Sierra Rose

Age at interview: 18
Age at diagnosis: 11
Gender: Female
Outline:

Sierra Rose’s depression began in early adolescence, when she lived in a chaotic environment, moved frequently, and had some difficult family relationships. She also struggles with self-harming, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Her boyfriend is a huge source of support, and her cats bring her joy and keep her going in hard times.

Background:

Sierra Rose lives in an apartment with her boyfriend, another roommate, and three beloved cats. She spent a week in the hospital shortly before her interview, and was continuing with out-patient care but struggling to pay for some of it. She is Italian and Jewish.

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Sierra Rose had a tumultuous early life with her brother, mother and a series of her mother’s abusive husbands and boyfriends who came in and out of the household. Sierra Rose’s mother was only seventeen when she was born, and wasn’t in a good position to provide a safe childhood. As a result, Sierra Rose was “forced to grow up extremely fast”. After she began self-harming at age eleven, and there was a series of conflicts with her alcoholic step-father, she went to live with her grandmother for a while. There she had a more stable environment, and began therapy, but issues with drugs and alcohol arose and she ended up back with her mother. She completed high school on line because drugs were very prevalent in her school district and her mother did not want her to be exposed.

Depression has always been a part of Sierra Rose’s life; she doesn’t know what it’s like to live without it. Sometimes depression makes it hard for her to get off the couch “except to go to the bathroom, to get food, and smoke”. There are weeks when she doesn’t leave the apartment. When she cycles into better periods she gets out and finds a job, which makes her feel great. But then depression will kick back in and “suck all the motivation” away, making it impossible to work. She also struggles with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sierra Rose never returned to her last job after she went to the hospital for a short stay because she felt suicidal. Though some things were tough about being an inpatient at the hospital, it was also very helpful – particularly the intensive therapy, group work, writing therapy, and art.

Sierra Rose lives with her boyfriend, who supports her both emotionally and financially. They have a third roommate too. Her three cats are a comfort and a joy; knowing she is “literally everything to them” also provides major motivation to get out to buy them food and litter and to take good care of herself in the long run so she can be there for them. Since her hospitalization she is getting along better with her mother. She hopes to continue with both medication and therapy as an out-patient, if her insurance provides the right coverage. Both of these things, and group therapy too, have been helpful.

One thing Sierra Rose has come to realize is that “everything is temporary; life has its ups and downs… and to feel the good you have to feel the bad”. She wants other young adults with depression to know depression does get better and that “if you can stick with it, you can become a strong healthy human being and do anything you want in this world.” She also recommends getting a pet because “animals are perfect, they love you no matter what. Like straight up everybody should own at least one animal”.

 

Sierra Rose says if you are in a bad living environment it is hard to be mentally healthy.

Sierra Rose says if you are in a bad living environment it is hard to be mentally healthy.

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If you’re not in a good living environment then you’re not going to be good mentally or emotionally and most of my life I haven’t been in good living environments and it shows. Once I moved out of my mom’s place which was a bad environment, I got better and then that environment turned sour and I got way bad again and then I got out of that into what I thought was another good environment and then that turned bad and it’s very situational.

 

Lots of screen time and less face-to-face communication seem to Sierra Rose to be causing increased rates of depression among young people.

Lots of screen time and less face-to-face communication seem to Sierra Rose to be causing increased rates of depression among young people.

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I don’t like all of the technological advances that we’ve made, that we have, I think it contributes to a lot of the problems that we as a society we have. Eating disorders and depression and all of the advances we have just bring on a whole new set of problems that we don’t know how to fix. I mean suicide rates have gone up so much because and if you look at it, it correlates with the advancement of technology and the lessening of respect in children and the lessening of face to face personal communication. It’s all done over text or email or video chat or you know Facebook, there is no face. So many people don’t know how to have a conversation, sit down face to face without sitting there with their phone scrolling through or you know watching TV or anything like that and it’s. I think that’s the main cause of the majority of our issues nowadays, mental illnesses included. I’m not saying that it isn’t or wasn’t a problem back then just saying that it’s gotten greater as time goes on. And it’s so hard now because you have people glorifying depression and glorifying self-harm and eating disorders and it’s like why, why would you choose to live like this, it’s appalling. 

 

Sierra Rose’s animals were officially designated as companions, like therapy dogs, thus allowing her pets to live in her apartment without paying extra rent.

