It’s never too late to begin again
Elsie was diagnosed with major depressive disorder when she was 16.
At 17, feeling overwhelmed by her family’s high academic expectations and multiple cross-country moves, Elsie dropped out of high school to pursue a modeling career. Energized by the financial prospects and gloss associated with the industry, she had hoped this next phase would “make the dark clouds break up.”
Agents sent her to Milan, but it didn’t take long for disillusionment to set in.
I felt very alone and damaged while doing hard, dull, and thankless work.
Feeling lonely and lacking in agency, Elsie felt she was portraying a beautiful face that displayed a false representation of her internal struggles with depression. Her experience of modeling felt like claustrophobia.
Being locked into a career like this made the already dark time worse and I didn’t feel related to as a human being.
As she moved into her 20s, Elsie’s depression deepened. Caving into feelings of helplessness while her peers graduated college and rode excited waves of possibility, she felt more and more disconnected from others.
Years later, this feeling resurfaced when she experienced the loss of her father. That tragedy led to a loss of connections with the most important men in her life. Her brother also experienced challenges related to his own illness—bipolar disorder.
The loss of her father and the disconnection to her brother contributed to her experience with depression.
The trauma of the illness has marked me in a very substantial way. It added a layer to my depression because I have so little control.
Despite her sadness, shame, and helplessness, Elsie continued to function and survive. This resilience in the face of pain was slowly building reserves of strength she wouldn’t know existed until many years later.
With support from her mother and siblings, Elsie decided to take the GED and started community college at 24. This led to a four-year degree and eventually a master’s degree in political science and communications.
But, the new beginning didn’t ease her symptoms of depression, which became serious enough to demand clinical support.
Elsie’s godmother made it financially possible for her to start psychotherapy. At the age of 25. she started her journey with a psychiatrist. Having grown up in a pro-therapy household, Elsie dove into treatment wholeheartedly.
I have tremendous faith in treatment. I don’t know what life I would have had if my parents hadn’t always been quick to get me professional support when I needed it. I am deeply grateful to them for that.
Since then, Elsie has managed her depression with medication and therapy. Working through family trauma and finding her voice through years of therapy—which she continues to this day—brought her back to life after the prolonged numbness of depression.
Now, Elsie feels like a whole person and in control of her own fate. Therapy has allowed her to feel free from the opinions of others and self-recrimination. She has restored her own worth and identity.
Elsie will be graduating with an advanced degree in health communications. She uses her story to destigmatize mental illness, stressing that all of us will deal with mental health challenges at some point in our lives, regardless of status or “success.”
The fact of the matter is that beauty, wealth, and career success don’t insulate us from depression and many of us struggle invisibly.
Elsie publishes her writing in an attempt to reform a broken system and inspire others to share their journey. She hopes that she can inspire empowerment in others.
Depression ultimately enhanced my career growth. I tell others who’ve also struggled to use depression as an asset. It’s part of your toolkit, a toughness and interpersonal intelligence you bring to complex professional challenges. Relief is on the other side of treatment.