Groups audienceDepression A
Ysabel is known by her friends and family as someone with a positive attitude who is full of enthusiasm. She is constantly involved in activities to improve the community and to help its members, and she does it with an inspiring energy and joy. The person that she is today is the result of her inner strength and determination to cope with her depression for 20 years, a road that hasn’t been easy, but has helped her to become a strong and confident woman.
The first time Ysabel experienced feelings of depression was during her first pregnancy, when at the sixth months, doctors told her that her baby had a condition incompatible with life, and that she had to decide if she wanted to abort or continue with pregnancy. She decided to continue, and when the baby was born, she lived for 15 minutes. Ysabel decided to be as strong as possible so she and her family wouldn’t collapse emotionally, and even though on the outside she looked calm, internally she was struggling with different emotions and didn’t have the information or support to seek help, leaving her feelings unattended.
Ysabel did not deal with the emotions from her first pregnancy and fearful about having the same problems, she carried this anxiety into her second pregnancy. When her baby was born Ysabel experienced postpartum depression, but this time, she was able to identify it thanks to information provided by the hospital. Ysabel continued to have depressive feelings and called the hospital and asked to speak with a social worker. Ysabel remembers that seeking help was one of the most important decisions in her life. After speaking with a social worker, she attended group therapies with other parents, and also individual therapy with Dr. Ayodeli. She had a great influence in Ysabel by motivating her to start a hobby and continue school. Ysabel continued with group and individual therapies until her son was two years old, and this experience helped her to find the strength and empowerment to manage her emotions and make her own decisions. She is very grateful for the medical community and social workers who provided resources and not only took her well-being very seriously but helped her to understand the importance of taking her own health seriously.
Things were looking up for Ysabel. After separating from her husband she started a new relationship with a very special and dear person who had a positive influence in her and her son. He motivated her to pursue a bachelor’s degree, and just before Ysabel’s graduation he suddenly died of a heart attack. She went into a deep depression, where she even felt suicidal feelings. She was so depressed that she knew that the help she received before wouldn’t be enough, so she called the New York Presbyterian Hospital and told them about her condition and the sudden death of her partner. At the hospital, they asked her if she was willing to be hospitalized for 2 weeks and she accepted. During this time, she was under treatment and it was very helpful because she was able to get away from the things that made reminded her of him.
After 2 weeks, she continued to go to group therapy and she also decided to have individual therapy. Ysabel remembers that finding a therapist was a very difficult process for several reasons; it was hard to find someone that she could trust and feel comfortable discussing her thoughts, some that accepted her medical insurance, and because she was also dealing with her emotions during the process make her want to give up. During this time, she tried many different therapists because she didn’t find someone she could identify herself. Deciding to change between therapists was something that made her proud, because she felt that she knew herself and her depression very well, so she knew exactly what she was looking for in a therapist. Fortunately, she met Dr. Susan, a therapist with whom she felt a lot of confidence and freedom to express herself. During therapy they used different techniques to explore her feelings, and with one of these Ysabel was able to identify that her depression didn’t start 20 years ago, but instead started in her childhood. This helped Ysabel to identify things from childhood and adolescence that had an impact in how she feels, her self-esteem, and the image that she has of herself.
Ysabel believes that receiving information about depression from her doctors helped her the most to cope with depression. She didn’t receive any information from her community, friends or family, and she felt shame and a lot of fear of recognizing that she had depression given stigma in Latin community. She believes that depression is a significant taboo in Dominican culture. Even today, for some members of her family is very difficult to accept that another person may have depression. She also has friends who have faced difficult situations in life and is very difficult for them to have the time to cry and let those feelings come out, especially in men who are supposed to be “machos”. For Ysabel, stigma is a huge problem that must end, because prevents people from seeking help. She believes that depression, as any other disease like diabetes, cancer, and AIDS, has to be known, respected, and supported. She says: “…we are not helping each other by continuing to hide it. The more we hide it, the more we prevent other people of getting help and receiving resources and support”
Eliminating stigma and taboo is such an important goal for Ysabel, and she thinks that the best way to eliminate them is by talking about depression. Ysabel is a person with a strong awareness of depression and the importance of expressing how you feel, and to don’t be afraid. She feels empowered and confident to talk about depression, and with this attitude she has been able to motivate other people to talk about it and increase awareness about depression. She advises people that we are all humans and we have to let these feelings come out instead of accumulating and then explode. She thinks that it is very dangerous to try to be strong for too much time, because it is not how heavy is the load you are carrying, but for how long you are carrying it. When you talk about it and seek for help, you help yourself by letting these feelings come out instead of accumulating.
Story by Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Video by Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Special thanks to Staci Carney and Jason T. Guzman for their support to make this video