Product Manager, New York City Metropolitan Area
Living with depression

Madeline Grimes first became aware that she had depression when she was twelve years old, but it wasn’t until she attempted suicide in her early twenties that she realized she needed help. Through years of clinical care, medication, internal work, and with the help of a great support system, Madeline has reached a strong sense of self-worth and is living a life of intentionality.

Using the increased empathy developed through her lived experience, Madeline is now facilitating a resource group at her company to share resources, spark discussions, and encourage others to seek help. She is helping others to realize that seeking help is not shameful, but a responsible way to care for yourself and your family.

Madeline’s Story

When were you first aware of your condition and what was your most difficult time?

I first became aware of my depression when I was twelve years old. From that time forward, I self-harmed beneath a veneer of good grades, extracurriculars, and other artifacts of traditional accomplishment. Although self-harm became less frequent in my late teens and early twenties, I secretly spiraled to an all-time low as an undergraduate student in college.

My condition led to the nadir of my life when I attempted suicide in the summer of 2017.

Getting better has not always been a linear path—I would be lying if I said I hadn’t wished to end my life after the attempt—but support, access to resources, and intentional work have been key to becoming the healthiest I have ever been.

What is your life like now and what does success and living well look like for you?

At a point in my life, I did not think I would live to see the age of twenty-two. Today, and for the first time, I have a strong sense of self-worth that is defined by leading a life of intentionality. Through privilege, clinical care, medication, dispelling stigma, a ton of internal work, and the support of a beautiful support system, I share my story in the hope of helping even one person feel less alone.  

What help or specific strategies helped you to get well and move to stability?

In the months preceding my attempt, I had seen one of my university’s counselors, but failed to receive adequate care aligned with the severity of my symptoms. Later that year, I saw a therapist, but stopped after she retired a month after with no referral. I also did not refill my prescription of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) after only three months on them. I was feeling okay and ready to move on from a terrible time, embarrassed that I had pushed those close to me onto a carousel of bewilderment and concern.

For the next few years, I worked with a general physician a few times a year in appointments I only reserved when my symptoms were taking a turn for the worse. I had taken myself off and on SSRIs three times when I finally explained to my doctor that I wasn’t feeling better—at times, indistinguishable from my lowest point.

It was only then that my doctor explained the dosage I had been taking was meant for trial, the smallest offered to test for rare side effects.

In a rush of relief and exasperation, I agreed to increase my dosage to what felt appropriate for the next six months. After a messy night of admitting to my family and myself that I was becoming afraid of where my symptoms were again leading me, I promptly saw a psychiatrist who prescribed an even more suitable dosage. 

Through these experiences confronting (and re-confronting) therapy and medication, I have learned the non-negotiability of access to resources for all and communicating fully and honestly. I listen to my symptoms and trust my support system, knowing that they see me not as a burden, but as someone they love dearly and want to get better.

What do you do to manage your condition and stay healthy on an ongoing basis?

Rarely do I hold emotions in anymore. Instead of facing chagrin, however small, at the expense of others’ approval, I work every day to recognize how I am feeling as valid and human. I understand and trust who I am and know that no one else can shake this.

Some other things that have helped me:

  • Journaling
  • Yoga and being with nature
  • Balancing social and alone time
  • Reaching out to loved ones
  • Embracing quality over quantity when making plans
  • Making a conscious effort to sleep well
  • Dedicating time away from work and to unplug

Above all else, I communicate honestly with those around me when I need any of the above. I’ve found this not only helps with stigma surrounding mental health, but also meaningfully enhances my relationships.

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

Coming to terms with my mental health condition has given me a deeper capacity for empathy than I could have imagined. The more I learn about myself, the better I can communicate with others, even when I am only listening.

How has your condition impacted your work and your career?

Untangling the stigma of mental health has been important to knowing if I am a fit at my workplace. Throughout my first few years working full time, I hid my experience completely. When I found an employer I could trust, I spoke indirectly, but was honest when I needed to take a mental health day or two.

Now, I am excited to initiate a resource group at my company with the support of my colleagues. My goal is to share resources, spark discussions, and to encourage others that seeking help is not shameful, but a responsible way to care for themselves and their families.

What words of encouragement would you give to someone struggling with a condition similar to yours?

Many things can feel hopeless—to make that first phone call to a resource, to keep searching for help when it doesn’t work out, to feel that you are worthy of it—but keep going.

Being honest with the severity of your experience is intimidating, especially when a professional recommends medication. Always speak with your doctor about your concerns and try your best not to let self-judgement lead the way.

However you’re feeling, there’s someone out there who’s feeling it too. Self-compassion is an ongoing process that has peaks, valleys, and pitfalls. Be kind to yourself even when it’s hard. For as many reasons as there may be to go, there are even more to stay.

What motivated you to join The Stability Network and what do you hope to get from it?

I was introduced to Stability Leader Zachary Murguía Burton by a classmate in my graduate program and became inspired by his bravery to publicly share his story. I admire The Stability Network’s deeply organized effort to help others feel less alone, especially in the context of the workplace, and am grateful to contribute to an empowering community. 

What resources have helped and/or inspired you on your journey?

I have been trained as a Crisis Text Line counselor and it has truly changed my life and the way I communicate. If you are in a place to give at this level of time, attention, and capacity, I highly recommend doing so.

Is there anything else you want to say or share?

Addressing mental health stigma is only the beginning. We must thoroughly examine and work to remedy the racial, socioeconomic, and other inequities surrounding access to quality mental healthcare; this also includes knowledge of diverse cultural, language, gender, and sexual orientation needs across minority groups.

I would like to challenge mental health professionals to expand their networks, consider flexible payment structures, and get familiar with digital platforms that help appointments take place when they otherwise could not. Take the time to send a referral to a colleague when you cannot accept new patients or when their expertise is more appropriate—you just might save a life.

Inclusion is on all of us to help each other feel seen and heard. Without doing so, meaningful change is severely limited.