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Sierra Rose’s animals were officially designated as companions, like therapy dogs, thus allowing her pets to live in her apartment without paying extra rent.

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These are my companion pets now. I managed to get a slip for them, and they do help. They are very clingy. They can tell when I’m upset and it makes me happy. A companion slip, essentially it’s a doctor’s note saying, “These animals are not for her pleasure; these animals are for her health, kind of like service dogs except instead of for a physical aliment, it’s for a mental aliment.” And the way, at least my apartment complex, works is that you can have them. You can have as many pets as you want, as long as they are companions. You can have up to two pets that aren’t companions. So initially I had the big two and when I went out and got the companion slip I got the third one.  Because these two were being little butts, they’ve gotten better now, they were just having a hissy fit, they’re 1, 2, terrible two’s. 

… The companion slip for my apartment complex makes it so I don’t have to pay pet rent. … Basically the companion slip makes the apartment look at them as companions rather than pets. 

IRight. Like a therapeutic use.

Yeah, they’re, it’s my therapy pet slip.

 

Sierra Rose says not to forget the world can be at your feet once your circumstances change.

Sierra Rose says not to forget the world can be at your feet once your circumstances change.

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Once I moved out of my mom’s house, everything, doors opened up, everything opened up. There are valleys in front of us and we just have to seize them. We have to realize that, yeah we may have come from a really crappy background, our parents may not have cared or may have been alcoholics or drug addicts or abusive or not there at all or maybe they cared too much and suffocated you, but once you were out of that, the world literally is at your feet. And that was, oh my god if I had known how the world was at my feet when I was 16 and tried to kill myself, I would not have tried. I would have known that this is temporary, everything is temporary. Life has it’s ups and downs, if it was all flat you’re not living you know that beeping machine in the hospital goes up and down for a reason. And that to, to feel the good you have to feel the bad, without the bad there is no good.

 

Leaving the place where her depression began reminded Sierra Rose that painful circumstances can, in fact, be changed.

Leaving the place where her depression began reminded Sierra Rose that painful circumstances can, in fact, be changed.

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Once I moved out of my mom’s house, everything, doors opened up, everything opened up. There are valleys in front of us and we just have to seize them. We have to realize that, yeah you may have come from a really crappy background, our parents may not have cared or may have been alcoholics or drug addicts or abusive or not there at all or maybe they cared too much and suffocated you, but once you were out of that, the world literally is at your feet. And that was, oh my god if I had known how the world was at my feet when I was 16 and tried to kill myself, I would not have tried. I would have known that this is temporary, everything is temporary.

 

Sierra Rose acknowledges that recovery is a constant effort... And seeks friends who are equally committed to healing and who can help her stay on this path.

Sierra Rose acknowledges that recovery is a constant effort... And seeks friends who are equally committed to healing and who can help her stay on this path.

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The thing for me with recovery is you can’t beat yourself up for the relapses as long as you realize, “It was a relapse, I need to get back up,” And you know as Winnie the Pooh says, “Try, try again,” that was one of my favorite books. You just have to get back up and back into recovery and you have to surround yourself with positiveness everywhere, you have to have positive affirmations and a positive support system and positive friends, you can’t be sitting there with, I cannot be friends with somebody who is not willing to at least look at their life and re-evaluate things. If you are not willing to admit that you have made mistakes and that you need help and that you need to be in recovery I can’t be friends with you because I can’t have that in my life. It’s a struggle for me to continue in recovery every day.

 

Sierra Rose used self-harm to cope with anger.

Sierra Rose used self-harm to cope with anger.

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I went to school one day, ended up talking to a girl, I wouldn’t necessarily call her a friend, but an acquaintance, and she pulled out a razor and she sat there and she started cutting her arm, she said, I asked her, “Why are you doing that? Why do you do that?” And she said, “Because it makes the anger go away.” And that was the spark in my head. It was, this is something that can help, I was so angry all the time and I just wanted it gone and so I started cutting. I had, we had fish, we had razors to scrape the algae off the side of the fish tank, well I, just, you know those were the only thing sharp I could find in my house, so I grabbed one of those and took it to my room and I started cutting then.

 

Sierra Rose believes exercise would help her, but reluctance to exercise in front of other people and finding the motivation to go do it are both barriers.

Sierra Rose believes exercise would help her, but reluctance to exercise in front of other people and finding the motivation to go do it are both barriers.

