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Interview 09

Age at interview: 35
Age at diagnosis: 17
Brief Outline: Since 1995 has undergone a recovery which has involved therapy (systemic consultation) as well as learning social skills, engaging in enjoyable activities, and involvement in self-help groups.
Background: A computer technician, who has been depressed for most of his life. There was conflict and early loss in his family, and he has not responded to medication. (Played by an actor.)

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His mother died, he was bullied, was neglected, isolated, lacked social skills, and he was...

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His mother died, he was bullied, was neglected, isolated, lacked social skills, and he was...

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Okay so all these experiences from earlier on in life, my Mum dying, being bullied I guess, being neglected and isolated and being treated different academically. I think they all combined with my lack of social skills, which I'd not had a chance to develop until that point when I got to university and everyone else was having a great time.  

I was on the floor, literally and metaphorically and the prescribed drug and the therapy didn't really help very much and I'd developed this fixation that on this'.on a woman. And I felt, you know, very powerful feelings about all kinds of things, and it's hard to make sense of them, really. I felt, I could be saved or all this could be put away if somebody would come and rescue me, I suppose.

 

Lacked joy and was lonely, needy and despairing when depressed, and felt that people could tell...

Lacked joy and was lonely, needy and despairing when depressed, and felt that people could tell...

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I felt more, I didn't seem to be able to enjoy any of the things that I tried at first, and I was just feeling very low and very lonely, needy. I was aware I needed something, I wasn't quite sure what and I was, I think, probably about 4 or 5 months after starting my first year, I did become very depressed, actually, and just took to moping around. 

I think people could tell from just the way I was looking, the way I, not looking after myself, the fact that I spoke in a low monotone. The, my posture, I tended to stoop and just looked generally dishevelled and not at all, not really able to cope, actually, quite despairing.  

Despairing of being able to do something for myself, despairing of ever being anything myself, despairing of being normal which, you know partly, I would like to'. 

 

A social worker visited his home and helped his father to better understand depression, as well...

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A social worker visited his home and helped his father to better understand depression, as well...

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Then the next thing was that actually a social worker who'. they tend not to do this very much, but she actually came round to the house where I was living with my father after I'd dropped out of University, after I'd made a suicide attempt. And she was helpful in a few ways in that she actually got my father to understand a bit more about my depression and that it wasn't just a case of laziness. It was a case of not being able to function, really'. being completely lost. 

And she also did have hour long sessions with me at home and I think I got, you know, I was into talking about things and possibly I was talking about the way things could go. And that was probably beneficial, actually'. I think I was completely isolated at that stage, and she would make positive suggestions. She wasn't like the psychoanalyst in that sense, she would say, 'Well, maybe you could move away from home?' And she also investigated possibilities for doing that. And I talked quite a bit about my Mum, again. And the kind of frustrations I had.

 

Liked the therapy approach called 'systemic consultation', which attempted to understand his...

Liked the therapy approach called 'systemic consultation', which attempted to understand his...

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I eventually got put on a waiting list for the local clinical psychology team and they have a very interesting approach, which years later, I found out is called 'systemic consultation'... in practice it was'. I was sitting in a room with not one therapist but 3 therapists or at least 2 therapists, and somebody in training. 

And I was also welcome to bring along other people, friends and my brother on one occasion. And that had the idea of' unlike the private therapist, I didn't feel there was any danger that she might'. that they might be keeping me for longer than I needed, or giving me more attention than I needed. 

I felt like they could see that I was a person in need, and I needed to come and talk things through. And, basically, they made an effort to try and understand me, and try to see things from my point of view, and slowly' possibly to put a more positive spin on it. They tended to use a few cognitive techniques. 

In cognitive therapy you're given homework to do. I wasn't, but they did make suggestions about things I might concentrate on. And I think, by that stage, by 1995, I had put a lot of it together for myself and I really needed a bit more help getting reassurance that I was getting there, and help in putting the pieces together. In trying to develop my social skills a bit more, and maybe get out more, and just try a few things that were a bit more challenging, and I think they were quite encouraging, really. 

They' it didn't'. it wasn't anything magical this time. I wasn't expecting them to be able to take what I've given them, and come up with a prescription in a sense, a cure. I think they focused on the real world a lot more, rather than some of the previous experiences I'd had where it was all talking about the past and my feelings and my sensation of being adrift and very miserable and talking about the depression itself.

