My name is Lauren. I'm 19 years old. I'm a photographer, writer, student, mom of cats, and feminist. And I have depression. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder about six years ago along with codependent and post-traumatic stress disorder tendencies; but I was probably dealing with many of these issues long before my diagnoses. I was a victim of child sexual abuse at an incredibly young age and subsequently deal with issues of self-worth and self-validation. Around two years after my initial diagnoses, I began battling self-injury and was put on my first anti-depressant. Around a year later, I began sharing my story of childhood trauma and mental illness through social media platforms, but I continued to bounce between relapse and recovery for the next four years –– being thrown under the waves of my depression. When I graduated high school in May 2016, I was planning to attend a university about an hour from my home town, but as move-in day approached I was dreading it. I felt inadequate and lost and I was crushed under the anxiety that I would fail in college, despite the fact that I excelled in high school. Shortly before the semester was scheduled to begin, I decided to withdraw from classes. I would take a gap-year, move in with my sister and her family, and continue working for my high-school employer. As fall transitioned into winter, I was gradually down-spiraling into my depression. I hadn't relapsed into self-harm, but battled severe suicidal thoughts for months until I hit rock bottom and tried to take my own life in early January of 2017. I don't remember much of that night or the hours leading up to my attempt. Fortunately, my attempt was unsuccessful. I spent one night in the ER and three days in an inpatient facility on suicide watch. After I was discharged, I relapsed into self-injury and the next several months were some of the hardest I've ever experienced. In that time, though, I formed some of the closest bonds with my support system. One year later, I'm healthier than I've probably ever been. I still have days where my depression seems perpetual and oppressive, but I take medication, attend regular therapy appointments, and stay in touch with my mental health practitioner and they help me cope with those waves. I'm attending college and I'm absolutely in love with every minute. I'm grateful to be surrounded by friends and family who love me in spite of my battle with depression. My photography and writing give me an outlet where I can express myself and my journey in healthy ways. Depression is still a part of my life, but it does not control me. I am more than my depression. I am free and above // If you're struggling, please reach out. You are more than your mental illness. You are more than your addiction. You can be free. You can rise above.