MEAN Girl of the Month - July - Kate Drexel - Middleburg, VA USA

MEAN GIRL BIO

NAME:  Kate Drexel

HOMETOWN:  Middleburg, VA

AGE:  25

CAREER:   Marketing

HOBBIES/INTERESTS:  Photography. I am a freelance concert photographer, mostly hard rock/heavy metal bands with a mixture of pop, rap and EDM. I am also a collector of venetian laser cut masquerade masks, I have five in my ever-growing collection so far. 

LOVES:  Cats & dogs, jigsaw puzzles, coffee, chilling at home (my Bat Cave) reading or watching movies & my shows (Arrow, The Flash, Supernatural, Grey's Anatomy). I also love having conversations for hours on end with long-distance friends on the phone or FaceTime.  

DISLIKES:  Spiders & bugs, snakes & lizards, tight dark places, and clowns (except for Slipknot's Clown, weirdly enough).

MEAN Motto:  I recently started reading a book called, Boss Bitch, by Nicole Lapin. There was a quote that really struck a chord with me:  "My life didn't please me, so I created my life." - Coco Chanel.  Now, as a diehard Three Days Grace fan, there was a song that got me through hard times, still does: "Never Too Late". So, what's my MEAN motto? "It's never too late to create a new life for yourself."

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                                       Photographer:   Mike Sievila @msievila

"Most believe there are two types of people who go into a crucible.  The ones who become stronger from the experience and survive it, and the ones who die.  But there’s a third type.  The ones who learn to love the fire and choose to stay in their crucible because it’s easier to embrace the pain when it’s all you know anymore.”  I remember the first time I heard that quote from one of my favorite TV shows, Arrow, and getting chills.  I felt some sort of connection with the line, especially at the mentioning of the first and third type of person. For as long as I can remember, I was that third type, the one who loved the fire and embraced the pain.  But through my recent journey, I evolved into the first type, the one who became stronger from the experience and survived it.  My name is Kate Drexel and this is my story.

Over the years, I’ve battled depression in the only way I knew how to protect myself from harm and judgment – by hiding behind a metaphorical mask.  I only wanted to show people what I thought they wanted to see:  a happy, confident, innocent girl who seemingly has no problems in life.  For so long, I was using my mask as a shield to hide my emotional scars.  I ignored my own issues and was worrying about my family and friends’ troubles. 

There are various ways that people deal with depression.  For instance, some drink to drown their troubles; some do drugs to numb it all away; and others physically mark themselves, leaving scars of their emotional pain.  But those are just the common unhealthy coping mechanisms.  The way I dealt with it was by suppressing my issues and letting it all pile up, probably one of the worst things I could do. 

The thing is, I’ve been through a lot in my 25 years, but the major turn of events began over eight years ago.

There is no real delicate or light way of saying what I’ve gone through since early 2009.  I’m not shy about discussing these experiences, however it is not easy for me to admit out loud.  It started with losing a friend in high school and I was one of the last few people she spoke to before taking her own life later that night.  Eventually, I found out how and where she passed.  Every time I went to her death site, I would feel a chill … I still do whenever I visit the school.

The summer I turned 17, I was date-raped by my then-boyfriend.  That trauma scared me into silence and that silence turned into anger and depression.   Once I found my voice, I finally told my parents what happened to me a year later.  It wasn’t easy but I felt like I could breathe again.  Eventually, I overcame the crashing waves of depression ... or so I thought.

The depression slowly returned a few years later while I was in college.  A friend of mine was mugged and stabbed near a venue where I was photographing a concert.  A few days later, she passed away due to complications. 

I survived all these crucibles and while I should feel grateful that I did, it left me in a dark place and I learned to embrace the pain because it was all I knew at that point.

With every passing day, I felt the depression growing stronger and I kept brushing it off, but deep down I knew something was wrong.  I would be shooting one of my favorite bands and I wouldn’t get my normal feelings of excitement or joy when shooting a show.  I’d feel empty and numb, feigning a smile or laugh, trying to convince myself that I was fine.  Those who are close to me noticed a change in my voice and my appearance.  They could sense that I was faking my emotions.  I kept pushing them away in fear of letting them see the darkest part of me.  I kept telling them “I was okay” / “I was fine.” 

I didn’t want the depression to control me.  So, I finally decided to take my life back and to let the light into my dark world.  I took off the mask and revealed to my close friends and family what I was going through.  Asking for help was the most healing and empowering thing I could do.  The love and support I received was so overwhelming and it gave me a new sense of strength that I never felt before.  From that moment on, I knew I was going to be okay. 

Photographer:   Mike Sievila @msievila

Depression is not a permanent disorder.  It does eventually go away and if it ever returns, it can be properly managed.  I’ve learned various healthy coping techniques for whenever I have my moments; such as self-affirmations, coloring, or listening to some of my favorite bands. But the best thing that can be done is to take it one day at a time.  I’ve also learned to not let my past and the depression define the woman I have become.  With this new-found strength, I am making positive changes in my life and striving for new goals such as becoming a photography teacher at a high school or to work in the marketing field of the entertainment industry.

Photographer:  Terry Dobbins @terrydphotos

My advice to anyone who is dealing with depression:  never rush the healing process; know that you’re never alone and it is okay to ask for help.  Another note to consider is that depression is something that should never be written off.  While it is not a disease, it is a disorder that plagues the mind and it’s one that should be handled in the right way immediately.  It is never too late to change your life.  Being in darkness is a momentary thing, find the light and strength within yourself to push through it. 

Depression is a challenge, but it is not insurmountable.  Running from life is not the answer; staying in the moment and taking in each moment one at a time.  Getting help is the first step to empowering yourself to achieving emotional and mental well-being.

Photographer:  Terry Dobbins @terrydphotos

Kate welcomes you to connect with her: 

Twitter:  @kdrexphotos

Facebook:  Kate Drexel Photography

Instagram:  @katedrexelphotography

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