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Jennie - Interview 21

Age at interview: 19
Brief Outline: Jennie is a 19-year-old-university student. She's always been a perfectionist and around the age of 15, when doing her GCSEs, the pressures at school were all mounting up and she started to feel more and more depressed. To try and control these feelings, Jennie stopped eating. Jennie was referred to CAMHS where she had counselling for a couple of years. It didn't help her that much but has since found a helpful CBT focussed counselling service.
Background: See 'Brief outline'

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Jennie is 19 and studies fulltime at university. Jennie says she’s always been a perfectionist, wanting to do everything “to the best of her potential” and putting a lot of pressure on herself. When she moved into Year 10 and was coming up to her GCSEs, the pressures were mounting up, she was “crying all the time”, feeling depressed and Jennie started to think something was wrong. She says she couldn’t figure out why she was feeling so depressed all the time and started to “control the emotions by stopping eating”.
 
After a while, a concerned friend of Jennie’s contacted her parents to tell them she wasn’t eating properly. Jennie says she is glad that her friend intervened and that she really wanted to get all the help she could. Her mum who’s in health care contacted a colleague at CAMHS and got Jennie referred straightaway. Jennie saw a psychologist for over two years but says it didn’t help her that much. The difficulty for her was that the counselling was heavily focused on the reasons for her feeling depressed or down and Jennie says she simply didn’t know why she was feeling the way she was. “Not knowing the reason…when everybody asks you why…it’s really frustrating”. Jennie says one the most important things she’s learnt is that you don’t need to know a reason for feeling depressed but you can just focus on things that help you feel better.
 
After Jennie was discharged from CAMHS she found a counselling service focusing on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which has been great. She says consciously changing her negative thinking patterns has been really really difficult, but in time, she’s noticed that trying to see the positive side to things has actually helped her feel  more positive.
 
Jennie has a boyfriend who’s learnt how to deal with her bad days or knows when to leave her alone. Jennie is also really close with her family who’ve been a great support for her. She enjoys netball and dancing and says that sometimes she needs to drag herself from studying and work and just to do something fun and enjoyable.
 

Counselling has helped Jennie to see failure also as a positive thing and an opportunity for...

Counselling has helped Jennie to see failure also as a positive thing and an opportunity for...

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I want everything to be done right, and to my best ability, and like I said I got all A’s and A stars at GCSE, and then all A’s at A’ level. And just doing everything I do I want it to be done to the best of my potential, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do that, and just with everything like the counsellor used to say to me, “You, you see failure as a bad thing, whereas sometimes failure can be a positive thing.” Like last year when obviously I didn’t enjoy, like my course, I saw that as a failure whereas she saw that as a positive thing because it gave me a chance to rethink and have another chance, whereas I, that was like the end of my world for that moment in time, because I’d failed and everything’s got to be like successful and an achievement and like done 100%.
 
I just feel like as well my little brother, like I always said I want to have independence so I can look after him, and ‘cos I’ve not got that independence it’s failing, and they’re like, “No it’s not, you’re 18, 17, 18, how can you be independent at 17, 18. You’ve still got to be a child for your parents, and they’re not going to see that as a failing because if you, like if you’re going to university and it’ll give them opportunities in the future for you to look after him, so it’s not a failing. You are doing something successful at the end of the day.”
 
But I mean I still am a perfectionist, I mean my Uni work like I will do it always to the best, and sometimes it does get on top of me like, I’m stressed because I know I’ve got four assignments before Christmas, and I want to get them done and, so I still have that, but I have a more, when I do get stressed instead of like it leading to being depressed sort of look at it more positive and find something else to do.
 

All Jennie's classmates were talking about losing weight before prom and there was a lot of...

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All Jennie's classmates were talking about losing weight before prom and there was a lot of...

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The transition from the high school was absolutely fine and then when I was in Year 9 going onto Year 10, , I was like struggling with school ‘cos I’m a perfectionist, put a lot of pressure on myself to do well, coming up to choosing for GCSE’s. And then the time that it became like known was when I was in Year 11, it was coming up to the prom, and all through like year 10 and 11 I’d had like problems, like just crying all the time and not knowing what was up, feeling that there was something wrong but didn’t want to say anything,
 
And then when it was coming up to the prom everyone was talking about all losing weight, and I ended up like, ‘cos I was sort of fighting with my emotion, I decided to try and control the emotion but stopping eating.
 

