Trauma and Depression Have Both Affected Me Greatly

February 27, 2020 Jennifer Smith

Trigger warning: This post contains descriptions of sexual abuse, trauma, and suicidal ideation.

There are some of us with depression who have experienced trauma during our lives. This trauma may have occurred prior to or after our diagnosis of depression. For those who have been through traumatic experiences, these events can have a profound effect on their depression. Armed with this knowledge, what can those of us with depression -- and those close to people with depression -- do with this information?

Trauma and Depression: A Lifelong Problem

An Early Traumatic Experience that Affected Me Greatly

Starting at the age of three, or possibly even before that, I was molested by a relative. I will always believe this trauma contributed to my depression, whether that means triggering what was already in my brain or somehow causing it to start. I'm not sure of the science of depression; I really don't think anyone is quite sure of exactly how depression works yet. 

At this young age, I had no idea what was happening when I was being molested, which, as you can imagine, caused a great deal of confusion for me. As I got older and the sexual abuse continued, I began to realize something was wrong with the situation, but I still couldn't quite figure out what it was. In fifth grade, I learned about inappropriate touching, but I still didn't realize that this is what was happening to me. It was like I somehow distanced myself from the girl that was being molested.

Knowing what I know now, I suppose this was a form of disassociation. During these years, I spent a great deal of time escaping into books and fantasies in my mind where I was a heroine or a queen or sometimes the "villainess" who sought revenge. Eventually, the abuse stopped when I was 12 and I threatened my abuser with outing him to everyone. While the actual sexual abuse ended at this point, my trauma was far from over. I had not actually dealt with any of the effects it had on my psyche. I would realize this many years later as I began to face the darkness of depression. 

Trauma and My Teenage Years

My life didn't get much better during my teenage years. While I had friends and fun, there was a part of me that felt sad inside most of the time. I felt like there was something inherently repulsive about myself -- like if they figured "it" out, all my friends would run away from me in disgust ("Five Ways to Overcome Anxiety and the Imposter Syndrome"). Yet, I didn't know what this thing was, so I tried to be the life of the party and keep people at a safe distance.

I did well in school and seemed to have everything going for me. I had a great boyfriend, too. My facade came to a horrific end when my boyfriend and I were involved in a car accident. He was killed instantly. He was my world at that time. Even now it hurts when I remember that night. I lost my hold on everything once he was gone.

This traumatic experience gutted me. I went down some dark paths. I was only 16 years old, and I did some dangerous things. I tried to numb the pain. I did what I would now call self-medicating and I practiced unhealthy coping mechanisms. Depression had completely sucked me in and I was lost in it -- totally and completely.

What I Do with Trauma and Depression as an Adult

Many years have passed since I was a teen. I didn't receive my actual depression diagnosis until I was 41 years old. I somehow managed to make it through all the years between the trauma and the depression diagnosis, but they were difficult years.

I developed several unhealthy habits and poor (or actually little to no) coping skills. I've had to unlearn so much that was detrimental and then learn so many new things that have been both life-changing and literally lifesaving. I needed someone when I was a child. I needed someone when I was a teen. The "someone" I needed was an adult I could trust.

I needed an adult who wouldn't yell or judge or punish. I needed an adult who would love me and take care of me without being angry at me. I was afraid. I was traumatized. I had depression. I had suicidal ideation. I needed someone I was not afraid of. I had no one. I want to leave you all with the following thoughts:

  • If you feel alone, you are not. Please reach out.
  • If you have been or are being abused, it was never, will never be, and is not your fault.
  • If you are an adult, please be a safe place. Children and teens need us. 
  • Be the someone you needed when you were younger. 

APA Reference
Smith, J. (2020, February 27). Trauma and Depression Have Both Affected Me Greatly, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 22 from

Author: Jennifer Smith

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