 

Describes how his thinking was negative early on in life, but he only became aware of it when...

Describes how his thinking was negative early on in life, but he only became aware of it when...

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I seemed to be concentrating on the big things, really, almost possibly as a distraction from myself. But I felt like, again my own needs weren't that important, really. If somebody had some kind of emotional problem my attitude was probably that it's not a real problem, it's not the same problem as people starving in the Third World, and that's kind of how I felt about myself.  I felt okay, I'm not enjoying life a lot, I find most of it very boring, possibly that's because I'm quite bright, and I don't have that much to fill up my time or that much stimulation. But it was a kind of gradual slide from about the age of 10, I think, into something that was depression. I was about, I was standing in a dinner queue at school once, on my own, and somebody comes up behind me and he said, 'You know, you radiate depression.' Which was, at the age of 13, was quite [laughing]' It was also a funny turn of phrase and I think I probably laughed actually, but somehow I'd picked up that something was wrong.

 

Says that you may only be able to tackle small activities when depressed, but you can progress to...

Says that you may only be able to tackle small activities when depressed, but you can progress to...

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Because when I'm depressed I' I wasn't able to do anything about it, really. I just felt overwhelmed by it. And so you do have to just tackle the bit that you can get a grip on, and it might be something very small. And with my depression, when I was feeling very low, I would, I did decide to just concentrate on small things; going for a walk, baking some bread, you know pottering around in the garden. Just trying to get through day to day, I think, was how I came out of the suicide attempt. And that lasted a long, long time, really and I don't think it can be rushed, that recuperation really'

And then I spent some time working on a farm, actually, which was quite good because there was the exercise and the fresh air, and there was also the camaraderie of other people who thought it was a crap job as well. So, you know'. not doing anything too demanding'. 

It might almost seem common sense to people that if you distract yourself from some of these things, it might give a bit of relief. That actually in the long term, if you keep doing it, it's a good way of slowly coming out of depression. But yes, it might seem common sense, but it's not what you feel like doing all the time, not at all.

 

Was initially afraid to do many social things, but realised that he needed to take up life's...

Was initially afraid to do many social things, but realised that he needed to take up life's...

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I stopped myself from doing things because I didn't think there was any point in doing it, and because I was afraid that I might get embarrassed about something. And I realised that'. you know there were only so many opportunities you're presented with in life, and therefore you have to seize the day and try and take those opportunities, so long as they're not overwhelming. And that's how come I ended up, you know doing, going out and meeting some friends who were interested in the same kinds of things I was. And beginning to develop a bit'. a bit more of a social life, a bit more of a normal social life, I think' 
 
 

Says that a newsletter had interesting ideas and information, as well as personal stories, which...

Says that a newsletter had interesting ideas and information, as well as personal stories, which...

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And I also got in touch with [self-help organisation]. In fact I had been a member of [self-help organisation] for a few years earlier, and I got the newsletter which had a lot of personal experiences in, which I found very interesting and thought provoking. It did manage to make sense of what I'd been through, put it into context as it were. And of course, you get a lot of different views there. I mean this was the '90s before people started really thinking of depression as a biological illness, probably. And you know, there were some interesting ideas there about cognitive therapy as well, and interesting ideas about the way depression related to society and all kinds of things like that, which I found quite stimulating.

 

Talks about how his academic research into depression led to useful information, such as how his...

Talks about how his academic research into depression led to useful information, such as how his...

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But actually, probably one of the most important things for me that came out of working for [self-help group] is I got interested in the subject of depression for it's own sake and I started looking at research myself and trying to '. I was looking at academic research, I used to go to the British Library and the University of East London and look through journals there. And that made a lot of sense to me. I understood, because I've got a background in maths, I can understand all the statistics and basically I found a lot of useful information, for example to do with what happens if you tend to ruminate and things. And I had a very strong tendency to spend'. use the time that I had by myself to look inwards and I realised that by doing that and concentrating on the faults, that was actually making me more pessimistic.
 
 

Had a crisis of faith in Christianity where he did not feel a relationship with Jesus, and had...

Had a crisis of faith in Christianity where he did not feel a relationship with Jesus, and had...

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I was actually a Christian, I'm not a Christian any more, I sort of went through a crisis of faith a few years afterwards which, again is quite, is quite relevant, I think quite relevant to depression.

