Courtney is from New Jersey, but lives in Cape Cod in Massachusetts. She loves sci-fi, Courtney said, “I’m pretty geeky and love Star Wars, Doctor Who and other sci-fi things as well as shows like NCIS and Criminal Minds.” She in fond of everything Disney and goes usually once a year. Courtney knits and crochets. She also likes to color and has a 2 and a half-year- old Yorkshire terrier named Lobo, which means wolf in Spanish. Courtney is currently working on a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology online. She said, “I work with children with Autism, so I’d love to keep going on the path to a good rewarding career in this field.” At the moment, she doesn’t know where she will be in 5 years, but is living life day to day.
Courtney was diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) during the sixth grade, after she told a friend about her suicidal thoughts. Her friend to his mom, and she told the guidance counselor. Courtney was put in an in-patient adolescent mental hospital followed by therapy sessions and daily medications. Courtney still struggles with her MDD, she said, “I would say I still have it, but it’s pretty well maintained. I have worse days than others, and different parts of the year are harder than others. But I do recognize I have come a long way.”
Courtney believes her mental disorder was caused by different tragedies throughout the year. She said, “Part of what triggered it was the death of my sister when I was 11. She was my older half-sister, but had Down Syndrome so mentally we were basically equal. Six months later my grandfather passed away followed by my closest aunt 4 months after that. Rule of 3 I guess you can say. Life was turned upside down and I don’t think my family dynamic was ever the same again.”
Due to this, she has experienced horrible symptoms, such as insomnia, exhaustion, hopelessness, and numbing. Courtney had no interest in anything. She isolated herself and developed panic attacks. Her schooling was the most affected. Courtney said, “I think I was just a horrible student. I had no concentration and because I was always so tired I just seemed to float through my freshman and sophomore year of high school.” When she got to college her depression wasn’t as bad, until she transferred school, and had to leave mid semester. She said, “When I had to leave college and had a part time job, my anxiety could get so bad that I would throw up mid shift.” She used to cut in her teen years, and had suicidal thought, but thankfully has never attempted suicide.
Since Courtney always isolated herself, she never developed social skills, and now has a difficult time creating friendships. During romantic relationships, if her boyfriend did not understand her mental illness, it would become hard to maintain. She said, “My most recent (now ex) boyfriend understood everything and I’ve actually come a lot farther in recovery because he was so supportive. Courtney felt sadness when she realized she has few friends. She doesn’t know how to improve her social skills, making her feel lonelier.
Her turning point was after the third hospitalization, she didn’t want to keep putting her loved ones through it. When Courtney became, an adult she went to an intensive two-year outpatient therapy. There she received cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Courtney was given other alternatives, such as electro cranial stimulation with a device called the Fisher Wallace Stimulator. She said, “It helps my brain create serotonin and dopamine naturally with electric pulses through my temples. I still go to therapy on a mostly regular basis and occasionally use meds for anxiety. I also discovered medical marijuana to help manage everything too. I live in a state that actually now has recreational marijuana and I’m a believer that it helps so many different medical problems.”
Not only that, but Courtney has gotten help from friends and family. Even the outpatient program became a second family to her. Courtney is not sure if she has learned any lessons, but has realized that things do get better, and that she is stronger than she used to be. Her outlook is life has also changed, she said, “I think I’ve always been more mature for my age because of being diagnosed so early. Recently, I realized more that I deserve to be happy and if things aren’t working then there needs to be a change”. Courtney is sticking to electro cranial stimulation and making sure to go to her therapy appointments to maintain control.
This is her advice to anyone struggling with MDD, she said:
“I’d say not to give up, as cliché as that is. And as much as there are things out there to help, it’s like addiction where you really need to want to change what’s going on. Until then just mange everything as best you can. Depression becomes like a shadow following you everywhere and you end up becoming comfortable with it and it can make it harder to overcome. Once you realize you want to change and be a happy person, it makes everything seem easier.”
If you or anyone you know needs a safe place to vent out and recieve advice feel free to become a member of the Mental Illness Recovery Series Group on Facebook.