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Interview 02

Age at interview: 27
Age at diagnosis: 16
Brief Outline: Effective approaches include medication (currently Efexor 75 mg/day), hypnotherapy and counselling. Was finding it difficult to find therapy in the NHS.
Background: A graduate of an elite University. Believes a chemical imbalance - as well as learned behaviours - lies behind her depression.

More about me...

 
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At a similar time her parents broke up, her best friend left, she moved to middle-school, and she...

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I thought it was a really, really good school. But I was having trouble with the teacher and stuff because, it's a really stupid story but she used to have these little competitions every week, and we weren't allowed sweets except that you could win the sweet in this competition. 

So I kept winning the sweet every week, which obviously didn't make people very happy. But really she should have done a different competition and sort of just given different people sweets. But instead she kept doing it and then told me to go off somewhere else which I was like, I was only 8. I was saying, 'Well, I want my sweet.'  

And the whole class kind of went, 'No, make her go', and I think that really, was really traumatic. And I suddenly realised that up until then I'd worked really, really hard at school and I thought, if you do well and work hard, people like you. And it made me realise that's not true. 

And that happened at a very similar time to like my parents splitting up and my best friend leaving. I think the whole thing was very unsettling. And where I lived, we had Middle Schools so when you were 9 you changed school, and basically at that time I changed school, my whole personality totally changed, and became really introverted and shy and withdrawn.
 
 
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As a teenager she did not understand she had depression, and felt her doctor should have found...

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In terms of like doctors and that kind of thing, I mean I'm not sure if this was exactly the first time but this was some time between the age of 13 and 16, I remember going to, because I didn't know, it's taken me years to find out what the sort of official symptoms are of depression. And now if I go to the doctor's I know what they're asking me, and I know what they're expecting me to say, and I know what it's all about.  

Of course I didn't know that then, I was only 13, 14. They, ... I'd had... , basically I would go to bed early, I would go to bed late, I tried everything but I always felt tired, the whole time. I still have that and I don't know if it's like'.You know it can be a symptom of depression, of just feeling you know tired or just not sleeping very well. 

And I think, like I went to the doctor and I said, 'I can't, I sleep but I always feel tired. I've tried going to bed early, I've tried going to bed late, I've tried everything that I can think of.' And he just said, 'Try getting more sleep.' [laughing] I was like, yes, I could have thought of that, I've tried that, it didn't work. 

So I went, 'Okay, thanks.' I think, I can't have been that old because I think my Mum came with me but you know, my feeling is that really he should have asked a few questions and could possibly have diagnosed that I was depressed.
 
 
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Felt she was patronised and not listened to by GPs until they realised that she had attended an...

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But I think I've been very unlucky over the years with doctors, on the whole. And I found, particularly when I was younger, right up until I went to University, that I just got patronised the whole time. 

Like I'm not stupid, and I'd like to get something explained to me but nothing was ever explained to me until I was at University because then they go, 'Oh, what you are doing?'  I'd say, 'I'm at University.'  'Really, where?'  '[elite University name].'  'Oh, right, my daughter's there' and then they're suddenly, oh you're at [elite University name], right you're...

Part of the fraternity?

[It was like] You know, you might understand what I'm talking about because I'm so clever. Before that, it was like you were some sort of total moron, that you just didn't get listened to, you didn't get, you know it was as though what they were saying was, 'Well, it's just in your head, you know you don't really understand, I know better." And I know that they're really busy and I know that they don't have a lot of time, but I really felt that I got no help at all most of the time.
 
 
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While the initial side effects of Efexor (venlafaxine) seemed severe, they settled down, and even...

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When I first took them, it was really really horrible, and luckily I was temping, and doing a job that was quite easy, and I just had to sit there, and just sort of shuffle papers around. Because it was like being on' on really strong drugs. You looked like you were on pills. 