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I believe it was happiness 101 and this guy talked about how they’ve done studies with medication, exercise and medication, and just exercise and that the exercise is actually proven to help pull people out of their depression and as long as you’re staying active, you’re ok. The only problem then is getting up the motivation to do the exercise.

Right. Right. Is that something that you do?

It’s something I like to say I do.

[laughter]

Here at this apartment we actually have a gym that is open 24/7. There are treadmills that’s my main form of exercise, is running. If I get really angry I will go down and I will run on the treadmill. But normally the motivation to actually get up, walk down there exercise in front of people is, it’s hard. Most of my exercise is done at 1 or 2 in the morning because I just can’t stand to be there when people are there. And I can’t, excuse me, I can’t necessarily exercise in my apartment because I am on the third floor, there are people below me. I can’t, you know, be standing here jogging in place or anything because you know that’s going to drive them insane. So I like to say I exercise. I try to exercise I should probably exercise more.
So I like to say I exercise. I try to exercise I should probably exercise more.

 

Sierra Rose has severe depression, severe anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and PTSD. Here she describes the lasting effects of a long-ago rape.

Sierra Rose has severe depression, severe anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and PTSD. Here she describes the lasting effects of a long-ago rape.

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I had snuck out of class, I had gone with a guy to his house to smoke pot, and, it wasn’t even his house we went to, we went to one of his friends house’s, there were people passed out all over the place it was, I mean, it was your normal party house. And I ended up smoking and drinking, and they followed me into the bathroom and all three of them had their way with me. I never told anybody, I cleaned myself up, went back to school. I currently suffer PTSD from that I get flashback nightmares and they, the dreams, are so real that I can’t have my boyfriend touch me. Which hurts a lot to love somebody, to live with somebody, and not be able to sleep in the same bed with them.

 

Depression holds Sierra Rose back from all sorts of relationships.

Depression holds Sierra Rose back from all sorts of relationships.

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It feels like there’s this shadow, or this chain, holding me back saying, “No you can’t, you can’t go have fun with your friends, you can’t have friends. I’m not going to let you get off the couch this week. Oh you’re home alone? Well it looks like you’re staying here for the rest of the day.”

 

Sierra Rose says depression makes it hard to hold down a job.

Sierra Rose says depression makes it hard to hold down a job.

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When the depression would kick in, I’d stop caring as much about my job, and figure, “Oh, well, you know, what’s the point of it? I’m just, low-class American anyway.” I would stop smiling all the time. I’d start brooding.

It makes it extremely hard to hold down a job, because, I’ll get a job and I’ll be doing great. I’ll be ok, and then, the depression is like, “Wait you’re happy? No, you’re not allowed to be happy.” And it draws me back down into being depressed and then I lose my job, because, “Oh, you’re not who you told us you were when we interviewed you. You’re not who you were when we hired you.” It makes it extremely hard to have relationships, to keep a job, to do, anything…

 

For Sierra Rose, the combination of poverty and depression made it hard to move ahead with important goals in life.

For Sierra Rose, the combination of poverty and depression made it hard to move ahead with important goals in life.

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I applied for college a couple years ago. Or no, a year ago and I still haven’t gone, I haven’t even continued looking into it because I see the money aspect of it, and I hear my mom’s voice, “You’ll never be able to afford that.” And that makes me realize that I’m just stuck living as a low class American the rest of my life and I don’t want that. I so don’t want that, but the voices in the back of your head, the one’s pulling you down, pulling you back, telling you “No you can’t do this, you are not good enough to do this.” That’s what the depression is to me….

 

Sierra Rose describes why it is 'so insanely difficult' to get help for depression.

Sierra Rose describes why it is 'so insanely difficult' to get help for depression.

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Why is it so difficult to get help? If you want help if you’re trying to get help, why is it so insanely difficult to actually get it? There’s the financial aspect of it which on its own is overwhelming. Then there’s the trying to find a provider, the insurance, the, all of the technical stuff. Why can’t I just call up a therapist or you know, walk into the hospital and be like, “I need help. Help me.”

 

Sierra Rose says her cats are the main reason she went to the hospital for help when she felt suicidal.

Sierra Rose says her cats are the main reason she went to the hospital for help when she felt suicidal.

