An overly shy child going all the way back to even preschool, Elsie seems to have struggled with social anxiety for as long as she can remember. Perhaps a build up on top of her difficulties conversing, she became convinced she was “no good” at most things. That lack of self worth ate away at her until depression reared it’s ugly head in middle school.
Elsie would go on to a modeling career, leaving school in the process, but as many do, she turned to alcohol to help her cope with some of what lingered from childhood. As she buried those challenges in drinks, she still struggled to find happiness.
Fortunately she decided to try to heal, naturally – eating well, working out, venturing into nature, getting her GED & finding purpose in political and NGO work. And, she’s taken her experience & has used it to help others through an online community sharing platform she created called: biggerthandepression.com. We spoke at great length the other day…& I’m inspired by the work she has done for herself & will continue to do for others. Please help us welcome Elsie to the Hero Alliance!
“My mental health struggle began at the tender age of three. I didn’t like school all through childhood, & even Pre-K presented its challenges. Teachers told my parents that I wasn’t ‘hale & hearty’ like other children…& also that I ‘held my feelings in.’ The whole enterprise of leaving home & engaging in social activity overwhelmed my circuitry. Feeling threatened in unusually gentle institutions worried teachers & therapy was recommended.
I’ve been fortunate in the sense that access to professionals was never a problem: my family was all about it. I played board games & even catch with child psychiatrists. Naturally in first & second grade I had no idea that such one-on-one time was a function of privilege. The bare truth was that I knew I was in an uphill climb, & that this was a sad state of affairs indeed.
I initially stayed back a grade due to my shyness, & therapy helped enough for me to be placed back with my age group for second grade. It was at this age that I concluded I was a slow learner, bad student & inevitable failure – all this at a Montessori school where no grades were given & I was free to float around & do whatever I wanted. So was this a neurotic reaction? I’d say so. But who knows! Maybe I was just super perceptive about the world’s complexities!
The self deprecation picked up steam when I started a new school in fourth grade. It was here that my suspicions of failure became to me, internal fact. I missed a record amount of days.
I was adored by a teacher in sixth grade for my mind, but I still to this day think part of it was that the man probably thought I was pretty. That’s gross so I’ll move past it.
To a certain extent, I went on to have some academic success. I did well sometimes; even in competitive settings. Teachers thought I was smart. I didn’t. In eighth grade the fog of major depression rolled in. It was there to stay.
High school ushered in alcohol & I relied on it to navigate social situations. I dropped out for a modeling career & quickly became disillusioned with that business & what it required of me.
At the age of 24, I got a GED & started my studies at Community College. I did well & transferred to a four year CUNY school.
In therapy full-time, & taking multiple anti-depressants (we kept trying new combinations because they always stopped working after a month or so), I felt like I’d finally broken through. I began to believe I might have a ‘normal’ adult life, whatever that means.
Fast forward through the rest: I graduated & began a professional career in politics & NGOs. I still relied heavily on my after work drinks. I became bored & unhappy. I’d lost faith in my psychiatrist & the medications.
On my 35th birthday I realized with stunning clarity that I should try some common sense approaches to recovery. I stopped drinking, started exercising instead of going to a bar after work, & devoted myself to growing a spiritual life.
That was my major turning point. I learned to spend time in nature (essential!!), got lost in books, & then learned to truly appreciate the small things in life, like loving on my animals. I had hope & self respect. My depression will always be waiting for me behind a door. Vigilance is my only weapon.
I don’t give up because I honor the people I love by forging ahead.
Last year I created a website: biggerthandepression.com, desi
Everyday I wake up and feel gratitude for this new life & my #SameHere Story…one I continue to write, & for which I now have the fortitude to keep going.”