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Interview 12

Age at interview: 60
Age at diagnosis: 27
Brief Outline: Helpful approaches include support from patients in hospital, counselling and medication (Lofepramine). She understands depression as a passing phase and feels she is well past the worst of it.
Background: A retired secretary with a grown son, who was first diagnosed with depression in 1970, and has had a number of episodes since and was hospitalised twice.

More about me...

 

Describes a negative and frightening experience of an NHS hospital in the 1970s.

Describes a negative and frightening experience of an NHS hospital in the 1970s.

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They kept me for 5 days and that was appalling. It was like something out of Dickens. It was a big Victorian building, more like a lunatic asylum to be honest, [pause] than a mental hospital. There was, they put me on this seriously ill ward, which consisted of a row of beds, a lot of very strange women. It was completely a different experience I had here, you know, one came up to me and said, 'How long are you here for?' And I said, 'Oh, I've been told just a few days'. 'Oh, I was told that and that was 6 months ago'. Which frightened me. Then there was this elderly lady who'd taken all her clothes off and nobody stopped her, and she was, you, I don't know, shouting and carrying on whatever. It was awful.

 

Says that had the seriousness of her depression been recognised earlier, and she had had support,...

Says that had the seriousness of her depression been recognised earlier, and she had had support,...

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When I was first diagnosed and had that experience having been chucked out of hospital after 5 days'  If I'd had had the support then that I've had since the 1980's things might have been a lot different. I might not have had to have gone through all that. If it had been recognised, it was, it was just not recognised that I was ill enough. Or as I say, it was decided for some reason I was to go'. You know, perhaps, I was taking up a bed or something. 

They actually were quite cruel, they really were quite cruel. But I'm sure if I'd had the same treatment then as I had in the '80's, I mean I don't think depression goes away, but there must be something that you know, you get on and off over the years. But with modern medication, there's going to be other progress isn't there. You know, so don't despair. No, if, if they'd at least have acknowledged how ill I was then it would have made a difference.

 

A Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) or social worker helped her to do everyday tasks at home when...

A Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) or social worker helped her to do everyday tasks at home when...

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Well in this part of the country, there is excellent support for mental health problems. And I don't know whether it was the community psychiatric nurse, I don't know whether they had those at that time, but I had a mental health social worker. Who, she was extraordinary, she really was good. 

And she did things like, knock on my door, I mean she' but I'll start at the beginning. Before I came out of hospital she took me over and I came home for 2 afternoons to this house which was freezing because it was January. And [pause] gave me a pile of my paper and my bills and things that I needed to sort out, and I sat in the on the floor there and did that until she came back to get me. And so that one I'll throw away and that one I'll need to do something about, it's all, it's all I could do, I couldn't move. Honestly I couldn't move. 

If I'd gone like that it would have burst the bubble and I was safe in this bubble. So that's what I did. And then we did that a couple of times and then I think she must have kept coming to see me.

 

She realised that a counsellor was not skilled enough to recognise her needs, including her...

She realised that a counsellor was not skilled enough to recognise her needs, including her...

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And [pause], she certainly hadn't the ability of the counsellor. Straight away I could suss that out. That she even on the first interview, there were things she was going back on she'd already asked, or misunderstood things I'd said. And that sounds as if, as if she was at fault and I wasn't. I think I'd explained myself clearly to her. The counsellor had never questioned me. She'd never come back and sort of given me something I hadn't said, whereas the, the psychologist was doing that. 

And I, how many times did I see her, 3 times I saw her, and she decided that I wasn't, you know, I wasn't sort of needy, needing that. And I felt obliged to say, well there are other people and you've got such a long waiting list, you know, I'll go away. And you know, sort of, after that I thought, you know what a waste of time. And a priority appointment of 3 months it just' when I was telling her things that happen to me when I'm really bad' like, I think it's because there've been accidents on the railway lines with people, and it brings it to your attention. 

And when I'm, it didn't happen to me this morning when I met you but, when I'm really down it occurs to me when I see a train coming to jump in front of it. And again I get these compulsions, and I have to physically take a step backwards so as not to do it. And these are strong urges. And I was told, 'Oh, well everybody feels like that from time to time.'

 

Talking about difficult and intimate problems in her life to her counsellor helped her see her...

Talking about difficult and intimate problems in her life to her counsellor helped her see her...

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Then of course when you start to talk about the intimate details of your problems, you do sort of get upset and everything. And you know it's horrific. I find myself telling her things I've never put into words before. And she was coming back, 'Well, you're saying such and such, you're blaming yourself for this situation. 

