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Dan - Interview 30

Age at interview: 22
Brief Outline: Dan is 22 and a fulltime PhD student. Dan moved from Australia to study in the UK a few months prior to the interview. He'd experienced depression before coming over to the UK but the big life change of leaving his whole life behind and moving over alone made things harder for Dan. He's gotten help from a combination of counselling from his university and antidepressants. Also reading, doing exercise and keeping himself busy have helped Dan to keep going. He feels much better now and says
Background: See 'Brief outline'

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Dan is 22 and a PhD student. He is originally from Australia and came over to the UK about five months prior to the interview. Before coming over to the UK Dan had spent a gap year working and travelling abroad. During this time, Dan started to feel down and depressed and he describes these feelings as “pre-emptive homesickness”. Being far away from home and his family and thinking ahead of the huge life change of moving to the UK for 3-4 years was starting to hit him. Dan got to “a pretty bad state” while he was in South America and trying to keep in touch with family and friends was the only thing keeping him going.
 
Dan returned to Australia for a couple of weeks in between his travels and the move to the UK. Though finding things difficult, he wasn’t tempted to change his plans because he’d made a careful decision to move over and he’d been accepted to a very prestigious UK university to do his PhD. The first few weeks in the UK were “pretty crap” for Dan. He didn’t know anyone, was struggling with motivation and feeling very homesick. Within a couple of months it became clear to him though that it was “more than just being homesick” and also his parents and family noticed that he was not himself.
 
At first Dan went for counselling sessions through his university which he says were really helpful in processing everything that was going on. Dan felt though that the counselling wasn’t quite enough to help him “get over the hump” and he went for his GP to get a prescription for antidepressants. Dan says he “hates” taking any medicine so the decision to go on medication was a difficult one but he says he felt much better very soon after starting. The antidepressants have helped him stabilise his moods and he hasn’t any bad side effects. Dan says the “double headed attack” of counselling and medication is the right way forward for him.
 
In the time that Dan’s been over in the UK he’s already made very good friends. Doing sport; rowing, running and football, is also really important to Dan and helps him keep his head clear. He tries to keep himself busy and sometimes just force himself to get out to go for a walk or have a wander around the shops. Despite his bad days Dan is feeling much better now. He says it’s really important to “be willing to get help and talk to people” and “not be too hard on yourself”.
 

Filling out a depression symptom questionnaire made Dan realise that things weren’t right.

Filling out a depression symptom questionnaire made Dan realise that things weren’t right.

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Whenever I went to the counselling service, and whenever I went to the GP you fill out the standard sort of depression, depression indicator test, which is a sort of, it’s a-one or two-page-test, just like questions about how you’re feeling and how often you feel that way and things like that, so. That’s
 
That was pretty clear to you?
 
Yeah, I mean it was, and it was kind of good to sort of have that form, and sort of if I filled it out and looked at it and went, it kind of made me realise if I’d filled this out a year ago, it would have been zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, well zero, zero, one, zero, one or whatever, but it was I just sort of looked and went that isn’t normal for me, that that’s not where I would’ve been six months ago, this is different, quite different so that, so making that realisation I guess helped.
 

Antidepressants have helped Dan to get through the “shit” days and to be able to look into the...

Antidepressants have helped Dan to get through the “shit” days and to be able to look into the...

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Basically the thing I’ve found is that it doesn’t stop me feeling down and it doesn’t stop me feeling good either which was good ‘cos that was one of the things that I was quite scared of. And one of the things that stopped me taking them for a long time was I didn’t want to sort of end up losing the highs as well as the lows.
 
So I still, I still do feel really down at times, still feel really happy a lot of the times but what they’ve sort of done is just taken the edge of the lows, basically. So I’ll like I’ll still feel down but I won’t feel so down that I feel like all hope is lost, basically. I can still sort of, I’ll sort of go, I’ll feel down but I know it will pass, I can still have some degree of optimism, whereas before I was taking them when I got down I was just, I was in a completely helpless state I guess basically, I couldn’t, I couldn’t see any way out of it.
 
And they sort of certainly helped with at least getting me to a point where I could sort of approach each day, and even if I’m feeling shit I can sort of say, “Well it’ll pass,” I can, I can, kind of see the future, where it will pass basically.
 
When I, when I was feeling really down before I was on them, it was basically like I I’d look into the future and just go, “It’s it’s never gonna improve, it’s not gonna get better, I’m gonna be like this forever, you know, I’m gonna do this degree and I’m gonna feel awful, then I’ll go home, and nobody’ll be there and I’ll feel awful and etc. And they’ve sort of, it’s got me to the point where I can at least be, if, if not optimistic at least realist about it, and sort of say, “Yeah look it feels craps and it maybe that this isn’t for you, it maybe that you go home in a year, but at least sort of you, you will feel better at some point and whatever you end up doing after, you will find something that makes you happy, like you you’re not, you’re not gonna feel like this for the rest of your life.
 