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It wasn’t because I had a boyfriend, it wasn’t because I felt like I had a bunch to live for, it was because I had two cats at home that had been with me since they were kittens that would have no idea why I wasn’t coming home anymore. They would have, I didn’t know if my boyfriend would continue to take care of them, he’s not a cat person. He only puts up with them because they help me. I, they are my reason to live most of the time and sometimes they are the only things that I can feel love for. I can just sit there and you know be sitting here watching TV and one will be on the back of the couch and one on the cat tree and one on the window seal and I can see them all in this line of vision, I can just look at them and they’re, It fills me with love and hope and you know, I am their entire world, if that doesn’t make you want to live for something, I don’t know what will. Being, you know your pet is such a tiny part of your world. You are literally everything to them. You are food, you are shelter, you are water, you are safety, you are love, you are their God, and they love you for it and it shows. When I’m upset, if I’m crying, at least one if not all three of them come and curl up with me and start purring.

 

Because she worried that disclosing her depression would induce harsh judgments, Sierra Rose felt that on-line relationships felt safer, because they were more under her control.

Because she worried that disclosing her depression would induce harsh judgments, Sierra Rose felt that on-line relationships felt safer, because they were more under her control.

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There are depression chat rooms and those have helped me. I have friends online that I have never met in person they’re in you know Illinois, or New Jersey or you know Florida and we’re all connected by this one thing, this feeling of hopelessness, this depression, and honestly being able to sit there and open up to somebody on the internet is so much easier than sitting there and opening up to somebody you know in real life. Because the people you know in real life, you can see their judgment, you have to see them every day you can’t just, you know, up and quit talking to your mother or your best friend because you feel like you disclosed too much. On the internet you don’t have to respond to their messages, you don’t, you can block them, you can delete them, you can stop all communication with them. If you feel like you’ve ever disclosed too much and you just need to stop, if it ever becomes too overwhelming. There’s definitely an upside to the internet.

 

Suffering from depression and other trauma helped Sierra Rose realize that she is connected to a universal purpose to help others.

Suffering from depression and other trauma helped Sierra Rose realize that she is connected to a universal purpose to help others.

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Up until very recently, I still had that mindset of, “I didn’t decide to be here so why should I be forced to live here.” I wasn’t suicidal I wasn’t thinking about killing myself, I was along for the ride but that thought process was still there. And finally I realized that no our purpose is to learn and to love each other, that is the sole reason we are here. And all I hope to do with my life, with what suffering from depression and everything else has taught me is help other people, is to teach other people and to learn as much about it as I can.

 

Sierra Rose wonders why it can be so hard and expensive to get help when feeling desperate, and why there is no short-term suicide watch.

Sierra Rose wonders why it can be so hard and expensive to get help when feeling desperate, and why there is no short-term suicide watch.

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If you want help if you’re trying to get help, why is it so insanely difficult to actually get it? There’s the financial aspect of it which on its own is overwhelming. Then there’s the trying to find a provider, the insurance, the, all of the technical stuff. Why can’t I just call up a therapist or you know, walk into the hospital and be like, “I need help. Help me.” And why can’t you guys just help. It’s, I initially went into the hospital just to get on the 72 hour suicide watch, I didn’t want to deal with the problem at the time, I knew that I had responsibilities that I had to take care of, I had bills I had to pay and cats I had to take care of and it just, it wasn’t feasible at that time because of everything that goes into it emotionally. I don’t understand why it has to be made so much harder on the other side of it. There is no 72 hour suicide watch in [Place name] apparently, I didn’t know this. There is no place that you can go and be like, “I want to kill myself, I logically don’t want to, please protect me.” To be safe. And just stay there for a few days, there’s no safe haven.

To be safe.

And just stay there for a few days, there’s no safe haven.

 

Sierra Rose says the hospital provided needed relief from life at home, and that both the therapy and education about depression available to her there helped her a lot.

Sierra Rose says the hospital provided needed relief from life at home, and that both the therapy and education about depression available to her there helped her a lot.

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Being in the hospital, this sounds really bad but it was kind of like a vacation. I didn’t have to worry about bills, I didn’t have to worry about feeding myself, I didn’t have to worry about anything. There were groups all day long that I could go to, I could be in my bedroom, I could be in the, the you know common room. They actually, because I was no longer a suicide risk, I was voluntary, they allowed me to have my crocheting, only in the common room but I was allowed to do that. And the therapy, I went to almost every single therapy session there was available and there were sometimes 8 or 9 a day and. It’s just so much information, I think the key to truly living successfully with depression is educating yourself on it, educating yourself on what you can do to avoid going into certain moods, educate yourself on what you need to avoid and how to cope and how to deal with everything….

