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Jo - Interview 36

Age at interview: 25
Brief Outline: Jo is 25 and a fulltime university student. Her experiences of neglect in childhood caused her to be a very shy and introverted child. Jo's mum passed away when Jo was 13. In school, Jo was picked on for being different and she developed great difficulties being able to concentrate. Much later on, her GP suggested she might be experiencing depression and by this time Jo was also having regular anxiety attacks. Since then, Jo's gotten a lot of help from counselling and she's also exploring such a
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Jo is a 25-year-old university student, originally from Germany. Jo’s experiences of neglect during her childhood made her a very shy child and she found it very hard to concentrate in school. She says she was considered to be “weird and an outsider” and was picked on. Jo’s mum died when she was 13. Her mum had been very ill and her moods had fluctuated a lot so after her death Jo’s life “stabilised” to a degree. Jo says she never spoke to anyone about her mother’s death and was offered no support or counselling from school.
 
In school, Jo used to get into arguments and have sudden outbursts of anger and aggression at other people. Jo says she was just “running away” from problems, in the hope to “keep achieving things, to keep busy. After she left school she lived in a few different countries working and studying.
 
The first time it was suggested to Jo that she might be experiencing depression was when she went to see her GP in Germany about grandular fever at the age of 22. Her doctor told her that glandular fever can often be connected to depression and stress – and Jo was also experiencing anxiety attacks. Since then, Jo has been to therapy which has helped her a lot but she says it’s also a long process because it’s “opening a lot of doors”. She’s also been to a GP in Britain who didn’t refer her to any counseling, although she’d asked for it, but would only offer her antidepressants which she didn’t want to take.
 
Jo’s taken a very active approach to recovery and getting better. She’s very interested in the ways in which the body and the mind work together and has explored complementary approaches like Body works and Trauma Healing. She says it was difficult to find practitioners in the UK specialising in these approaches - widely used in Germany and in the US. Jo says she tends to over analyze and over rationalise her behaviour and says it doesn’t necessarily bring her any closer to solving her problems. She says she’s now able to maintain good long term friendships and she’s also reconnected with her family which has been really important to her. She’s still in the process of identifying the triggers for anxiety attacks and for she’s found that for example doing exercise also helps her. Jo says the most important thing she wants to attain in life is “inner peace and contentment”.
 

Jo felt extremely alone as a child. Her mum could be aggressive and abusive towards her and Jo...

Jo felt extremely alone as a child. Her mum could be aggressive and abusive towards her and Jo...

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I remember being extremely alone as a child, just like, just always alone and even if my parents were there they wouldn’t really, like my Dad just didn’t know how to engage with me like if I would ask him for something he would want me to be independent, that’s what he, like that’s what he’s still saying now. So, it would just be, “Oh yeah, like I will just tell you how to do it, and then you can do it by yourself.”
 
And my Mum would work a lot and then come home and be really stressed out, and would like either be, either feel guilty with really extremely loving, or just like shout and be really aggressive and abusive. And I remember like my brother was still there, and my brother’s seven years older than me, so it wasn’t really like a, there’s a big age gap and like we wouldn’t normally have kind of socialised with each other. But I remember for instance just saying, “Any kind of attention would be good,” so like I would just provoke my brother because like even if he would be like nasty to me, or shout at me, or like hit me, at least it’s still, it still attention, it’s still somebody kind of engaging with you.
 

Jo says depression can manifest in random ways; outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating,...

Jo says depression can manifest in random ways; outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating,...

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And then I would suddenly like have just anger outbreaks. Like, I don’t know, in political discussions, or I don’t know just arguments and like sometimes the arguments would be fine and I’d go either back down if somebody was more aggressive than me, that would be like, I would very easily just be incapable to say anything, if somebody was really aggressive towards me. Or if I felt that I kind of have the upper hand, like if somebody wasn’t that aggressive like I would sometimes just be really, really aggressive and I would just have like these outbreaks of rage, that seemed to be irrelevant, seemed to not have anything really to do with what we talked about. Because like no matter how passionate you feel about political subject, it shouldn’t be enough to suddenly shout at someone,
 
Because just like that is, that is an emotional thing to do, it is not about, like nobody will understand you better when if you shout at them. And everybody really knows that.
 
