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Interview 08

Age at interview: 33
Age at diagnosis: 24
Brief Outline: With the ongoing care of her GP and ongoing counselling with a skilled practitioner, she has been in recovery since early 2003. Not currently on medication.
Background: Works as a receptionist. She had a difficult childhood. She has been sectioned in the past, been on numerous medications, and had ECT (Eletroconvulsive Therapy) which she did not like. (Played by an actor.)

More about me...

 
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Had a difficult childhood and family life, and lost her grandparents in 1996, which was very...

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It's very difficult for me to think back as to when it started because my childhood was quite unstable and not' people around me probably didn't think it was. But my parents had a lot of problems and there were a lot of problems within the family that were kept kind of secret if you like'. I know when certain key things happened in my life at quite a young age which must have had an effect on me and' but as to when the depression really kicked in, probably after I lost my grandparents. It was quite traumatic for me. And that was in '96'. 

My Gran [name] my Dad's mother. She lived very near us and she was very stable, very strong lady, very loving, caring, nurturing. That's where I got all my stability from and suddenly she was gone. And it was sudden, she was elderly yes, but I didn't expect her to die for some reason. It was a shock to me and perhaps still is. It is still a shock that she's not here some times. I know that sounds strange after seven years but sometimes I still have to tell myself she's, you know I'.. something happens I think, 'Oh I'll tell Gran that'.  And I think, 'Oh' it's just a fleeting second thought and I tell myself, gosh she had been gone for seven years pull yourself together'. but she was a very strong influence on my life and I think when she went, when she passed away I kind of lost control, lost control of it' let myself kind of be what I really felt a bit more. I didn't care really as much about what people thought, or it wasn't as important. I did care but it wasn't as important. It, I could not have' I would not have wanted her to see me as I'd been. I'm sure she has been around me and has seen how I've been but, but on a physical level I wouldn't want her to have seen me in that kind of state.

 

GP rings up to encourage her to make and attend a GP appointment when she is depressed, as well...

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She's good because she is human. She listens and she responds to me as a human being, not as a professional. She gives me time, as much time as I want sometimes. She cares and she's shown me she cares because she has rung me up before at home and said, 'How are you? Will you come and see me tomorrow?' because she knows I'm not going to ring and make an appointment because I' I mean I'm in isolating mode and things are going wrong.  

And so she is on the phone ringing me and she is encouraging me to talk, to go to her because I haven't tended to go, only ever go to her in crisis. I've never gone at the beginning or the middle stage. I'm usually in a great crisis to have to go and see her. And she's been trying' she has been trying all these years I have been seeing her, to educate me, to go before the crisis. 

You know, 'Why don't you, you've been feeling this way for six months and it's just got worse and worse, why didn't you come before?' And you know, 'Come and see me next week.' You know, 'You never come, I'll sit and listen.' You know, she is a human being, she has made mistakes and that's fine because she is a human being and I know she's a human being because she talks to me like, like I'm a human being and she's a human being. She is always fully present always as a person. She's never standoffish or looking at her watch and thinking, you know about the next patient. Never.

 
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She found a psychiatrist's manner off-putting, so she put up barriers and denied that she had any...

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I'll just give you one example. I met one chap and he didn't even say, 'Hello' to me. He sat in a chair cross-legged with no shoes on, which bothered me for some reason that he didn't have any shoes on. And he didn't say a word. And this was our first session. So I ended up saying, 'Where do you want me to start?' And he said something like, 'Where do you feel comfortable, where do you want to start?' And it' that's the way it went you know. I think he did ask a couple of questions. 'What was your earliest childhood experience?' 

And it was just like oh, very textbook stuff to me and it put a barrier up. I instantly thought, 'Fuck you, you know, you're not getting any where near me. There is nothing wrong with me and actually I even said it a few times,' Nothing traumatic has ever happened to me. I have, I had a very nice childhood thank you.' I said it loads of times and that was so untrue. I said it and'. and it was untrue.  

But it was dealing with these kind of professional people that are asking me these professional questions about, 'What was your earliest childhood memory? What was your earliest this'. You know, I just couldn't deal with them. I instantly thought, you know, 'Fuck off I can't deal with you.' I want to deal with a human. 

But the psychiatrist I had did harp on. He eventually left and somebody else came in the last two years but he was a great therapy psychiatrist. He believed in therapy and he would go on and on about how much, you know, I really needed therapy if I was ever going to recover. If this vicious pattern I was in was ever going to stop, then therapy was the answer. And I didn't just'. I just wasn't listening. And I didn't believe him.

 
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When she left work due to work pressure, her GP arranged for a CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse)...

