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Lauren’s Story

“Keep knocking on doors. Someone WILL open a door who can help you.”

Share your stigma experience.

I became very depressed my first year in college. I felt very alone. My parents were scared for me, and they sometimes replicated stigma in their concern. Once I called home during a bad episode, looking to my parents to talk me through my anguish and panic. Alarmed, my father reacted by telling me that he had had a really tough day at work and he couldn’t deal with me right now. He ridiculed me for treating my situation as an emergency. As a result, I felt shame and embarrassment for calling– I felt that I was “dumping on them.”At the same time, I was seeking out my college’s resources for counseling. Resources were limited for individual counseling, so when my social worker was unable to continue our sessions (after about 7-10 sessions), she recommended that I participate in a therapy group for people suffering with grief. At the time, my depression was expressing itself in grief-like symptoms. I was eager to do it, but my father tried to convince me not to participate. He was afraid that the group would be enabling, rather than helpful. He said that those groups were for “people like your grandmother,” who had lost her husband and never got over it. As a result, I lived without therapy for several months during a major depression, until I was able to come home during my school’s winter break, when I saw a psychiatrist of my parent’s choosing. The psychiatrist had started me on a medication, which thankfully my parents were supportive of, up to a point. When my doctor wanted to increase my dosage, my father pushed back hard and challenged his opinion (my father is also a doctor). He accused him of substituting pills for therapy. It was very difficult to be depressed and living under my parent’s roof during school break. On one occasion, my mother started crying and expressed hopelessness about how to help me. On another occasion, my father, seeing me sitting under a blanket, commanded me to take the blanket off and stop coddling myself. We had a big argument, though we did make up soon afterwards. The medication eventually helped, but after returning to school for the Spring semester, I continued to live without any therapy, since my father had written off the group therapy and the psychiatrist I had seen that winter was located in my home town. I did not receive any further therapy in college. In the summer after my first year, I weaned myself off of the medication –I was feeling better, but mostly I thought that it would make my parents happy. I wanted to prove to them that my difficulties were in the past and they didn’t have to worry anymore.

How did you overcome this experience?

By learning how to live more independently of my parents. I realized that I felt better the more I consulted my own opinions–this doesn’t mean that I isolated myself. I just understood the importance of privacy, when vulnerable. When I had another major depression in my late-20s, I involved my parents on my own terms. Hearing other people’s stories has also helped to balance out the negative feelings that I had built up about my depression because of my father’s reactions. When my depression comes up in conversation now, my father now shows me trust and respect.

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

You deserve to feel better. Keep knocking on doors. Someone WILL open a door who can help you. You don’t need to keep talking to people who make you feel badly about your struggles.

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