you were going through it, you know.

Yeah.

But then you reflect on it and you’re like gosh [Laughter]. Yeah.

Mhmm. Mhmm.

But yeah. So it basically made a lot of, a lot of stuff apparent for me.