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I was at work. At the time, for [company name], I was under immense pressure and suddenly I, one of the managers there came in and started having a go at me about something that wasn't actually my problem really. And I flipped'  and I'd never done this before in my life. I just lost it. I started shouting and crying and chucking, well not chucking things, but I walked out.  Basically. I walked out there and then. 

And that was me. I was gone for six months and never went back'. I came home [pause]. That act somehow spurred me deeper, and I eventually thought I can't go to work. I can't get to work. I can't do it any more so that pushed me to go my GP to get a sick note, there to get signed off so I could get paid, so I could, the mortgage would be paid. 

So some part of my brain was functioning [laugh]. So I went to my GP. She arranged for me to see the CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) again, get in contact with the CPN again. We arranged an appointment. I think the CPN rang me and came and we talked but I didn't feel at the time she was taking me seriously. I didn't think she felt [pause] I don't know. I just didn't think she was taking me seriously and, or perhaps I wasn't explaining myself very well, but I felt a lot worse than she thought I was, I think.

 
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After ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy), she has no memory of specific time periods, and her...

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I have massive blanks, short-term and long-term. And I usually find out about them just through having a conversation with somebody. They'll say, 'When we used to'' Like the other day I had a conversation with a friend, 'When we used to go to Cornwall' and apparently we went to Cornwall for years on end with our boyfriends. And we used to go to that town, remember, Porthlevan [pause]. 

I've absolutely no recollection of it whatsoever. I could, and I've searched my brain'. You know, and I said, 'Well, what did we used to do there?'  'Oh we used to go round the shops, and we used to go to that disco all night' and blah de blah and you know. I can't find any memory of it whatsoever... 

I get angry with the professionals that this wasn't explained that this could happen. ' I've tried to talk about it with the doctors at the hospital and they say, 'Give me an example' and I give them an example and they say, 'Oh that's normal, that's just normal, that's not the ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy), that's normal'. 

I mean when they hear it, they don't want to hear, you know. They don't want to know, but if you look on the Internet most American psychologists or psychotherapists, psychiatrists believe that ECT causes long-term memory problems' it can damage the brain. In fact even if they do give ECT, they only give it very rarely over there, and if they do they give it to one side of the brain. 

They don't zap both sides at the same time and things like this. And [cough] I think well, "How come this treatment has been given to me? And they are not aware of these things? Why aren't they aware of it? They are working in this field? Why, why aren't they aware of this?"

 

Describes what she likes about her counsellor, including her human approach, honesty and the way...

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She is a human being. I know she is human. She is present as a human and she's honest.' If I piss her off she'll tell me [laugh] because she has feelings too. And this is good for me to know. You know, there has been one, only one occasion I think, she said, 'What you said then actually hurt me'.

And that was difficult for me to hear but in another sense that was good for me to hear because it let me know I'm dealing with a human here, another human being. She's not a counsellor, she's [name]... I don't know how I think of her. I don't think of her as a friend or a sister or anything like that, She's [name] that's it. But that's how I think of her. She is a human being. 

She is absolutely honest with me and she is challenging. [laugh] To put it in mild form, she challenges me very much which is good for me because nobody's ever challenged me before really'. I would say, 'When I was ill', and she'd say, 'You were ill were you? You weren't ill'. And I would say, 'Yes I was' and we'd get to the bottom and I would get upset. 

And it all boiled down to the fact that I had a big thing about other people and what they thought of my illness because depression is an illness. But a lot of people don't think it is, they don't understand that I have been very ill. And we've got to the core, we've got to the root of it, we do tend to, I do tend to with my [counsellor] get to the root usually because she is so challenging. You know, I could have just taken that comment. Well actually I did take that comment a few, it took a few turns before I did actually come back to her about it but she's very challenging.

 

She felt hurt and rejected when after 6 months of counselling, her counsellor announced flatly...

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But what happened, I turned up one day, I'd been seeing her for about a year, but we'd had a six-month break in the middle, so I suppose all in all I had been seeing her for six months but I began to trust her and like her and we'd begun to talk about things. And I felt as if we were going somewhere. 

One day I turned up. She was on, she had fallen out with my GP actually about the medication because she felt I was sedated, over sedated. 

And she had had various conversations with my GP and the hospital about my medication, which she didn't actually have my approval to do so. But what happened, I went to see her one night and I sat down and literally immediately she said to me, 'I'm very sorry but I don't feel as if there is any trust in the relationship, it's completely broken down. I'm not able to work with you anymore. 

And this was like, well to me, it came out of the blue. I hadn't seen it coming at all. There had been no warning signs to me. What was going on with her I have no idea. And as a kind of knee jerk reaction, I said I do trust you and she said, 'I'm sorry, I can't work with you anymore,' and didn't say anything else. And it was as if she didn't want to talk, you know, as if it wasn't really open for discussion so I walked'. 