In what sense?

Well, Christianity has got some quite powerful symbols in it about redemption and death and somebody dying for your sins. And quite a strong feeling of sin, actually, of a feeling of blame or some, whether you can use the word 'stigma' in that context that attaches to somebody who's, who's somehow failed. But it also, you know, it's got a positive aspect to it as well, it's got the idea that one should be able to be guided by God's will if one reflects on it and reads on it and such like. And some people are supposed to be called by God, but I never felt that way you know, and I never really had this so-called personal relationship with Jesus that many, you know fervent Christians talk about.

I mean I had a conflict in my mind between science, which I felt I understood pretty well, and the Bible, and I was always trying to reconcile them. This is something I was doing, you know even as a kid, you know from the age of 11'. And from the age of 11 and, ultimately, it went down to the side of being a heathen, and not really worrying about being damned, because I don't even believe in things like sin any more. I find them to be very'. to be a very exacting kind of religion'

 

Was pleased to discover that members of his support group were sensitive, intelligent and...

Was pleased to discover that members of his support group were sensitive, intelligent and...

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I was very unhappy with Western culture, and when I talk to people in self-help groups, I very often find that a lot of the attitudes that I talk about, I've said about, you know wanting to get ahead and have a conventional family life and everything. Everyone's got to own car, and all this kind of stuff is just something that I collectively despaired of with other depressed people, that it's that kind of social brutalisation, almost, and all the expectations. The expectations you have as well, or other people have of you. That really' you can't cut yourself off from them because they exist but you can assert your right to be different. Yes, but anyway I'm getting far too philosophical now, I think.

And it was quite nice realising that these people did suffer from depression, and yet they were very intelligent and sensitive people. And you know, there's obviously no contradiction between the things but in fact, you know, you spend all that time feeling, looking at other people and I've felt I was worse than, you know, I felt I was'. and I felt I was missing something. I didn't have something that the rest of the human race had. But in fact, it turned out almost to be the opposite. That in fact, you know we have a certain sensitivity, I think, being depressed maybe.
 
 

Lowering expectations can be a way of feeling better about yourself.

Lowering expectations can be a way of feeling better about yourself.

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I've also, because I've got to that low point I think, one thing I sometimes mention to people is that I kind of reconciled myself with the possibility that my life might be absolutely dreadful. I might have a really horrible life, and die having fulfilled none of my ambitions. And you know, you might think that might be gloomy but I think somehow being able to accept that, it was good because then anything positive is a bonus. So anyway, I've gone through that period of, that's probably it.

 

Although intelligent and hoping to enjoy University, he couldn't organise himself there or...

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Although intelligent and hoping to enjoy University, he couldn't organise himself there or...

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But, moving on to University, yes I was saying that I was supposed to be quite intelligent, but I hadn't worked out how to do stuff in a structured way, how to get myself going, how to really organise my time. I hadn't had that much contact with kids my own age outside school before, so at university the idea of having a social life was quite new. And I think, although I had hopes when I went there, within a few months, I found it wasn't at all enjoyable. I felt more, I didn't seem to be able to enjoy any of the things that I tried at first, and I was just feeling very low and very lonely, needy. I was aware I needed something, I wasn't quite sure what. And I was, I think, probably about 4 or 5 months after starting my first year, I did become very depressed, actually, and just took to moping around.

 

Realised that he would need to have his own values, since the world was fallible. (Played by an...

Realised that he would need to have his own values, since the world was fallible. (Played by an...

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Yes, the universe is pointless and the only meaning comes from us. Somebody in [self-help group] once wrote that depression was his own idiosyncratic response to living in a flawed world, I think. I thought that was quite a difficult concept to get across to people, but I think it's important. And you know, it's a question of whether you can.... what you do, in the face of that universal meaninglessness, I think.... I learned that, you know, we're not perfect. We're fallible human beings. That life isn't fair, as was pointed out to me, but that doesn't mean that we can't try to make life fair when we possibly can. And I learned that you can go very, very low. I learned, I suppose, I learned what was important. What I was missing then, I've now subsequently rediscovered, or discovered for the first time, really, because I'd never had it in the first place.

What's important?

It's important to be good to each other, and be compassionate to each other, and it's important to let yourself have a good time and look after yourself.

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