Lyn’s first experience with major depression came when she was a single mother of three in her twenties struggling to keep her head above water. “I wasn’t really functioning,” Lyn remembers. “I was sleeping all the time. I couldn’t tell you if my kids were bathing every night or what time they went to bed.”
The roots of her depression had been planted years before. Though Lyn had many happy memories of her family and religious community from childhood, she also had unaddressed feelings from a number of painful experiences.
Novelist David Guterson has had many successes in life. His bestselling 1994 book, "Snow Falling on Cedars," was made into an Academy Award-nominated movie. He was happily married and his life was very fulfilling. That’s why David was astonished when a sudden bout of depression, triggered by the events of September 11th, had him descending into darkness.
FFDA Volunteer, Jenny Windsor is a teacher and mom from the United Kingdom. She has decided to share her story and her poetry with Families for Depression Awareness.
I'm a 32-year-old teacher and I live with my partner and two young children. I discovered I had depression when I moved jobs and realized doing so had been a big mistake. I had been teaching at a school for 8 years and then decided to move to another school last September. I went from being confident and happy to anxious and incredibly low.
Depression has been part of my family for most of my life. I lost both my brother and a dear friend to suicide. I also have clinical depression. Luckily, I am able to live a normal and productive life and I feel that my story can inspire others with my message of hope.
Greg Stiemsma grew up in Wisconsin where his skill and commanding 6’11’’ stature made him a natural on the basketball court. But his talent could not mask the depression that initially appeared while he was in high school. “The first time I dealt with depression was during basketball season my senior year,” the 27-year-old remembers. “At that time, I didn’t seek the help that I should have. I didn’t admit or face my feelings.” He graduated and began attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he played for the Badgers. (Photo credit: Brian Babineau).
Looking back, Alexandra Styron can see that her father, novelist William Styron, likely suffered depression much of his life. But as the youngest of four children, all she knew was the need to tip-toe around the man she remembers as both a looming figure whose stories “scared the crap of out me,” and a sweet man with whom she spent a lot of alone time.
People may assume a famous name and wealth guarantee a ticket to Easy Street. But Doris Buffett, sister of Warren Buffett, knows otherwise. Today, she uses her wealth to help people, which brings her great joy. But her life wasn't always so happy. In her new book written by Michael Zitz, Giving It All Away, The Doris Buffett Story, she reveals her difficult upbringing and family struggles with depression.
Shonda Schilling, wife of former Major League Baseball championship pitcher and six-time All Star Curt Schilling, seemed to have it all: four beautiful children and a comfortable lifestyle that enables her to be a full-time mother and wife.
Terri, an enterprising business woman, wife, and mother of two, was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2007, although her symptoms of sadness and hopelessness had begun decades earlier.
Cassandra was in the seventh grade when she first experienced major depression. "I was in a really low mood all the time," she recalls. "I liked school. I had a nice group of friends. My home life was good. But, I was depressed. Nothing had happened to trigger it, which was the worst part. I put on a really good front, so nobody knew anything was wrong. I was very good at hiding my feelings."
Julie, a wife and mother to two-year-old Piper and nine-month-old Cate, works for Ernst & Young. Her ongoing battle with depression began back in 1990, when she was a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin. "It was my first time away from home and I was experiencing all the classic symptoms of depression," Julie remembers.
The year was 1986. Michael and Julie, then married for six years, had a baby on the way. Michael was a professional fundraiser, a job that required constant energy and enthusiasm and a lot of social interaction. But, he was feeling burned out, always working from deadline to deadline.
Watch the video "The Terry Wise Story: A Suicide Attempt Survivor" on Youtube.
It was just weeks before Terry and Peter's wedding that Peter was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. When the disease progressed and robbed Peter of his speech, Terry abandoned her career to help him sustain his financial planning business.
It took three years — and a very persistent mother — before Trina realized that the stress and sadness she had been feeling for so long was in fact depression.
"I never knew I was depressed," says Trina. "I didn't realize how bad I felt until I felt better."
Terrie grew up in Mount Vernon, NY, with her parents and her younger sister.
"Growing up, mental health was simply not discussed," Terrie says. "I don't think it was discussed in many families, especially African-American families in the 1950s.
When Susan's son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age nine, she wasn't panicked or fearful. She was relieved. The now fifteen-year-old had first been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a nonverbal learning disability (NDL), and Bipolar Disorder.
Renee's family was the first to recognize she wasn't acting like herself. "I was isolating myself. My husband Gary and my kids told me they were losing me. It was extremely hard because I didn't want to admit I had a problem," says Renee.
Gene’s depression began when he was a child and suffered severe panic attacks. He experienced cycles of feeling worthless and hopeless until age 35, when his doctor identified his depression at his annual physical exam. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with dysthymia.
Nell Casey, editor of Unholy Ghost, was only 16 years old when her sister Maud was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Eleven years later, Maud stopped taking her medication and, after a brief hospitalization for mania, fell into a four-month depressive episode.
Less than a year ago, while away at college, Zack had his first major manic episode.
Although Missy struggled with bouts of depression since childhood, she resisted taking medication. She finally sought treatment in order to be well for her infant daughter, Katherine.
By the middle of his junior year Michael was finding it nearly impossible to get through a day at school. He felt claustrophobic and out of control. He became physically ill in school and lost any motivation to do homework or see friends.
In 1994 Mary Margaret was working long hours for an international consulting firm. She also bought a house that year, and her father, who had been fighting cancer, passed away. "By April 1995," she says, "I could no longer get out of bed or stop crying."
Lynne's depression hit out of nowhere the night after her son Jack, was born. She was still in the hospital, after a 32-hour labor without three days of sleep. "Even though I am in a happy marriage, have a successful career, and understand my abilities," says Lynne, "I felt completely overwhelmed and unable to cope."
Looking back Rebecca, 41, thinks that the "personality quirks" she saw in her husband when they first met in college actually were signs of mental illness.
Depression can place a huge strain on close relationships. Yet, Dennis and Joan's struggles with depression have brought them closer together.
What my depression feels like:
I've struggled with depression at greater or lesser intensity since my teens. The word "depression" suggests sadness, and this is certainly one aspect of the disorder.
It was about five years ago that Candice experienced her first bout of depression.
With treatment, she found herself symptom-free for a year; until a diagnosis of a neurological condition known as Arnold Chiari Malformation triggered a second episode of depression.
Barbara is on a mission of hope. After losing her eighteen year old son Michael to suicide in 2005, she's spreading the word on teenage depression and spare other families the heartache she has experienced. "It's so important to emphasize that although depression is a life threatening illness, it is a treatable one," she says.
When Art was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the summer of 2000, it didn't take the energetic entrepreneur and software engineer long to swing into action. Frustrated by the slow progress toward a cure, Art founded the Accelerated Cure Project to identify research needs and serve as a repository for information about Multiple Sclerosis.
An artistic and outgoing child, Allyson recalls that she was about 13 years old when her mom noticed she was showing signs of depression. "I secluded myself," Allyson recalls. "I wasn’t doing things I enjoyed."
From the time Ally was nine months old, her parents Bill and Nancy knew that something was wrong.
When Aimee was a junior in college, just a couple of years ago, she started having difficulties she wasn't familiar with: crying a lot, feeling moody, not eating and not exercising. The young lady who would soon become Miss Rhode Island and compete for the Miss America crown was sleeping a lot and eating little. She was irritable and clueless about what was wrong with her.