I've tried to stop analysing it because I'm never going to find out unless I speak to her again and that's very unlikely that I will ever contact her again. So I don't know, something was going on with her, it must have been. At the time I thought, my thoughts were, I mean it kind of cut me in half really. I was very upset, 'God there must be something really wrong with me, even my counsellor is rejecting me. My God I must be so bad'' I must have been in a kind of shock. I was bent over crying and I literally couldn't walk straight to my car, I was so upset. And it took a while to get over to be honest.

 

Describes her mother's shame about her hospitalisation. (Played by an actor)

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It's probably the public's view of' my Mum's always been very ashamed and didn't want to tell people that I was in a psychiatric hospital. Didn't want anyone to know I was in there. Wouldn't tell anyone. Always a big secret. And that in itself didn't have a good effect on me [laugh]. Because it made me feel ashamed of myself and that I was in there. 

 

Explains that while some staff do care and you can feel safe in NHS hospitals, staff can appear...

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You know, you're, you're in a place. It's not a [pause] the nurses, I mean some of the nurses care, yes. They care. I'm not going to start slagging them off, but I think some of them become desensitised as to what and who they are dealing with. And they kind of put labels on people a lot of the time, and they kind of saw me as an overdose I think, and nothing else really, or not much else.'I'm not completely anti them, and they have helped me. 

They have been there when I've needed them. They have contained me. It's like a kind of'. I look at the psychiatric hospital as a kind of intensive care unit for mentally ill people because it's only really quite'. if you are in a crisis that you go in there.

You are having something really major going on. Otherwise you'. there is no way you'd get in there. So it's kind of an intensive' it's a kind of containment. It's a place of safety. When I am in there I feel contained and I feel [pause] I suppose I feel safe.

 

Describes how she became institutionalised in an NHS hospital by the routines and safety, making...

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I think I became' in eight weeks, I very quickly became institutionalised myself. I was scared to come out because I was in this enclosed world where I knew what was going to happen. 

There were routines, mealtimes, getting up times, medication times, OT times. There were routines and I had no responsibilities. I didn't have, because I live, I'm single and I, you know, I pay a mortgage on this house. I have responsibilities, I have to work to pay the bills and things, and the bills need to be paid and the cat needs to be fed and, you know, I don't have children but I have certain responsibilities and suddenly I had no responsibility. I was being cared for, or I was in a place where I didn't have to think about anything, and nobody could touch me.

 

Recites a poem she wrote while depressed in hospital.

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But this was the very first poem I wrote and it came straight from the heart so it will always be my fondest poem [laugh]. Would it be alright for me to read it? It's actually called Black bird on my Shoulder. I think this came, maybe came from a lot of people who called depression like a 'Dog' and that came from Winston Churchill. But for me it felt like a black bird that always sat on my shoulder and was with me all of the time. But I will read the poem.

Black bird on my shoulder

Screeching in my ear

Nobody else will listen

He has been there year after year

Black bird on my shoulder

Crying me to sleep

Whispering to me

Give it up

No tears now left to weep

Black bird on my shoulder

Daring me cross that line

Into madness I surrender

Oh insanity, how divine

Black bird on my shoulder

Didn't think I'd come this far

Where do I go to now I plead?

Wading through this thick black tar

Black bird on my shoulder

Please, please just fly away

One more chance just give me

Just give me one more day.

So I guess in a kind of' although I was in a very deep dark depression at the time I was still kind of asking in the very last sentence, 'Give me one more day. Give me, you know, give me something. Somebody help."

 

Feels people need to find ways to express their feelings (e.g. poetry, music, dancing) so that...

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Just one other thing really that's been really very' that I feel is very important for anybody is the ability to express feelings'.. If you can try and express yourself. And it can be in a variety of ways because I do it in a variety of ways, in ways that I found out I didn't even know I could.

Such as?

Such as poetry. I wrote a poem when I was in hospital, and it literally flowed out of me. I wrote it and a couple of people have read it. I've written lots more since. And it's been a good way of getting these feelings out'.For me writing it's a good way of putting something down in black and white that sometimes is very difficult to express in words. When somebody says to you, 'How do you feel?' sometimes it is difficult to say, to sum it up in a few sentences, how you do feel.  

You know it's a mind body thing. Sometimes you feel things in your body that you just can't express. So I would encourage anybody to do whatever they feel comfortable with doing, whatever their means are to express themselves, whether it be music, dancing, or something, or screaming or getting in to the car and having a good shout is a good thing because nobody can hear you when you are driving along in your car.  

Let it out because if it doesn't come out, it gets stuck, I think. And it builds up and builds up and you get full and you get full of all these feelings that have never been expressed.
 