Dan says going on medication “wasn’t an easy decision” but combined with counselling helped him a...

Dan says going on medication “wasn’t an easy decision” but combined with counselling helped him a...

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I eventually went and talked to the counsellor, and it made me feel crap for about two days ‘cos it dug up a load of stuff that I didn’t want to think about, but it certainly helped. And I’m glad I did it, I’m definitely glad I did it.
 
But I went and talked to the counsellor and we talked it through, so we just had a couple, a couple of sessions kind of talking it through, how I was feeling and why I might be feeling like that. And it definitely helped, but I was still feeling down a lot of the time, and I eventually went and talked to a GP and said, “Look I’m, I sort of, I’m talking to people I’m in counselling and I feel like I’m moving forward but I just, I need, kind of I need something to help me get over that hump basically.
 
And I was put on some anti-depressants which actually really helped. I don’t like taking medicines, I really hate taking medicines. I really prefer to kind of let my body deal with it, so it wasn’t, it wasn’t an easy decision to make. But it was kind of I just, I’d reached this realisation that, yes I can get through it on my own steam and it will be something that I get myself through but I’m gonna need help to do it. I can’t, I can’t do this entirely by myself. And part of that was going to see a counsellor and talking to them about it, and talking about how I feel and why I feel that way and sort of, getting I guess cognitive things I can do to help myself feel better. So sort of thinking exercises and of things like that but also being able to go to talk to a doctor and say, “Look I’m depressed, I need something to help me with it”.

 

They sort of said, explained basically look this is, how you’re feeling is not uncommon, it happens to a lot of people, I know it happens to a lot of people. And it’s great that you’re in counselling, it’s great that you’re doing this, you know, you, it’s, that will definitely help you and you will definitely move through it, but it’s its okay to be, just something to give you boost over the hump.
 
‘Cos that’s, that, I mean that’s that why the drugs exist is to kind of bolster you. And I mean taking, just taking anti-depressants I don’t think would help a lot, because I wouldn’t kind of work through the things that were bugging me. But with kind of talking to people and getting help, and also just kind of as time went on, they just kind of they, they got me out of the bad moods enough to be able to be optimistic and things like that. And that’s, I mean they’re not perfect, I still have days where I feel awful, when I’m on them but the definitely have stabilised me a lot, which is good.
 

Dan says drinking makes him “feel better for four hours and then feel crap for 18”.

Dan says drinking makes him “feel better for four hours and then feel crap for 18”.

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I won’t mind, having a couple of drinks does I mean it opens me up a bit, I can speak to people a bit easier. I can sort of I would usually feel a bit happier when I do it and it’s actually something I’ve been quite careful of, in the last five months is to deliberately limit the amount of alcohol I have ‘cos I could see myself going down that path, if I let it happen. I could see how easily it could happen. So it’s something I’ve sort of tried to consciously at least limit.
 
But, yeah I mean it’s sort of, it doesn’t make, it makes me feel better for four hours and then feel crap for 18 [laughs], especially if you’ve done something stupid during the night. It’s not really a solution, it’s, I mean it’s great if I’m, if I’m going out with a couple of friends and I’m feeling a bit down, having a drink or two with them will often help, I won’t, I won’t deny that, I probably shouldn’t encourage people to drink, but it does help, but, not to excess I guess, I sound like a teacher but yeah. that’s true.
 

Losing his busy social life after travelling overseas came as “a rude shock” to Dan.

Losing his busy social life after travelling overseas came as “a rude shock” to Dan.

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We had a really good social life, we went out you know every couple of nights we’d go out to the pub or we’d go and see and a movie or something like that, it was just there was there was always stuff happening, I was really kind of at the centre of, not at, not at the centre of the social group, that sounds horribly arrogant but like I was sort of right in the middle of everything that was happening.
 
And I came back from South America, and especially since I was back for so, such a short time, sort of there was no point in like going back to Uni if I was back for five weeks I wouldn’t have done anything, getting, getting involved in a big theatre show or sort of getting back involved in a band ‘cos I would’ve only had three or four rehearsals or something like that and be off again. So I sort of but, so it, what was really hard was I got back and everyone else’s life had continued on its perfect trajectory and mine had come to kind of a irrevocable halt while I was waiting to start this new life in England.
 