Jennie says she was already more “vulnerable” but it was media images of celebrities which...

Jennie says she was already more “vulnerable” but it was media images of celebrities which...

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I’d say probably the media was the main thing that sort of, like all the factors probably led up to maybe me more vulnerable to depression, but the one that sort of triggered it and set it off was the media.
 
Due to probably like I was sort of like lacking confidence with friends, lacking confidence around my family, like I thought my family thought like I was failing, and it’s like well these celebrities, everybody thinks they’re successful, everybody likes them, they’ve got so many friends, and it’s like, well, well I should be like that. Why am I not like that? And that sort of triggered off the whole depression thing and, then obviously the trying to control it with not eating.
 

It was difficult for Jennie to not understand the causes of her problems with eating.

It was difficult for Jennie to not understand the causes of her problems with eating.

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It got to the stage where obviously my friend end, ended up intervening, telling my parents, and my parents like just asked me out right, and I just said, “Oh I’m not going to lie to you, yeah I am on, not eating.” And they were like, “Why?” And I was like, “Well,” and I like explained about the thoughts and like, “Well why, what’s the reason for these thoughts?” And like, “I can’t tell you.” And they thought, they understood because obviously they’d gone through depression, so that was good for me, apart from again when my Dad, my Dad was sort of obviously frustrated that I felt like that, and wanted to know a reason and then like sort of, had to keep on reminding himself, look there’s not always a reason, but he’d like always ask, “Oh come on, tell me the reason, tell me the reason.” And obviously, I were, I was on the, I’d just like sort of slipped into the category for anorexia, so for me it didn’t get to the really bad stage where I was really underweight, I mean I did look very, very emaciated, because obviously I’m quite tall, and but then it was a case of being watched while I was eating, and friends at school had to make me eat my lunch, and it was like, “For God’s sake, why won’t people leave me alone?
 

Jennie has found CBT really helpful and says she’s had to put a lot of work into it herself.

Jennie has found CBT really helpful and says she’s had to put a lot of work into it herself.

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And we found out about this Insight, and that really helped ‘cos, like whereas at the Child Mental Health Team it was more, it was more aimed at younger people, and ‘cos I was at sort of, at the age limit everything they was do, they were doing was like, I was like, well this is ridiculous because I’m not that age, and why are you doing this? And why keep on changing my tablets? And I just kept on getting frustrated and getting, finding the counselling session pointless ‘cos more and more times I would go in and not getting anything out of it, and I was just like, “Right, let’s just try on my own,” and obviously that didn’t work, and then this Insight Team like, really focussed on cognitive behavioural therapy at a more adult level. And they, like they said, you get as much out of it as you want to. You’ve gotta put the work in, and probably because I’d got so frustrated and like down heartened by the Child Mental Health team, I didn’t put the effort in ‘cos I thought well this is pointless. Whereas I had a clean slate, wanted to put the effort in, and it really worked, and like even now it’s hard sometimes, but by putting the work in, and, you, as long as, like once you’re established and they know how to do it, it’s a lot easier to do it. But you need the initial, like help, to be able to do it, whereas some people don’t.
 

Jennie had really bad side effects from medication but says depression is a medical condition and...

Jennie had really bad side effects from medication but says depression is a medical condition and...

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And they [antidepressants] just didn’t, they weren’t helping, and I was like, “Yes I feel happier, but these thoughts are making me feel worse.” So it was just like a constant conflict between the two, and the side effects were so bad for me that I was just like, I feel sick every morning, and I’m just I’m having headaches, feeling dizzy, and I was just like, “Why when it’s not helping?” So they obviously tried different forms of tablets to take and like some you had to take three a day, and I, I do get so frustrated, and “Why do I need to take a tablet for my thoughts?” And people would say, “People who have diabetes have to take tablets every day. It is a medical condition; it’s not something that’s wrong.” Because you don’t have any physical symptoms, I think a lot of people think that it’s not an illness, whereas it actually is, and sometimes you do need tablets to tackle it, like my Mum needs tablets. And if you don’t have those tablets then you just fall back into the cycle. So like diabetes if you don’t take your insulin you fall back into the cycle it can lead to like obviously horrible effects, just like depression can.
 