Yeah I just like then, like we had problems to concentrate, Sleeplessness, and yeah just like I think like yeah, and then I went to a stage which was just like severe instability in the sense of I would either have a lot of energy to do so many things and just run away from everything, to yeah, phases of I couldn’t sleep, I would watch a lot of TV and stay up all night, sleep all day. Like the reversal of the sleeping pattern. And get ill a lot, so I would have bronchitis and tonsillitis sinuses, then I had glandular fever, kidney infection, yeah, like I would just get ill, and especially like the flu, I would just have flu like all the time. Yeah. So, that’s the main thing.
 

Jo says it’s important to make clear that depression is not “a personality trait” but “something...

Jo says it’s important to make clear that depression is not “a personality trait” but “something...

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I don’t look at it [depression] as part of my personality, per se because emotions and outbreaks are not a personality trait. Or at least not that extreme emotion, I like I don’t think that like and it’s not a personality trait that, I mean you wouldn’t describe somebody as, oh, like “That person’s angry.” Like that doesn’t say anything about somebody.
 
It is a disease in the sense that something is wrong in your organism, and it needs attention and it needs healing. But it’s not yeah it’s difficult because like it is in you but at the same time it’s not your personality, it just means that something has happened to you, whatever it is and like and yeah I deeply think that the scale of things, like something that might seem really benign to someone is really traumatising for someone else and that needs to be fixing and that needs attention and that is you.
 

Jo was “relieved” about the diagnosis but at the same time felt her experiences weren’t “severe”...

Jo was “relieved” about the diagnosis but at the same time felt her experiences weren’t “severe”...

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It seemed really logical for me at the time. So I was really relieved in a way that somebody would pick up on it, because it was like the minute she said it, like oh yeah. But it is a long process, like at the time I sort of thought, like this is great, grief stored up, and yeah, but I still didn’t think of it in terms of like depression. ‘Cos depression is something that is so severe it just happens to other people. Like I didn’t have the right to consider myself to have a depression like, I’m just going through like a bad point.
 
And yeah like also like depressions often associated with suicidal thoughts, and I didn’t feel suicidal, so I thought like well as long as I’m not suicidal I don’t have depression which is, yeah, not true.
 

Jo was offered only antidepressants by her GP and put on a waiting list for counselling that she...

Jo was offered only antidepressants by her GP and put on a waiting list for counselling that she...

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And I asked them [the doctor] if I could like, you know, if they could set me in like a therapy or something, and they were like, “No.” And then they put me on a waiting list, I’m still on this waiting list. And I was really shocked by that. Because it’s just like, yeah that was like the option, antidepressants and I didn’t, like I’m, like I’m sure that some people like, you know need them, because I know some people like actually cannot do anything anymore and I was still at the stage where basically I could get out of bed in the morning even though it was incredibly hard. But I would just like have prolonged anxiety attacks. But I felt like okay, like this is really hard, but I don’t want to start to rely on medication. And I don’t think that is really the issue.
 

Jo says she now realises that she became dependent on others and placed too much responsibility...

Jo says she now realises that she became dependent on others and placed too much responsibility...

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I can also realise now like that, that is a bit of this fear that like now I just kind of, you know, like translate the dependency I had in a relationship to my friendships so… and really I wish I had in the past as well, where I just like had one person, suddenly like that person would just, but even with like a relationship in the sense that it wasn’t sexual, but it was like a relationship in the sense that it was really intense and like I’d just like hang onto this person and at first like that person would be really supportive and great and it would be like this great intimacy and mutual love. And then I would just be like the out, over, like the other person would feel overburdened by the pressure that I put on and like in the end I would just put my entire happiness on like, as the responsibility of that other person. So it’s like to the point where you know, even if the person’s there, it gets to the point where that still isn’t enough for some weird reason because it’s a never ending want that they could never satisfy it.
 

