What made you come out of depression?

How a 26-year-old woman from Freiburg lives with her depression

The 26-year-old Lena from Freiburg has had depression for many years - and has learned to deal with her illness. She told Fudder about her life with an illness that is still taboo.

Lena has a reward system: Whenever she has survived a depressive phase, she buys a pair of sneakers. For ten years, the 26-year-old from Freiburg has repeatedly suffered from depression, and her sneaker collection has grown to 32 pairs.

Lena L. (name changed by the editors) lies alone in her apartment, stares at the ceiling and sees no way out. The blinds are down, it's quiet. She howls softly to herself. Same thing the next day. And the next but one. Sometimes such a phase lasts for several weeks.

Meanwhile, Lena knows that the depression is over

"Days later, I don't remember why I was so sad and discouraged," says the 26-year-old. A typical symptom of depression, says Mathias Berger. He is the former medical director of the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the University Medical Center Freiburg and chairman of the Freiburg Alliance against Depression, which tries to educate the population about the disease and its treatment.

"You can compare depression with what sometimes happens at night: You wake up and see everything through a dark veil that you can't understand in the morning." With a depressive illness, the veil can stay for weeks - as with Lena.

Showering, applying make-up, driving to work - unimaginable

When she feels really bad for the first time, Lena is 17 and in the second year of her apprenticeship as a retail saleswoman. She is stressed at the company, feels uncomfortable and has stomach pains. Your chronic migraines will get worse. After a breakdown, her mother drives her to a clinic. A neurologist notes that Lena's condition could be psychological. The doctor speaks of depression. Lena and her mother understand that this is not a pubertal phase.

Sometimes you can't get up at this time. Showering, applying make-up, driving to work - unimaginable. Lena is often absent from the company. She wants to explain this to her superiors and makes an appointment with the HR department. The reaction: Every teenager is hysterical at times. Lena feels that she is not being taken seriously, and at the same time blames herself. She ends her training with a bang.

Campaign #deinwegraus aims to destigmatize depression

Most people don't know that depression will pass again, says Mathias Berger. The ignorance in society about the disease is still very great. "That is unacceptable and terrible," says Berger. "Because most depression is easily treatable."

With the campaign #deinwegraus, his coalition wants to destigmatize depression. Because, so the message: this disease can affect anyone, it has many faces and it is treatable.

Lena has known her depression half her life. For several years she has been in regular talk therapy and has been taking medication to improve her mood. It is now easier for her to talk about her illness. "It's part of my life. I've learned to deal with it."

The depression also made Lena stronger

When Lena notices that a depressive phase is approaching, she does things that are good for her: A walk in the woods. Listen to happy music. Paint mandalas. And if there is still a surge, she knows "that it will be fine again." The depression made her stronger. A few months ago, Lena decided to speak openly about her illness. "Most of the time, people cannot deal with being told that they are depressed. If I can help other affected people with my openness, it means a lot to me," she says.

Lena is a family man. The relationship with her parents is very close, especially with her mother. When Lena found out in her teenage years that her mother once survived cancer, it was a shock. Since then they have been plagued by fears of loss.

"Even drastic experiences such as the beginning of your training or moving out of home can be reasons for depression," says Mathias Berger. Why do some people get depression and others not? "If you have a genetic problem or if your childhood was difficult, you are more susceptible to suffering from depression," says Berger.

According to the study on adult health in Germany, 11.3 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds will develop depression over the course of a year. According to the German Depression Aid Foundation, three to ten percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 are currently suffering from depression.

Lena can let everything go with the therapist

Lena is still concerned with her second violent breakdown today. That was in 2015. For weeks she lay isolated in her apartment, cried and did not want to talk to anyone. "The medication was of no use anymore, every step outside the door made my heart racing." Lena could neither eat nor sleep, lost several pounds.

To deal with the panic attacks, she cut herself. "It felt like relief," she says. "The scratching as a reduction in tension is now very common. It can occur in all kinds of psychological crises," says Mathias Berger. Lena also has suicidal thoughts, but the thought of her family keeps her off.

What she needs: people who understand her illness

What helps Lena get out? Conversations with the therapist. "I can really throw myself up without having the feeling of hurting anyone. I can only recommend it to everyone," she says. She doesn't think that she has to take mood-enhancing medication on a long-term basis. She only thinks that they mess up the metabolism and that it increases quickly because of it.

Lena has completed a second apprenticeship and works in a company where she is doing well. Colleagues and bosses know about her depression and understand if she can't come to work because of it. She lives in her own apartment, has been in a happy, stable relationship for a long time and has many close friends. She still has periods of depression when she needs time for herself. And people who understand their illness.

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