And like so I wasn’t at Uni, I wasn’t working, I did see my friends around but they were all busy with all the activities they were doing, so theatre and band and whatever like that. And I was sort of, like every day I’d sit down and I’d say do you want to meet up for coffee? Or do you want to go to a movie, and all, like 99% of the time the reply would be “I’d love to, but I’ve got this, I’ve got that, I can’t, I’m already arranged to do this.”
 
And it was just kind of like I wasn’t living the life that I’d lived before. I was, it was supposed, it was like purgatory basically, it was kind of I was floating in the limbo, waiting for this new life to start and sort of back, back to where the old life had been. And I don’t know whether that was the expectation that everything would be back to wonderful, amazing and just getting back and kind of making the realisation that, this kind of it isn’t home any more, it’s the life that I had and that I wanted to go back to, wasn’t around anymore, that was kind of, that was quite a rude shock I guess.
 

Dan says going to the pub alone is not a good idea.

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Dan says going to the pub alone is not a good idea.

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Something that doesn’t help, is going to a pub or a club by myself. I mean I don’t, I’m not a clubbing person naturally, I don’t really enjoy going to clubs, but even just going to a pub ‘cos I’ll inevitably sit there with a beer, looking around at all these people who are enjoying themselves and eventually dig out a book, or a Rubik’s cube or something like that and just realise that it kind of just kind of exacerbates the problem sitting around seeing everyone else have fun.
 

Dan describes a depression crisis.

Dan describes a depression crisis.

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Just feeling really, really alone, like not anyone I could talk to. Even when, even when after the first couple of weeks when I met people and made some friends, I’d just get bouts of time when I just, I’d feel there was no-one here I could talk to, nobody who , was a good friend, nobody who would understand what I was talking about. And it, like I’d sort of, I’d rationalise it, I’d go, “No that’s not true, I’ve got friends who I can talk to, I’ve got friends who I can talk to about this.” But it wouldn’t help; it would just be like I would just get these really bad feelings of loneliness and just really wanting to be back home.
 
And a part of like, a part of the effect of this was I’d get, I found it really, really hard to get motivated like I missed quite a lot of days going into the lab and, or like going to classes and things like that just because as I said I couldn’t do it. And I know that, I knew that it would make me feel better to get out of the house and go and do something and go into the lab with other people around, but I just, I couldn’t, couldn’t do it.
 
And feeling really, and as a result of that feeling really kind of guilty and angry with myself, ‘cos it was kind of like I should be, I should be doing like, I should be going out and doing stuff, but why, why am I not? What, what is it? And it was just kind of, yeah just, like I said just kind of thinking myself into a mess. And I sort of, it’d end up like I’d be like this for a couple of days, and I just sort of go up and down, up and down and it became worse and worse and worse, and eventually just have a crisis and kind of break down crying and thinks like that. There’s a couple of times I had to sort of, I was sitting in the lab and I’d kind of go, “I have to go out for a bit,” and I’d run out the door and just go and sit in the park and just be crying for half an hour, or something like that. It usually made me feel quite a bit better actually, but …
 
Yeah, it was just kind of, I just, I don’t know, sort of, I could describe them as crises, but I’d just kind of, I’d get into this, just this pattern of thinking negatively and I’d just go down and down and down and down and down, and eventually just crash for a while. 
 

Dan says his family has “agonised” over him. He knows that if anything happened to him, it would...

Dan says his family has “agonised” over him. He knows that if anything happened to him, it would...

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But, yeah like I know they, they’ve found it quite difficult too, and I know they put a lot of time and thought into it and agonised over it quite a lot. So I know it does affect them as well and I mean that’s that’s part of what sort of keeps me going I guess is knowing that if I ever completely and utterly went to pieces, it, it’s not just me who would be affected, it would be all the people that I love as well, and it’s, and that kind of that realisation whilst I’m still going, there are people who would be devastated if, I don’t know if I was to die, or if I was just to completely go to pieces or turn into a vegetable or something, and I kind of realised that that means they probably do love me and do want to spend time with me. So, that certainly, yeah, I mean I think it’s been hard on them, but having that sort of, they’ve helped a lot and as a result have been amazing, so.
 

It's helped Dan to realise depression is an illness and not just about him being 'a wuss'.

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It's helped Dan to realise depression is an illness and not just about him being 'a wuss'.

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I guess learning to accept that I’d, I guess had a real medical condition, that it wasn’t just me being stupid and me feeling down or being like a wuss about it or whatever. And yeah kind of also kind of accepting it and being able to talk to people about it a lot more, and willing to say to people, like I can’t do it, ‘cos I’m sick. Not sort of going, “I should be able to do everything, so I’ll try like.” It’s an illness, it’s not kind of, it’s not just you being stupid or anything like that, it’s more than that, and be willing to accept that I guess so.
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