Trust your “own instinct” that says everything is not right.

Trust your “own instinct” that says everything is not right.

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And like the general and more holistic approach to oneself and trust that instinct just because you tell yourself, oh like I’m not, “Like my life isn’t so bad, like I shouldn’t feel this way,” doesn’t make you feel any better. And I think that’s what a lot of people do is they think like, “Oh I’m just homesick,” or “I’m just a bit down because of this and that,” and then I can try to like, there’s a voice in your head that tries to talk yourself out of it.
 

Jo describes how the body, mind and memory are all connected, which is the principle behind the...

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Jo describes how the body, mind and memory are all connected, which is the principle behind the...

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Like sometimes it’s funny how there’s sometimes the body just remembers, and yeah like it happened like in relationships when somebody would hold me a certain way… Like certain memories are triggered and you don’t really have them in your consciousness but like that’s why I’m trying like this bodywork stuff because I have realised that my body sometimes remembers things that, like they will immediately go to my emotions, and yeah. Basically that’s yeah.
 

Jo’s GP back in Germany recommended Somatic Experiencing therapy for her which can help people...

Jo’s GP back in Germany recommended Somatic Experiencing therapy for her which can help people...

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My GP back in Germany recommended back then was Somatic Experiencing. And it’s very widely used in the States and I’ve read that there’s the book by the guy who did it, Peter Levine, and it basically, as far as I understand it, it’s when you have like a trauma your body will, like you have three sides of your brain and that’s like instinct and emotions and rationality, and they kind of, and sometimes they will block each other rather than kind of complement each other. And so when you will have a traumatic incidence and that can be something that seems really benign like a medical procedure for children, where like a classic thing will be they would get really scared but because like the doctors would just want to get on with their work they would fixate them and like put them in anaesthesia and when you go under anaesthesia in terror you will wake up in terror.
 
And that can become, and you can’t escape so that can become a trauma. And then will be like a kind of like a negative energy in your body because your body builds up energy when you are in a fearful situation ‘cos you want to defend yourself and when you can’t release that energy it’s just stuck and that can turn into like yeah, anxiety attacks, depression, rage, helplessness, hyper-vigilance, all that kind of stuff.
 
And you kind of, and as far as I understood, understand it, I’m not a practitioner at all, you kind of yeah, it makes you reconnect with yourself and kind of let, because his approach is that you, your body, or your organism can heal itself, if you allow it to. So if you kind of manage to reconnect with your organism and manage to reconnect with yeah, your sense of self, you if you can release this energy and you can learn how to turn, to allow your organism to heal itself.
 
And once you’ve reached that, I mean it’s a process, and like you don’t just do it once and then be tadaa “Oh you’re healed,” but apparently that will enable you to get, grow stronger.
 

Jo describes how “EMDR” works and how it’s helped her process “stuck up grief”.

Jo describes how “EMDR” works and how it’s helped her process “stuck up grief”.

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My therapist is kind of very proactive, and I’m doing EMDR which is kind of like this sensors and like they send off, like they’re trying to stimulate like the two sides of your brain and you associate with things and its,
 
So what does that mean?
 
It means that you sit down and, you get these, like I get these two things on my head and they vibrate and it’s like because when you touch, I think when you touch the, your left side like on your left shoulder, your right brain, like the right side of your brain will respond when you touch the right side the other side will respond.
 
So in that way you stimulate both sides of your brain, and you kind of go on free association, so you will just kind of think about like a certain place that you were at, or like a certain emotions that you were, were having and I also tried to like while I’m doing that, like I for myself and like my therapist is encouraging that, like and focus on how my body responded. So like for me for instance I would, I guess it’s like you know I was like stuck up grief, or like it would be a grief that I didn’t let out for instance like I will, I’ll talk about certain things and I hit like a certain spot that is very vulnerable I would get like a pain in my throat.
 
