LIVING WITH DEPRESSION
“A bit like an alien“
– Natalie*, 21 years old
The following story contains thoughts of suicide and self-harm. Some people may find this distressing. If you need to talk to someone, support is available.
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Natalie*, 21 years old, has been an avid horse rider since the age of six as she grew up on a farm prior to moving to Singapore with her family. She spent the rest of her childhood in Singapore and this is where her family still resides. After she finished high school in Singapore, Natalie took a gap year and played polo for 12 months. She now lives with her godmother in Melbourne.
Natalie experienced a progressive worsening of mood in her first year of University, around October 2018. She stopped speaking with her family, slowly withdrew from everything, stopped eating, overslept and often felt anxious. One day she saw a Lifeline advertisement and realised that “maybe there is something wrong here”. Natalie lost interest and pleasure in activities she previously enjoyed such as going to the coffee shop and reading a book, and binge-watching TV shows. Her ability to concentrate was impaired and she couldn’t watch a 20-minute episode of The Office “without feeling disrupted.”
She struggled to leave the house and to look in the mirror, highlighting that she felt “a bit like an alien”. She also had a breakdown after attending the gym and comparing herself to other women.
Natalie refers to her relationship with her dad as “very rocky”. Her dad believes that “if you can’t see the injury, it’s not there”. Her mum is a “massive support network” and speaks with her twice a day, every day. Similarly, she is best friends with her 18-year-old brother who she lives with.
she didn’t want “to be that person who had the mental illness…”
One day, Natalie’s Godmother entered her room and found her holding a belt. Later, her mum found out about the incident and voiced her concern to Natalie’s dad. Unexpectedly, her dad recognised that something was wrong and helped plan her mum’s flight from Singapore to Melbourne. She struggled to discuss her depression with her parents because of the stigma attached to mental health and she didn’t want “to be that person who had the mental illness…”, ultimately revealing a sense of shame.
“medication and talking therapy has helped her resilience”
Seeing the Doctor
Natalie had a positive experience with her GP who conducted K10 tests, diagnosed her with depression and provided a mental health plan with a psychologist recommendation. She still sees her psychologist today who remains “one of the only people I can talk to about everything”. She initially saw him every second week and then started to come out of her “slump”. She started an antidepressant which she took until something triggered her to go into a deep slump again. It was around Christmas time, a period she hated “because it always ends in a fight with (her) family”. Consequently, her antidepressant dose was increased and it did seem to help but she experienced night terrors as a side-effect so she was switched to another one. She is now steady on her current antidepressant.
School and Life Passion
Natalie is highly motivated academically and maintained high grades throughout her experience with depression. After her gap year in Denmark she made close friends and visited them every year in the European summer. She was passionate about polo but didn’t play for two years, which in hindsight was a contributing factor to her depression diagnosis as it is a “massive part of (her) identity”. In June 2019, she was invited to play polo on a friend’s property and she was overwhelmed with joy from the experience.
Depression and Anxiety Triggers
Natalie would experience a “slump” 2-3 times a month, to the point where she would have to “get an Uber because (she) didn’t trust (herself) around the train tracks”. The combination of medication and talking therapy has helped her resilience but her depression is still triggered when her boss is being aggressive, when fighting with her dad or a lack of routine. Her anxiety symptoms are also triggered when someone leaves her on ‘read’ while texting, or delay with public transport. She recently recognised her mental strength when she had to quarantine in a hotel for 2 weeks because of COVID19 requirements and got through it.
Natalie’s advice for people supporting individuals through depression is to listen and to never say “oh, don’t worry, we all have days like this”. Natalie would like to see genuine patient stories of young adolescents or adults who are having a similar experience. Additionally, seeing advertisements of someone from her generation and similar age group, rather than the older men commonly portrayed, would help her to connect with her own experience.
*Names changed. Stock photo shown.