… the writing therapy was extremely helpful to me, it enabled me to get all of my thoughts down on paper and then you can do anything with that piece of paper, you can frame it if you love the thoughts, you can burn it if you don’t want those thoughts anymore. Writing therapy has helped immensely. And then there was the art therapy that we did, which actually got me started. I now have oil pastels and notebooks galore and I’ve been drawing a lot since I got out of the hospital. I didn’t think it would help, you know, how can drawing a tree or a flower help you feel better but it, it does. As far as the regular talk therapy I like it. When it’s done right I have to have a therapist who is willing to sit there and push me to actually reach for the answers that I am avoiding reaching.

 

Sierra Rose says that growing a bit older has given her the perspective to realize that everything is temporary, including the worst parts of her depression.'

Sierra Rose says that growing a bit older has given her the perspective to realize that everything is temporary, including the worst parts of her depression.'

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Once I moved out of my mom’s house, doors opened up, everything opened up. There are valleys in front of us and we just have to seize them. We have to realize that, yeah we may have come from a really crappy background, our parents may not have cared or may have been alcoholics or drug addicts or abusive or not there at all or maybe they cared too much and suffocated you, but once you where out of that, the world literally is at your feet. And that was, oh my god if I had known how the world was at my feet when I was 16 and tried to kill myself, I would not have tried. I would have known that this is temporary, everything is temporary.

 

Depression makes the risks of adult life feel more vivid for Sierra Rose.

Depression makes the risks of adult life feel more vivid for Sierra Rose.

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I don’t have to check in with anybody anymore. When I lived with my mom she had to know where I was at all times and if I wasn’t home by dark oh my god, I was sorry. Now I could walk out the door at one in the morning and because I am an adult, nobody would care. It’s scary thinking about that nobody, I know people care, but in my head it’s this nobody cares anymore. Nobody cares if you get kidnapped at one in the morning. And it’s, my mother grew up, taught me to grow up being very paranoid, always looking over your shoulder always, you know, every van that comes around the corner be careful of it you know, don’t be out after dark, don’t do this, don’t do that.

 

Sierra Rose who was experiencing abuse from her mother's boyfriend describes telling her brother about her suicide attempt.

Sierra Rose who was experiencing abuse from her mother's boyfriend describes telling her brother about her suicide attempt.

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He was scary to live with. He had me frightened for my life at points and that made me just want to end my life even more. I didn’t want to live there anymore. I hadn’t wanted to live there for years and he just kind of added to that. And so November 2013, I attempted to kill myself. I went into the bathroom, I wrote a note out, and I tried to slit open my wrist. Part way through I realized that I don’t actually think I want to die. I had a boyfriend at the time, not my current boyfriend a different one, and he was my entire life, I didn’t want to not be with him, so I made the decision to, you know, go upstairs, tell my mother. She took me to the hospital, her and her boyfriend. The entire time we were there in the waiting room I was sitting there with the towel to my wrist and they were sitting there talking and laughing with each other and her boyfriend actually had the balls to accuse me of trying to kill myself for attention. I was the one who had to explain to my brother, who was at the time 13 years old, that no I wanted to die. I wanted to kill myself and it hurt so much to see the pain in his eyes. My brother and I, we’ve always fought a lot, what siblings don’t, especially when you’re 4 years apart but I, I love him to death and I would do anything for him and I know that the feeling is mutual, there’s a sibling bond there that can’t ever be broken. And seeing his heart break because his big sister wasn’t wanting to live anymore, it should have been an eye opener, it was for a little while.

 

Sierra Rose says depression makes it hard to hold down a job

Sierra Rose says depression makes it hard to hold down a job

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When the depression would kick in, I’d stop caring as much about my job, and figure, “Oh, well, you know, what’s the point of it? I’m just, low-class American anyway.” I would stop smiling all the time. I’d start brooding.

It makes it extremely hard to hold down a job, because, I’ll get a job and I’ll be doing great. I’ll be ok, and then, the depression is like, “Wait you’re happy? No, you’re not allowed to be happy.” And it draws me back down into being depressed and then I lose my job, because, “Oh, you’re not who you told us you were when we interviewed you. You’re not who you were when we hired you.” It makes it extremely hard to have relationships, to keep a job, to do, anything…