Filmmaker
Living with depression and anxiety

When Erin was first prescribed medication for depression at 19, she felt ashamed of her condition. After years of hiding her condition and past trauma, Erin was able to find a treatment plan that works for her and is now transparent with friends as well as on social media – she actually wants to shout it from the rooftops to help others not feel the shame she felt for 14 years. Her lived experience has also inspired her to create a documentary series about mental health. Erin believes her best healing skills come from sharing her story and connecting people to what can help them.

Erin’s Story

How has your condition impacted your life?

I first went to a psychiatrist a few days after my 19th birthday. My birthday has always been a trigger for me, and my Mom simply called it the “birthday blues”, but this time it was a lot worse than normal. I was prescribed Lexapro and miraculously seemed completely better. I was still experiencing abuse and was ashamed of needing to take medication, but my gregarious personality was back. Lexapro and counseling got me through the rest of a perfectionist experience in college, returning from the Peace Corps, three years as a journalist at CNN, working for President Bush 41’s foundation, making a movie that got on Netflix, getting married, several serious physical illnesses, and my mom being diagnosed with incurable cancer. I thought I was almost invincible. Then in September 2017, my husband and I decided to quit our jobs to embark on very exciting new entrepreneurial projects. I got off birth control to try to start a family, and apparently my Lexapro quit working. I became suicidal. Thankfully, my husband, friends, and family were able to help me find a great new counselor and Psychiatrist who worked together to immediately help me, and now I’m mostly thriving.

What strategies helped you to get well and move to stability?

When my Lexapro stopped working, I took the GeneSight DNA test to help me find the right medication, and that surely helped save my life. I also worked on trauma therapy with EMDR to deal with the abuse I had experienced as a child. Talking about my condition also helped – as soon as I was open about my mental health journey, a huge weight was lifted off me. And volunteering and helping others! Sharing my story, hearing other stories, connecting people to what can help them and who they can help – those are my best healing skills!

What is your life like now?

I still have hard days and am regularly going to therapy, checking in with my Psychiatrist, practicing yoga and other exercise, and trying to improve my levels of self-care. It’s an uphill battle but most days I feel equipped to keep hiking up the mountain. Many days the hike is actually quite beautiful. Some days, or short seasons even, are still intensely painful. I am 100% extroverted, ENFJ, and a black & white thinker, so my counselor and I are doing a lot of CBT to work on hurtful habits in my head. I even recently had a relapse, but the amazing team I’ve assembled around me helped me through, and I felt healthy again less than a month later!

What does success and living well look like for you?

For me, living well today has several components. I do at least one healthy/self-care act for myself every day: yoga, walking my dog, going work out class, acupuncture, reflexology, counseling, Psychiatrist, or massage. Because I work long days and 7-day weeks, I am trying to make sure I have at least two full days a month that I don’t do any work, so that I don’t get burnt out. Seeing friends around the country brings me joy, so I’m trying to plan at least one fun little trip to look forward to at least every other month. Having a better work/life balance is a big goal Being a good leader to my film crew is very important to me, and I can’t do that – or make the world better – unless I’m healthy.​

Are there positives that have come from having a mental health condition?

I am finally seeing them! This group is a big positive. Helping others through being transparent on social media is a huge gift I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t gone through so much pain myself. Being able to make my next film – a documentary series about mental health – would not be on my heart, nor would my mind be capable of it, without going through all of this.

What encouragement or advice would you give to someone suffering from a condition similar to yours?

Find a good therapist and good Psychiatrist! Don’t do it alone – tell your closest friends and family so they can help you. And make an easy goal – like yoga – to do every day while you’re in the worst of it, so you at least get out of bed and feel like you accomplished something.

​What was your most difficult time?

The year I ended up in a psychiatric hospital for a week because I was suicidal and was forced to go on medical leave the entire next semester. It took me an extra year to get tenure.

How has your illness impacted your life?

I have had to give up my independence at times and have friends help me manage my life. The medications I took negatively impacted my kidneys, heart and thyroid. I have had poor evaluations at work — due to both mania and depression.