Jennie describes herself as 'independent' and prefers spending time with her boyfriend and her...

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Jennie describes herself as 'independent' and prefers spending time with her boyfriend and her...

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I’m very sort of independent, to be honest. And well I have my boyfriend who I spend a lot of time with and my family, we’ve got a big family. So my sort of social network is my family and my boyfriend and I do have like a couple of close friends who I’ve known for a while, who I sort of, I go out with them a lot.
 
Obviously they’re back home, so, I have to go home if I’m going out with them, but I do actually, like for me now, at one point I’d felt the need for friends, but I didn’t have the friends, whereas now with like my more positive slant on things I don’t feel the need for a lot of friends, I feel like I’ve got my support network through my family and my few really close friends, and like I do find it hard to make friends, I always have done, and I probably always will, but the thing is I don’t feel the need to have a big group of friends to rely on.
 

Dancing, netball and going to the gym help Jennie 'get away from my thoughts'.

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Dancing, netball and going to the gym help Jennie 'get away from my thoughts'.

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I’ve done dancing since I was three, and I took up netball at high school and I’ve played it ever since, and also going to the gym, I go to the gym a lot, and it just gets you away from thinking of different thoughts, and socially it’s really good ‘cos you meet other people that have got the same sort of interest as you, like my dancing, it got me away from my thoughts, like when I was at my really low point I danced five days a week, all night, just because I knew that when I was dancing I didn’t have those thoughts and I was happy. And also like it’s just things that like really interest you and you enjoy doing, that’s the best thing to sort of get, get away from the thoughts, and I mean like I got told don’t avoid the, don’t avoid the thoughts, but some days you do need to avoid them because it can get so bad.
 

Learning positive thinking and putting her self doubt and negative thoughts into perspective has...

Learning positive thinking and putting her self doubt and negative thoughts into perspective has...

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Putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes. I found that a really useful one, although it’s hard at the beginning, it’s a really good one to do because like just anything like if you’re doing your college work, and you think, “This is, this is not going well, and its rubbish, it’s pointless, what am I doing?” And you think well, “Actually somebody would actually think that’s really good.” Just because you think it’s rubbish it doesn’t mean everybody’s going to think it’s rubbish, and it’s like, “Why not even give it to somebody else to look at and see what they think?” And like negative criticism as well, like at university you get a lot of feedback, and it’s constructive criticism, and you’ve not got to take it to heart, you’ve got to again apply the thing of, “They’re actually helping me.” Rather than, “Oh my God they’re telling me I’m really bad at this. And really rubbish.”
 
And also just like walking down the street, if somebody looks at you, it’s not because they’re looking at you ‘cos you look horrific, it’s because they’re looking at you maybe because they like something about you, or, and just always like turning the negative, if you, like when you think of that thought that you just said in, like that’s just been said in your head, and think, “How can I turn that to be a positive?” And at first you’ve got to write it down, and you’ve got to consciously write, “My thought,” and then a positive slant on this. Just changing it negative to positive all the time, and suddenly like it quite, it’s a sense of achievement when actually you think that positive thought in your head and it’s like, “Whoa I didn’t have to write that down.”
 

Jennie describes herself as “a perfectionist”. She has learnt to cope with stress so that it...

Jennie describes herself as “a perfectionist”. She has learnt to cope with stress so that it...

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I want everything to be done right, and to my best ability, and like I said I got all A’s and A stars at GCSE, and then all A’s at A’ level. And just doing everything I do I want it to be done to the best of my potential, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do that, and just with everything like, like the counsellor used to say to me, “You, you see failure as a bad thing, whereas sometimes failure can be a positive thing.” Like last year when obviously I didn’t enjoy, like, like my course, I saw that as a failure whereas she saw that as a positive thing because it gave me a chance to rethink and have another chance, whereas I, that was like the end of my world for that moment in time, because I’d failed and everything’s got to be like successful and an achievement and like done 100%.
 
I just feel like as well my little brother, like I always said I want to have independence so I can look after him, and ‘cos I’ve not got that independence it’s failing, and they’re like, “No it’s not, you’re 18, 17, 18, how can you be independent at 17, 18. You’ve still got to be a child for your parents, and they’re not going to see that as a failing because if you, like if you’re going to university and it’ll give them opportunities in the future for you to look after him, so it’s not a failing. You are doing something successful at the end of the day.”
 
