Sara

Age at interview: 26
Age at diagnosis: 12
Gender: Female
Outline:

Sara, age 26, experienced depression beginning in middle school and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in her late teens. She still struggles with both issues. Her daughter makes her feel important and happy, and her fiancé and other family members are good sources of support. Once her baby is born, she hopes to finish her veterinarian training.

Background:

Sara is the mother of a young daughter and was pregnant at the time of her interview. She has been living with her daughter and fiancé in various places, none of them permanent. She is Caucasian.

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Depression has been part of Sara’s life since she was 12 years old, though recalling her earlier childhood she remembers isolation and wonders if there was “something there”. When she was in middle school, boys at school made fun of her and she became intensely self-consciousness about her body. Her self-esteem was also low, and she found it hard to break out of negative thought patterns. Her mother “didn’t want to believe there was an issue” so she didn’t get treatment until she was 18 and able to seek help on her own.

Sara had difficult relationships with her parents and siblings. Her grandmother really understood her, and when as a teenager she went to live at her grandma’s house it was “a good place to be” – a place where she could find herself and get herself better. Her pets were also a big source of comfort and joy. At 19 Sara gave birth to her daughter. Immediately afterwards she experienced her worst period ever, struggling with postpartum depression, the abuse she suffered from the baby’s father, and difficulty bonding with her child. That new “low” also led to help, first from the doctor who cared for her during pregnancy and childbirth and gave her medication, and then also from a therapist. As Sara’s depression lessened, she soon formed a strong and inspiring connection with her daughter, the “absolutely amazing gift that God gave me and that I created”.

When Sara began medication, she found she was more social with other people and capable of getting involved in activities of various kinds. She began college, and worked with her daughter’s Girl Scout troupe. Therapy has also been essential, giving her tools like journaling (writing down her thoughts) to deal with both depression and the anxiety that sometimes comes along with it for Sara. Over seven years of therapy she has had two therapists; both have been excellent. Sara is now expecting a second baby, and has a loving and supportive fiancé who also struggles with depression and really understands her. They are “couch surfing” and struggling financially, but hope to find a stable place to live before the baby comes.

For Sara, journaling is a powerful tool to combat depression, “…the best suggestion I ever got from my therapist…. Even if you don’t have somebody to talk to right then, you can just write down your thoughts and it helps. So I think that’s a big thing because not many people realize that they can just write down what you’re thinking and just move on from there. And then you can even save it and realize like, ‘Oh, I got through that day. That was a really hard day. I got through that day though, so I get through this. It’s no problem.’” She wishes she had been able to get medication and therapy earlier, and advises other people to get this help if they can.

 

Sara describes feeling judged about her body image.

Sara describes feeling judged about her body image.

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Yeah, it’s I think it’s my body image, honestly. Because of when I was so young and I was like, not worried about my weight at 12 years old or what I looked like, I was coming home with honor roll certificates and worried about school, what I wanted to do. And, at 12 years old being slammed with that was like, “I should be, I should be skinny. I shouldn’t be fat. The boys don’t like fat girls.” And so throughout my whole childhood and even, especially teenage years I was like stressed out about what I looked like. I was like afraid of what people thought of me, even still like if somebody’s staring at me I have a problem with that because like, “Are they judging me?” That’s the biggest thing for me and then my mind starts to wonder from there. Like, “What are they thinking? Do they think I’m this? Do they think I’m that?” And no, they’re probably not thinking anything of me or even looking at me [laughter], but in my head that’s what it is and it’s, I think it’s males that bother me the most about it.

 

Sara says journaling helps her get through times when she's feeling particularly anxious.

Sara says journaling helps her get through times when she's feeling particularly anxious.

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Between that and the medication, the journaling was a big thing. Because I would my mind is constantly going like, “What am I going to wear? What am I, am I going to look ok? Is the weather, is it going to rain or are my shoes going to get wet?” Like I don’t need to worry about all that stuff and then on top of that, “Is my grandma okay? Is my sister okay, is? What am I going to do today?” It’s just all at once. So I can just sit down and just write about what’s going through my head even if it’s just, “I want a cup of coffee.” It’s not, it’s floating in my head and I’m not talking about it, if I don’t have somebody to talk to, I could just write it down and then it’s not in my head anymore and I can move on.