Because it made your pupils dilate. And I was shaking. And I would wake up in the middle of the night with a bolt of fright, and shaking and stuff. And I only persevered with it because I thought I've got to give this a go... And after about'I think you really had to make sure you ate a big meal too'Otherwise is messed up your stomach' And after a few weeks it kind of calmed down'

I find that I probably do sweat more than I used to have done. And I also feel like I have put on weight that I can't shift. And that does happen to people. But all things considered, I would rather put on weight than be depressed. I know that for some people, it doesn't help them'And I feel that despite all the side-effects, and that I can't get off them, that's a scary thing. 

But I would never regret taking them because taking them has totally changed my life...Taking them'I don't feel that so much now'But when I first took them, I felt like I had been given my life back. I feel like I can now be a normal person.
 
 
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Stopping her Efexor resulted in a lurching sensation in her head, electric shock sensations in...

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(Withdrawing from Efexor) basically, you start getting this really weird thing, like if you are feeling perhaps a bit sea sick. Like your motion has been a bit disturbed. So you sort of get this sickening lurch in your head. You can't really describe it unless you have experienced it. It is horrible. It is not nice.

Well, the other one that I get is, it's a kind of numb feeling, slightly like an electric shock as well. Sort of like a tingling sensation mainly in my hands but also sometimes on my nose as well. It sounds really funny, but sometimes the tip of nose goes really like, feels really funny. 

I think after a while, like if that happens a bit, you know you can deal with it, but sometimes I've gone out, and I've forgotten my tablet or whatever, and it used to be that if I waited for the evening, I'd still be all right. But now, if I couldn't have it [my tablet] until the evening, by that point I'd probably be like experiencing like severe motion sickness or whatever, just like proper lurches in my head. And after a while, like after a bit longer, you start feeling a bit kind of like crying and stuff, just really kind of emotional and like a bit teary basically.
 
 
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The curative effect of Efexor (venlafaxine) was her proof she had a brain chemical imbalance,...

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I was worried before I took them that I would become divorced from reality' like you don't care about anything. But I don't think it really is like that. Perhaps if you took a high dose, but I don't think it is. Despite the side-effects, for me it was the right thing to do. I actually felt happier that it worked, because it proved to me that what I had been suffering was a physical thing'. Chemicals in my brain. And you spend years with people saying, "Oh, cheer up love, why are you so miserable?" And you're thinking it is not my fault. 

But you are made to feel it is your fault. The fact that these tablets helped me, I thought there was something going on with my serotonin'. I felt vindicated. But after a while, I realised it sorted out my brain chemistry, but you have learnt all these negative ways of looking at things, and doing things' you've learned this behaviour, from your parents at times. 

And that is why I believe I need long term therapy as well. I felt better, but I still didn't have ways of dealing with things'. The tablet helps you to be more positive, but in other ways' for example, I find it easier becoming friends with men, but I find it hard to make friends with women. But there is no tablet for that' I still have a total inferiority complex'. I think I am right, but I also think I am wrong. I hold myself back' I know I am good at my work, but another part of me thinks I'm crap'
 
 
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Growing experience of depression and life has helped her to develop a more positive view of herself.

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But I see myself as having...through experience, experiencing it myself, having got better and able to cope with it, even though if you get depressed you always still, you still really kind of believe that this is it, and it's really bad, but at the back of your mind at least you know that it's going to get better at some point. And I have become more positive, and I don't know if that's just something to do with gaining experience in life and actually doing things, and so becoming slightly, you know more confident. I mean, nowadays when I talk to people and meet people, sometimes I say, “Oh, I don't feel, I'm not very confident,” and whatever. And they go, “Well, that's funny because I really thought that you were”. So I've become a lot better, I think at presenting a better face to the world, and not kind of…. so obviously, like just withdrawn and introverted. And you know, partly that's just growing up, I think and just kind of gaining in experience, and just being less, slightly less, you become less self-conscious after a while.

 
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The NHS offers no sure path for getting a referral to a talking therapist, and it's easy to fall...

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That probably echoes a lot people's experiences, that it's (NHS) just very, very patchy and ad hoc and sort of really random. So it's like you might get referred somewhere, you might not. You might get help, you probably won't. It depends, probably, what doctor you get, where you are in the country, what day it is'. And you have to pay, which I couldn't afford to do.