But I mean I still am a perfectionist, I mean my Uni work like I will do it always to the best, and sometimes it does get on top of me like, I’m stressed because I know I’ve got four assignments before Christmas, and I want to get them done and, so I still have that, but I have a more, when I do get stressed instead of like it leading to being depressed sort of look at it more positive and find something else to do.
 

Jennie was feeling really low and depressed and not knowing why made her feel much worse.

Jennie was feeling really low and depressed and not knowing why made her feel much worse.

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It’s sort of you feel like you’re not fitting in and everything’s sort of seems like it’s bombarding you and you feel quite like claustrophobic and like everything, everything you seem to do seems to either go wrong or you just, and then like I used to like cry a lot, and be frustrated and stressed and I used to think well what’s actually happening and why, why do I feel so upset all the time, and, and then it’s like, it’s quite scary in some ways because you think well, why have I got these thoughts in my mind? And why are they telling me these things?
 
And like I’d cry all the time and my parents were like, “What’s up with you again?” And I’m like, “I don’t know.” And that’s the thing like, the not knowing the reason, like when you do cry and you think well I don’t have a reason, and everybody asks you, “Well you’ve got to have a reason, ‘cos you only cry when you’re upset and you’ve got a reason.” And that frustrates you, so then like I ended up trying to control the thoughts by the not eating because I thought well, if I’m not eating then that’s going to get rid of the thoughts because I’ve got something else to concentrate on. Or, I’ll do a bit extra work because if I’m concentrating on work those thoughts aren’t there. That’s the thing, I always tried finding a way to avoid the thoughts, because they were like, they scared you because you didn’t know what was going to happen, and, although they weren’t like some thoughts were like, oh, I really don’t want to live anymore, and then you’d get even like worse things like, “Oh how would you commit suicide?” or “Do different things to get rid of these thoughts,” and it’s like, I, and I was at the stage where I was like really, it got to a stage where I was just really down, and just thinking of ways of committing suicide and I was just like this is not right. And I think due to sort of my intelligence I sort of realised well, this isn’t right, and then I think, like the Godsend was my friend ringing my parents saying, “Look she’s not eating.” And it sort of came about through the not eating rather than the depression.
 
So it sort of, like that the actual sort of physical side of the depression actually brought about the starting of the treatment rather than, ‘cos sometimes it is difficult to know through emotional ways if you are depressed or ‘cos sometimes you are just having a bad day. And it’s like they said, how do you diagnose depression? I mean so many people could be diagnosed as depressed, but actually is there an extent to which you draw the line and say well actually no, you are normal, or you are depressed. 
 

Jennie says trying to learn new strategies and ways of thinking in CBT first felt like a chore...

Jennie says trying to learn new strategies and ways of thinking in CBT first felt like a chore...

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Like saying like, oh you’re like really patient with your brother, and it’s like, well no sometimes, I’d say, oh sometimes I’m so impatient with him, and it’s like well no, actually I am very patient with him, and you’ve just got to always, and I mean still now, that is the hardest thing to do, still conscious that I’ve got to do that. And apparently, like counsellors have said usually it is a conscious thing you do have to do for a long time before it comes natural, and even some people who are not depressed have to do it consciously.
 
Because every, like every week usually people have a bad day about, oh my hair looks a mess today, and they’ve got to consciously think that, “Oh well, it doesn’t matter, I can go out still.” Whereas when I was depressed it was, “Oh, I cannot go out, my hair,” or, “I just can’t go out today I can’t bear seeing people.” Whereas others would be able to get round that by thinking, “Oh well this, this is fine, and I can still go out,” whereas I’d sort of like hibernate in my room or at home where I knew it was a safe environment.
 
Yes. Do you think starting to kind of force yourself to say or to think those more positive things has actually made you then feel more positive as well?
 
Definitely. But it takes a while. At first it’s like a chore, because you’ve been, it’s like you’ve been given a task to do and you’ve got to do it, and it feels like a chore to carry on doing it, and being able to apply it all the time. But definitely you’ve, like my family, all my family have said that I am definitely a lot better, and I seem more positive about things I’m doing, and I’m getting involved in more things than I would have done before.
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