And the way she put it made me think, 'Oh, perhaps I wasn't as much at fault, perhaps only partly, perhaps somebody else was responsible for part, at least part of this situation'. And that was tremendous, it really was. I mean, and this' when did I last see her, possibly a year ago and I've not gone backwards. Yes, she really has resolved one or two issues with me.

 

Describes the comfort felt when she realised in hospital that others felt similar to her.

Describes the comfort felt when she realised in hospital that others felt similar to her.

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When I went in '85. The relief that all these people who were suffering' I felt, I'm not odd, they're all like this. And we were an amazing comfort to each other. Groups of people, again there weren't people you would naturally, you know, what's the word' polarise to or whatever, you'd go to in the outside world. But in there, I remember one was a male prostitute, other people who just weren't in my type of life, and it's like a club for them that ward. And even years later, if you seem them on the street, you make a point of saying, 'How are you, are you ok?'. And we gave each other amazing comfort just though talking and understanding each other, and that was as much if not more help than the doctors. I mean the medication of course helps because it dulls everything, but that was an immense help, people like that.

 

Becoming secretary for a new local support group helped her to feel useful, link with...

Becoming secretary for a new local support group helped her to feel useful, link with...

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One day she (my social worker) knocked on the door and said, 'We're going to start a MIND group, a sort of MIND group, would you be interested in joining us?' So I got into that and because of my secretarial skills I was immediately taken on as a secretary of the working group. And, and that's how it went. And again because you're' becoming friendly with the professionals as it were, [pause] and [pause] at a point where you, you were starting to give something back, starting to help other people. And that made me realise how important it was to help other people. And I think that gives you an uplift doesn't it. And that's really what happened, that's, that's how I got back into normality.

So being involved in the MIND, and what it did for you specifically is it re-engaged your secretarial skills and you helped others?

It did. I suppose, you know I wasn't conscious of it, but I suppose, it gave me back confidence in my skills, that I hadn't lost them. Because I've been [pause] away for quite some time at that point [pause] what else did it do for me? Well I suppose it made me feel useful too, that I was of use. Again, I didn't consciously think of it then, but it will have, will have done that.  And I do think that the idea that it was benefiting somebody else as well, that it wasn't just 'self'. Which is a good thing because you do turn in on yourself. And it made one sort of stop being focused on just oneself. And look outwards towards other people. That was an important step I think in that.

 

Her boss was very supportive, and organised her work so that she could cope with her tasks.

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Her boss was very supportive, and organised her work so that she could cope with her tasks.

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And for me, the way that university used to get rid of people was they would put you in a job that you didn't like. It wasn't your boss that does the hiring and firing, it's the personnel department, and she'd put you in a job you didn't like so you would go. Well I was told that you know because I wasn't well and things I was told that I was going to be moved to another job. So when I came back from personnel he said, 'What did they say?', so I told him. He said not a word and walked out and he was gone for about an hour and he came back and he said [pause], 'You will never hear from them again' [pause]. Not a lot of people would do that [pause], not a lot of people would do that. And he wouldn't give me a, I mean it was a heck of a busy job, I was working for the entire research team and the students and him and everything else. And he said, 'Right that's it, I'll give you one job at a time, you won't go home to feel sorry for yourself, I'll give you one job at a time' [laugh]. 'Do that, type that and I'll give you something else'. And how many people would put up with that? You know that was tremendous. We would all have walked on hot coals for him because he just did those things for everybody, you know. You'd never get that in industry, would you?
 
 

Having depression and recovering has made her more empathic with people, more understanding, and...

Having depression and recovering has made her more empathic with people, more understanding, and...

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It sounds odd but it's had a very positive effect. It really has. I mean I hope that I understand other people. I mean, yes, you do still write off people don't you as, "He's a miserable so and so". Then you start thinking about it and talking about it to somebody and you think, somebody might else jog your memory that there are other sides to people. And it has had that..... And I, I really feel, well sort of complimented really, that there are people who think, "Thank goodness I can talk to you, cause you understand". It's not a lot to give to people but I'm really complimented that they feel that, they feel that. And that really makes me feel good about myself, not in any, or have I got any sort of....., But just, it makes you feel good inside that perhaps you have helped somebody.

And I think it has had that effect and that also on my son. It's [pause] I think, he probably feels something more for me, perhaps if he'd lived, been brought up in an ordinary, you know 2 parent family. I mean I feel that we have a great closeness, I mean he does too, you know it's not something you talk about really. But, I always feel wherever he goes in the world he, it's the only relationship in my life that I've felt confident about, it doesn't matter if he goes to America or somewhere, he would feel the same way about me. And the fact that he's got a girlfriend, he's you know, so keen to you know [pause] want to be with, and that's not changed him towards me at all. In fact, its sort of, its made him grow up at lot actually, yes. And that's a good thing.

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