And I got put on this list when I went to see the psychiatrist people, they put me on a list and what they usually do is to say 'Oh yes, I'll put you on the list.' And then you go back and they go, you say, 'Did you put me on the list?' They go, 'Oh dear, yes, I forgot, I'll do it now.' And then eventually I got this referral and I was like, 'Wow, I've got the referral, I've got an appointment.' Went in, this woman basically said, 'Yes, it seems like you've got depression and anxiety or whatever. I suggest you go and see a psychoanalyst, go for a student, you have to go 3 times a week and it costs you '7 a go because it's a student so it's cheap.' And I'm like, I don't have '21 a week to spend, because at that point I was earning like hardly anything'.
 
 
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Has come across unhelpful holistic therapists and wonders about their qualifications.

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Well, I don't know if it's just me, but I seem to end up with people who are just weird. And I know, I've been to a kind of homeopath and stuff as well, and mostly they are kind of just weird people. It sounds really terrible, but I need someone that I can like relate to, and if I think they're a bit weird I just can't do it [laughing].

And I don't know, I don't know the exact law, but as far as I understand it' it's' maybe I'm totally wrong, but with holistic therapies and stuff like that, anyone can just set up as a therapist.
 
 
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Was surprised by the way a hypnotherapist helped her to think more positively.

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Probably about 3 years ago maybe, I can't remember why but I went, for a while I went to a hypnotherapist. And, you know, it's just luck basically, but I think he was really good and because I have kind of anxiety and stuff as well, he basically helped me to, you know, you learn how to do relaxation and all that sort of thing. I mean, to be honest, since I stopped going I can't do the relaxation stuff any more, but he'd learned how to do sort of cognitive stuff as well and he was surprising. Actually, he managed to make me realise a lot more things than any of the other things that I'd done. Even though, like theoretically, it's a totally different thing and it's not necessarily supposed to be all about' 

Well I'm not sure what it's supposed to be about, but you know, it's all about trying to make you less anxious and stuff. But he sort of' I think a lot of these things are just down to the individual person, and how good they are, or how you get on with them. And he just seemed to come up with quite sensible ideas about it. And I think partly, if you're doing hypnotherapy, it's like you know the aim is to get a kind of release of your subconscious, and go down and teach your subconscious better things. But also, if you're doing that you're visualising stuff, and so if you say this is what I'm visualising, they go, 'Oh right, so you're seeing things like that and maybe you should see it like that.' And I think that really, even though there's no way, I can't do it now, and I should have you know, but I've totally forgotten it all. I've taken things away from that, that now there is a little bit of a little voice in my head whereas before I'd just been like, 'Oh, everything's really terrible and I can't do this, I can't do this.' There's at least a little voice in my head going, well actually maybe you can. And you know, that's a big change for me.
 
 
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Her mother has faced her anxieties and not let depression stop her from doing things, and so she...

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But basically, my Mum has always experienced depression in a sort of similar way to me, I think. And basically, her response is just to like do it anyway and just kind of, she's always done stuff but she gets really anxious and she'd always get really scared but she's done so much. She's gone travelling and like she's done jobs where she was really scared of it and she'll just do it and she doesn't let things stop her. So I've always felt like, yes, there's some things that I haven't done because I was scared but other things. I refuse to let my, have the depression stop me doing anything so I would never have a day off through being depressed. I would never not do something that I was supposed to be doing because I was feeling depressed.
 
 
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Negative reactions to her speaking up in class as a child make her still unwilling to speak in...

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And I really don't remember if it was just a reaction that I had, or if I just decided. I can imagine myself doing it. Just thinking, right then, they don't want me to say anything in class, I won't say anything in class. But somehow it evolved so that I couldn't, could not say anything. Like if I had to, I would just be like sweating and just hated it, I really hated it. But what upsets me about it is that it affects my life now, and it affected my life for'. you know once I got to University there was no problem with me speaking up because everyone was in the same boat. No one was going to go, 'Oh you think you're really good', because I was like pretty average for my University. But the fear was still there and it's taken, even now, you know I find it hard to speak up at meetings and stuff like that, I find it really difficult.
 
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