 

Her warnings signs for depression include intolerance of noise, isolation, a sense of something...

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You were saying before that you know the warning signs. What are the warning signs for you?

The warning signs for me are I don't listen, I can't listen to music or television. I can't bear noise. I'm very intolerant of any noise. Any kind of noise at all, and I take to my bed. Or I isolate myself. I stop answering the phone, before that something must happen before that. Just generally feeling things aren't right. Something is wrong somewhere. Intuition. Something's wrong. Something's not right.

I don't feel at ease with myself. I don't really want to be with myself. If I could get drunk. I haven't turned to drink. I have drugs, I have used my medication to get myself off my head sometimes, sleeping tablets. I've taken four or five sometimes to just release myself.

And it's the same thing as getting drunk. You kind of need to lose yourself because you can't bear to be with yourself anymore. I'm not really sure what that's about but.

 

Says that it is important to educate yourself through the Internet and books about treatments...

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I mean, they said that six sessions of ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy), was the standard kind of beginning that I would get. And I was told that it worked for most people, it was very good treatment. You don't feel a thing because of the anaesthetic, a very simple, quick treatment. It worked for most people. It would last three, four months and because we tried so many different drugs with you, we really don't know'. this is the last kind of line. There is nothing else we can do at this point. You know, you've basically, you've got to have it. 

So I kind of, at the time I was depressed. I was in hospital. I was depressed. So I just, I didn't care actually. But I didn't think it was barbaric or'I just thought OK then. I'll have that if you say it works. I'll have it. I kind of, you know I was listening to them, just very accepting of what they were saying. Only now I've educated myself, which is very important. 

If ever I take a new drug, and I don't take any medication at all now since January I've been off medication, but if I was ever going to take medication or have any kind of treatment I think' if you've got access to the Internet or library research it's so important to do your own research because the professionals will only give you their side of the story. 

I was never told this may cause long-term memory loss, which it has done. I have massive blanks, short-term and long-term.

 

Even though she has been labelled as 'psychotic', she feels less ashamed after therapy, and...

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Well, I don't feel ashamed because I educated myself. If I stayed in the family circle and not talked to a therapist, not got help really, then perhaps I would feel ashamed. Sometimes I think it was all my fault... but on the whole I think it wasn't my fault.... I was labelled with, like being psychotic. I was on psychotic drugs for a number of years. And the fact that I felt so ashamed was because it was written in black and white that I was psychotic. 

It was like saying... they may have well have said I was a mad woman. We all have different experiences and different realities at different times. Feelings are fluid. They come and go and we experience them for a reason. There is nothing ever to be ashamed about with mental health. You know, there really isn't. I would really like to change the public's perception of mental health problems and depression because people sometimes, you know, they would want to say well what's the matter, what's the matter with you? It's like you can't sum it up in a sentence, what's the matter.... you know. I've spent a year in therapy and I still don't know what the matter is, I haven't got to the bottom of what's the matter with me.  It takes time, you know. It takes discovery and it takes courage and it takes persistence and energy.

 

Feels she has been in recovery from a long period of depression, and now feels less isolated and...

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I feel as if I have been in actually.... in recovery for a few months now, or perhaps longer since May, June time. June time say, but I hadn't actually realised I'd been in recovery. I had to go to a recovery conference to kind of realise I was in recovery [laugh]. It means that life is changing. It is not changed. It's a constant thing, its always changing. It changes every day and I notice things that I didn't, that I haven't noticed for years. 

I can listen to music and appreciate it in a different way.... it can move me now. Something on the TV can move me now, and I have, I feel things and things affect me. I was so cut off. I'd put up, you know, sorry to use the really bland expression of putting up a brick wall, a very good brick wall, but I really had built up a very good high brick wall and nothing came in or out. And I didn't feel much at all about anything. I just functioned for a long time.

 

Argues that people in distress may have more help available to them than they think. (Played by...

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There are so many people out there that I know that are in distress right now because they say that one in four people suffer from depression, so how many millions of people is that? There are more people who die through suicide than die in road traffic accidents and I don't hear much about suicide in the media. 

So what I would say to anybody who is reading this, and that is in distress, is that you're going through a process for a reason. And that may be difficult to read. You're having feelings, maybe thoughts and feelings that you think are unusual or that are distressing you, but help is out there. In lots of different ways, and lots of areas. 

I know in my local area there is a 24-hour mental health line now, and there is The Samaritans, there is Depression Alliance. There are people out there who are the same. Although you may not think it, your friends and family would want to know that you are in this distress and would want to help. 

You may think.... It may be difficult for you to reach out, and I understand that because I didn't for a long time. But I would really urge you to reach out if you can muster anything, reach out because there is help out there.

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