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Interview 21

Age at interview: 55
Age at diagnosis: 53
Brief Outline: Effective treatments include lithium (400mg/day), day care centre activities (e.g. creative activities), distracting herself from depression, counselling, diet changes and Internet research.
Background: Is a divorcee and teacher with 2 children (12, 15 years). She has had 3 episodes of depression (bipolar) each year for the past 3 years, recovering by Christmas.

More about me...

 

Was well informed about lithium side effects, and was willing to take lithium to avoid depression...

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And what's it like, what's it like being on lithium?

I've reacted fine, I haven't... apart from a slight tremor of my hands at the beginning, which is to be expected, you know, you, you're given a sheet which tells you what to expect, and I looked it up on the internet as well. I'm very against taking medicine for a long time, but after my experience with the depression I decided I would be prepared to take it to the.... for the rest of my life if I don't get it again, the depression again, if it stops that. 

And, and also I'm not, I'm not over the top with the manic  aspect but it has made me make choices I wouldn't otherwise have made. It's made me make choices which haven't been good choices, and so I've I hope, I mean all my friends are watching out now, you know, that I'm calm and not getting hyperactive as I did before.

 

An NHS Day Centre near her home offering creative activities was a welcome distraction from her...

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What did you get out of doing the art and craft classes at the day centre?

When, when I've been depressed I... I get really very desperate to do anything that will be a distraction, and that's really basically what it was. I mean I am naturally quite artistic and, but it's, it's' when you're as ill as that it's an effort to do anything, so it was, it was just good to be with other people, not be alone, not be stuck in the house, and to be doing anything, you know, in terms of drawing or, or, or pottery. It was, but you don't, there's not, not a sense in which you enjoy it in the same way as you do when you're well. It's, it's a distraction.

 

Worked out what she wanted in her life, and then repeated it over and over in her mind as a...

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And one of the things I found really helpful was to work out what, what I really needed, when I was very depressed. What I really wanted, how I wanted to live and, and use it like a mantra every day, because I understand that we can train our subconscious minds to... to go the way we want them to go by teaching them what we want them to be. And so everyone has to do it for themselves. 

And, and mine was, when I was really depressed, mine was, "I'm calm, cheerful and creative". And I, when I walked anywhere, I would say that over and over and over, not necessarily out loud in case people thought I was quite mad, but I would say it out loud if, if there was no one around, but certainly in my mind, "I'm calm, cheerful and creative". And you formulate, you work out what you want to be, how you want your life, to live your life, what's important to you, and retrain your consciousness and you...when you're depressed you're in a state where you can't aim for anything, you can't do anything, but you can do that I think. I know you can because I did it.

 

Says that discussion forums on the Internet can be very informative as well as supportive for...

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And while I was on, the, she, on that site, the [name] site, there's a depression forum, a forum for people with depression and I found it very interesting to research, you know, to look at what other people were saying. And it's very supportive if you have depression to go on there because there are people going on saying, 'Help, you know, I'm at the end, I can't cope'. And then people come back to them with messages, and I, I've written a message myself.
 
 

Feels that friends need to treat depressed friends as having a serious illness, find out what...

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What advice would you give to friends about how they can help depressed people?

To treat, to treat the friend as if, who's depressed, as if they had a very serious illness, and to ask them.... maybe even to ask them what they'd like them to do, maybe even do something very simple like inviting them out and taking them for a meal or a coffee or a walk. The friends that did that for me I shall always be grateful to, even though I was very conscious that I was no company. You know, any friends that can do that are worth their weight in gold.

 

When she comes out of depression, she socialises again and is able to pick up her interests,...

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Just going back into my normal life where, you know, I see my friends, I, you know, I'm happy with my children, I just, you know, I take up all my interests again. I've got a lot of interests, I just start living life again properly. And this last time I've... I've changed a lot because I've left tea-, I left teaching about, it's a year and... a year and a half ago, in the summer of 2002. And then, and then for the next year, and then, then I was depressed up to Christmas and then.... no, it must have been, [pause] and then I was working on, when I was well again I was working on a very interesting project which I'd become involved in, an equestrian musical which was based in Switzerland, which we were hoping to bring to England. And it's, it's a beautiful production with, a musical with fifteen horses in it and I'd, I'd got involved in it and gone along to write... I do a bit of journalistic writing and we, we did, we weren't able to do it, you know, because it was too difficult, but we tried, we tried for the finance...

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