And I can literally feel something coming up and hitting that spot and going down again. And then I, and then I’ll start feeling more detached again and as I feel more detached again and kind of feeling more defensive the pain will subside, which for me means there’s still like a lot of stuff there that I for some reason I am afraid to kind of face or let out whatever.
 

Jo encourages people to accept “the help others can offer you” and says that everyone can give...

Jo encourages people to accept “the help others can offer you” and says that everyone can give...

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I’m trying to stay in my daily schedule, because I don’t want to disconnect from my life because I think that will cause another anxiety of you know, I’m falling behind and like I’m losing track and it will and it more isolating. So I will go and do my daily things. Even if I do them badly, or if I’m, even if I’m absent minded, but I feel that that helps just to be there and like to keep in a routine, I will, luckily I’m able to go running again. I wasn’t well, I was really bad even though I was aware that I should, so like sometimes it’s you know that something would be good for you, but you just cannot.
 
And I tried and I find that now that I’m doing slightly better that is also helping me to feel better, to kind of physically do stuff. And as I say asking people for help, and opening up so like, yeah, a lot of my old friends especially like are astonished because they’re like, “She’s never talked about any of this,” so that goes, I usually like, I seemed to those people like over confident, kind of, quite judgmental towards these others, and kind of like a bit like aggressive and like a bit over achievers, not in the sense that I was very good at what I was doing, but just like “Just keep going, just keep going.”
 
Well now I’m just, like suddenly I start talking about my vulnerabilities and, and yeah I just kind of accept the help that can, that people can offer you.
 
And it will vary like everybody can give you something else, but just accept that as it is and kind of, and tell people what it, if you can, to tell people just what it is that you need.
 

Jo says she used to just 'run away' from her problems. She'd get suddenly really angry or really...

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And I didn’t really talk about it [mother’s death]. I went back to school, like on Monday, and I just kind of ran away from it. And again, just became very, I became calmer in a lot of ways because when my Mother was ill and was like very, kind of you know neglecting but also like we were sort of very kind of fluctuating in her behaviour, so in a way it did stabilise my everyday life to a certain extent.
 
And I just kind of kept running so I was just, and I just thought okay like “I’ll just focus on the future” and like, “As soon as I will grow up everything’s gonna be fine”, and again people just assume that whatever you do is just your personality, so I would still have like basically outbreaks of anger, like I would just suddenly get really loud and argument or, be very aggressive, at the same time like  especially round like January, February, is always a very vulnerable time for me. I would just like suddenly be like start crying or like feel really down but I couldn’t, like I didn’t understand what was going on, like I just thought like this is what it is and I wasn’t really reflecting on it and I just thought like, oh I just have to, if I just keep achieving certain things it will get better.
 

To try and avoid triggering anxiety attacks, Jo tries to keep to a regular routine in her life...

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To try and avoid triggering anxiety attacks, Jo tries to keep to a regular routine in her life...

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I avoid everything that kind of enhances feelings, so it’s like alcohol, any kind of drugs like I don’t know how people like, yeah I guess like a lot of people start taking drugs because they feel bad but they, I just I realised that this is making it worse because it actually enhances the way that you perceive things and feel things, so. And yeah I avoid all of that stuff. I just try to have like yeah, go to bed early, well not like really early but like kind of not strain myself and just go with the flow.
 

After years of being bullied herself, Jo “became a bully”.

After years of being bullied herself, Jo “became a bully”.

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I went from really quiet and extremely shy and then I, like in the 5th grade I became a bully, basically, I suddenly started turning the exact opposite, and that , I ended up having kind of, it was very effective in the sense that like I wasn’t being bullied by other people anymore. I was still considered to be weird and an outsider but at least I wasn’t picked on the same way I was before. And then people just assumed that that is part of your personality, and nobody really asks questions about that.
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