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Tara - Interview 11

Age at interview: 20
Brief Outline: Tara was diagnosed with depression in her teens and she also developed what she described as cannabis-induced psychosis. She started using cannabis and other drugs at thirteen. At that age she got involved in a bad and abusive relationship with someone older than her.
Background: Tara lives with her young son and she is taking the City & Guilds qualifications in Maths and English, at her local Platform 51. She has also done a parenting skills course. Tara got a few GSCEs but thinks she could have done a lot better had it not been for cannabis and a bad boyfriend.

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Tara was diagnosed with depression in her teens and she also developed what she described as cannabis induced psychosis. She started using cannabis and other drugs at thirteen. At that age she got involved in a bad and abusive relationship with someone older than her. Her boyfriend introduced her to drugs and within a week of being in that relationship Tara was exposed to cocaine, ecstasy and she started smoking cannabis. She said that she tried almost everything except heroin. Her main reason for doing drugs was her boyfriend and his new group of older friends. Her then boyfriend was a drug addict and expected her to do drugs. She increasingly felt under pressure to take them.
 
Before she met her boyfriend Tara described herself as 'lonely'. She hardly had any friends and at school she was bullied because of her weight. So, when an older boy showed interest in her she was ‘ecstatic’. He used to meet her at lunch break and they would smoke a joint together before she went back to the classroom.Tara lived with her mum, who did not suspect the extent of Tara’s drug use or the violent nature of her then boyfriend. She used to tell her mum that she was staying with friends for the weekend and when coming home with bruises and a black eye, she used to say that she'd had a fight with one of her friends.
 
At fifteen Tara finally managed to free herself from that relationship and she stopped doing drugs, but she says that she was emotionally scarred by her experiences. She doesn’t think she got the help she needed from health professionals. At age thirteen she would have liked more support and kindness from them. Her mental health began to improve after she stopped using cannabis but when she was sixteen/seventeen, she started to smoke a lot of cannabis again and she started to feel depressed again (See 'drugs and mental health').
 
Tara says that when growing up she didn’t have a close relationship with her mother and that she has never been able to open up and talk to her about close personal issues, but since the birth of her child, her mother has been very supportive. 
 
Tara no longer takes any illegal drugs and says that she has grown up and developed ways of dealing with her problems that aren’t harmful to her or to others. If she feels getting depressed she will go to her GP and talk to her. She took antidepressants for a while but she prefers to avoid chemical treatments and feels a talk with someone who is sympathetic helps her best now.
 
When she was pregnant with her son, Platform 51(previously called YWCA) put her in contact with a counsellor who Tara liked and felt comfortable with. The counsellor helped Tara to talk about her feelings and emotions. She wants very much for her experience to help other young people who may find themselves in a similar situation to hers when she was thirteen. 
 

Tara felt lonely before she met her older (now ex) boyfriend when she was 13. She was ‘naïve’ and he introduced her to drugs.

Tara felt lonely before she met her older (now ex) boyfriend when she was 13. She was ‘naïve’ and he introduced her to drugs.

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Okay, so would you say that [sighs] your main reason for using drugs was because of this partner?
 
Yes, yeah, I didn’t have a clue beforehand, I didn’t have a clue about anything, I was very naïve at that age, didn’t have a clue about sex, drugs, relationships, anything I think it was all pushed on to me and such a short pace, short space of time and [sighs] too much to take in really [laughs].
 
[Laughs]. Were you being affected by depression before you met him or it was?
 
No not really.
 
Not really?
 
I think, I met him and it was all just like, well it was a different world to what I’d be used to, because I was quiet, didn’t have many friends, I had body issues wasn’t particularly happy.
 
Why were you not particularly happy or?
 
I was overweight, didn’t have many friends, I didn’t enjoy school, but with this partner, despite all the bad times we did have good times and it just offered something else.
 
And at school were you bullied because?
 
I was bullied at school yeah because of my weight.
 
Okay so am I correct in saying that you were looking at yourself in a negative way?
 
Oh yeah definitely, yeah.
 
So this guy comes around and sort of...?
 
Yeah, “Oh you’re beautiful, oh I find you really attractive.” Well to be fair an eighteen year old shouldn’t be saying that to a thirteen year old, but at [laughs] at that age I was like, wow I’m completely like, fallen for him, because I did at the time but, I don’t know.
 
So was friends at this school were very few or?
 
