All hope is not lost

One young woman’s experiences with depression

Photo by Ashley Hennefer

—Jessica Ross, University of Nevada, Reno student

While women have more opportunities than ever, an active life doesn’t come without stressful expectations. Some experts estimate that about 1 in every 8 women will experience some form of depression in their lives. But just because it’s common doesn’t make it easy to talk about.

Jessica Ross was first diagnosed with depression at age 12. Now 22, she finds ways to cope in the midst of a busy life.

Ross, an English major at the University of Nevada, Reno, first decided something was wrong at 11 when she noticed herself becoming excessively upset about her life.

“I didn’t know why, and I didn’t talk to anyone about it,” Ross said. “It was definitely something that had been building for a while.”

After she exhibited self-destructive behavior, her parents took her to a psychiatrist.

“I started seeing a psychiatrist, but I stopped going pretty quickly because I decided that I didn’t like therapy,” Ross said. “I hated talking about my feelings, my family and myself, and I didn’t think therapy was fun or cool.”

Ross attended therapy on and off for several years. After dealing with self-esteem and physical insecurity, her depression escalated into an eating disorder.

“Toward the end of middle school, I gained quite a bit of weight because of my depression. I was sad all the time, not sleeping right, not eating right,” said Ross. “In high school I joined the cross country team and shortly thereafter became bulimic.”

Ross attributes bulimia to the sense of having control over her life, and felt her depression wane. But the relief didn’t last long.

“My coach realized what I was doing before I could cause myself any serious harm, and he intervened,” Ross said. “When I started eating right and was able to make it through an entire practice without passing out, I noticed that running always made me feel great.”

Running helped Ross keep the depression at bay, but a series of running-related injuries forced her to slow down. Almost immediately, her depression returned. At that point she was able to try therapy with a new mentality.

Upon reflection, Ross realized that her tension with therapy stemmed from the reality of her problems. “I couldn’t just ignore them and pretend they didn’t exist. The third time I started therapy, I was ready to deal with my issues.”

While the fear of therapy lessened, Ross struggled with accepting medication. “It made me feel sort of crazy, and I hated that I only felt ‘normal’ when I was on medication, because it made me feel like it wasn’t really me who was becoming normal, it was just me with chemicals in my system.”

Ross has since come to terms with medication and now takes anti-depressants in conjunction with visiting a therapist. Generally, she feels that she has her depression—and her health—under control in a healthy way.

“There are times when it’s more obvious than others, and there are times when I don’t feel like I could be considered depressed at all,” she said.

Ross encourages others to seek out options and to not let social pressures get in the way of being happy. “Get help! It took me years to realize that therapy and medication don’t make me weird, or crazy, or someone else.

“Every bit of help I get just helps me to be who I was really meant to be, taken out from behind my layers of issues. I understand the feeling of not wanting to get help because you want to act like nothing is wrong. But if something is wrong, your best bet of fixing it is to get help.”