 

Sara began journaling when her therapist suggested it, and finds it helps her break out of negative thought patterns and move on.

Sara began journaling when her therapist suggested it, and finds it helps her break out of negative thought patterns and move on.

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Between that and the medication, the journaling was a big thing. Because I would my mind is constantly going like, “What am I going to wear, am I going to look ok, is the weather, is it going to rain or are my shoes going to get wet,” Like you don’t need to worry about all that stuff and then on top of that, “Is my grandma ok, is my sister ok, is, what am I going to do today,” It’s just all at once. So I can just sit down and just write about what’s going through my head even if it’s just, “I want a cup of coffee.” It’s not, it’s floating in my head and I’m not talking about it if I don’t have somebody to talk to I could just write it down then it’s not in my head anymore and I can move on.

…The journaling is the best that is the best suggestion I ever got from my therapist. And it’s even, if you don’t have somebody to talk to right then, you can just write down your thoughts and it helps. So I think that’s a big thing because not many people realize that they can just write down what you’re thinking and just move on from there. And then you can even save it and realize like, “Oh, I got through that day. That was a really hard day. I got through that day though, so I get through this. This is no problem.”

 

Sara's grandmother was a vital source of support, even though she didn't really understand how Sara's depression felt.

Sara's grandmother was a vital source of support, even though she didn't really understand how Sara's depression felt.

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My grandmother was, and she encouraged me a lot to go get help. She didn’t think, she’s like old, really – not, really old – but, she’s not used to seeing a therapist and go do this, and she didn’t bring her kids to do all that kind of stuff. She was new to it, but she listened to what I had to say. She didn’t understand what I was going through, but she was there to support me. And that was, that was a big help. My grandmother was a really big help with all of my depression, especially my postpartum depression with my daughter. She was, without her I don’t know where I would be.

 

Sara describes working with her doctor to find the right medication and dose.

Sara describes working with her doctor to find the right medication and dose.

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Because I was on a lot of different medications before I found the right one and it took a long time to find the right one, but when I did, it helps so much. Like, it really does.

How did you know the medications were wrong when they were wrong?

I just didn’t feel like myself and I didn’t like the way I was feeling. So I wasn’t, I wouldn’t take it. I would stop taking it after like 6 months, 7 months because I, that’s, I’m not acting like myself. I’m not going to take something that’s going to make me not me. And the doctor was like, “Oh we tried so many medications, something has to work.” And that, she didn’t give up. Which is, was good because some doctors would just give up, be like, “If you can’t take this, this is all you can take now.”

And I was like, “Oh great, another medication that’s not working,” And the doctor’s like, “Well this is a really high dose for you, so let’s lower your dose.” So they cut my dose in half and that ended up being the perfect amount. So I was almost about to give up on it, but she was like, “Please don’t, please don’t, because this medication works differently the way it works.” She was like, “We started you at a high dose, so let’s cut it down and see what that does.” And I did, I listened to her, which I didn’t listen the last time [Laughter]. But I did this time and it was the right medication. It worked. Half the dose worked. So, I guess the dosing helps. Like, too high of a dose could be not affecting me the right way too.

Right.

Which I didn’t try with other medications, I just stopped taking them.

Yeah.

So I gave this a try with the dose.

 

It was rough for Sara to realize she needed help, because her mom never wanted to believe anything was wrong. Once Sara did reach out and get medication, she felt better.

It was rough for Sara to realize she needed help, because her mom never wanted to believe anything was wrong. Once Sara did reach out and get medication, she felt better.

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I had a friend who was depressed and she was taking medications and she was like, “Maybe you should talk to somebody.” She recommended I talk to somebody myself and I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to be on medication, I didn’t want to talk to anybody, I didn’t even want to think there was anything wrong. Because growing up, my mom didn’t want to think anything was wrong, so I figured maybe there’s nothing wrong, maybe you know. But no, there was, and realizing it was difficult, but I got through that and I am now dealing with it. And medication does help, it just wasn’t the right medication so I didn’t want to take that medication, but if you find the right medication it does work.