a kid, and I had really bad self-esteem issues. I was making dumb choices," she
Now Susan is 43, married, and a mother of four. Over the
years, her depression has changed. Sometimes, it's felt as if hard times have
brought it on. At other points in her life, the depression has been severe and
seemed to come out of nowhere.
Her first bout with severe
depression came when she was living in California and had taken a year off from
"I was driving down the road after work one day, and I
just started bawling," she says. "I had no idea why I was crying. It wasn't
like there was some kind of trigger."
Susan knew she needed help
the first time she considered suicide. She got into therapy, and later started
on depression medicines. A psychiatrist prescribed several different medicines
to find one that worked. Some of them made Susan too sleepy to function.
"If the kids didn't need me, I was in bed sleeping," she says.
Other medicines gave her energy.
"One time around
Thanksgiving, I put Martha Stewart to shame," she says. "I made tablecloths and
place settings. I quilted a table runner. But then I couldn't sleep because I
was having these very vivid, crazy dreams."
Counseling has helped
her cope and raise her self-esteem.
"Counseling was good for me to
understand that I have value as a person, that I'm a kind person, and I do have
a caring heart."
It's also helped her learn what can trigger her
depression, such as a lack of sunlight in winter.
Exercise is her
medicine now. "I know when I'm really stressed and really frazzled, that if I
put on my iPod and just walk and really get in the zone, it does wonders for
But during her darkest depression, medicines were vital.
"I don't think I'd be alive if I hadn't made that choice," she
says. "When you're fully enmeshed in [severe] depression, all the things that
can help you—going outside, getting exercise, being around people, eating
breakfast—those are the things that are physically impossible."
She and her husband now have a plan for when her depression hits. "When I get
depressed," she says, "Dave tells me to go outside, take the dog for a walk, go
take a shower."
"Having a friend or loved one to help you can
Susan's story reflects her experiences as told in an interview. The photograph is not of Susan, to protect her privacy.
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