Yeah very few, I’ve never had close friends at school, acquaintances you might say, I rarely went out with friends from school, didn’t go round their houses, have them round mine, so...
 
I was, I was quite lonely. 
 

The first time Tara was offered drugs was when she was 13, under pressure from her older boyfriend.

The first time Tara was offered drugs was when she was 13, under pressure from her older boyfriend.

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First time I was offered drugs was when he took me to the first house party was within a week of knowing him, and smoking cannabis passing a joint around, “Here you go have some of this, it’s like a cigarette.” Tried it, and because it was handed to me, I thought I want to look cool in front of all his mates, so I tried it I’d already, I was already smoking normal cigarettes at that point so, that was, that wasn’t too bad compared to what else was being passed around, “Oh have some little white tablets.” “What are these?” “They’re ecstasy.” “Have a line of this coke it’s really great you will buzz.” It was just…
 
So that’s first time you’d tried cannabis?
 
That was the first time I tried cannabis, at that first house party I went to and then.
 
And how did you feel?
 
How did I feel?I just felt chilled out.
 
As the effects are I had, I did feel slightly under pressure, peer pressure to do it.
 
Well what do you think would have happened if you have said no I don’t want to?
 
I don’t know they would probably laughed at me and just, passed it off I don’t, I don’t know it’s hard saying now.
 
I was being pressured into trying stuff by my partner who was fairly abusive and quite forceful on me, so I, just do stuff for the sake of it, never quite enjoyed any of it, but obviously you get the rush of certain things or you get chilled out from certain things and it’s quite a scary time because watching people inject heroin and watching them pass out, slumped in a corner it’s not nice for someone to see at that young age when I was thirteen myself. Going on to like thirteen, fourteen, fifteen then, when my relationship with that partner ended, as did much of the drug use. 
 

Tara thinks that cannabis and personal problems contributed to her depression and self-harm. She thinks cannabis can be a dangerous drug.

Tara thinks that cannabis and personal problems contributed to her depression and self-harm. She thinks cannabis can be a dangerous drug.

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So based on this experience I mean, how much do you think it has to do with cannabis smoking; your depression, your self-harming?
 
I think it had a major part in it, not, not completely all of it because there were issues from school, my family, my friends, but [eh] [laughs] smoking drugs yeah, had a major part of my depression which I will carry with me probably throughout my life I still have, I still have spells of depression and so it’s just part of me and I try and deal with it as best I can.
 
So for you cannabis had a major impact?
 
Yeah.
 
..on your health, on your...
 
Yeah.
 
...mental health?
 
Yeah it’s, very [laughs] dangerous compared to [sighs] it’s, what is it now, a class B? But it is, it can mess you up worse than lots of other things, okay you pop a few pills you may die instantly, they could be very dangerous but what about smoking cannabis for a long time and then you just carry it with the rest of your life, you’ve just got to deal with it for the rest of your life and no, it’s not nice [laughs]. 
 

Tara stresses that drugs are illegal because they’re dangerous.

Tara stresses that drugs are illegal because they’re dangerous.

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Illegal drugs are illegal for a reason, because they are dangerous. They wouldn’t, they wouldn’t have laws against them if they weren’t so I don’t like drugs.
 
What would you say to people who say, “Oh well cannabis doesn't harm you.”?
 
I would tell them my experience [door noise], at the end of the day, I can’t stop anyone from doing anything, if they really want to do it they’ll go out and do it [knocking at door] they’ll learn from their mistakes as I’ve learnt from mine. At the moment my priority is myself and my son, I can give other people my experiences, I can let them know what I’ve been through but it’s up to them at the end of the day.
 
 

Tara doesn’t take drugs anymore because she wants to be a good mum to her little boy.

Tara doesn’t take drugs anymore because she wants to be a good mum to her little boy.

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Are you still sort of smoking cannabis from time to time or?
 
No.
 
No?
 
I do....miss it though, I think you do miss the, just the experience of being able to chill out, forget a few things.
 
What are your reasons now for not doing drugs?
 
I have a two and a half year old son and I don’t want that around him [sighs] I couldn’t risk being completely off my face if something happened, so no.
 
I think part of me misses, misses the drugs, I think because you do get a good buzz off some of them and you have some, some good experiences in a, quite a weird way, so, I do miss it sometimes and there is like the temptation, to think ‘I can just call up one of my old friends and I’ll have a spliff in half an hour’ so you’ve got to be quite....
 
So what do you do when you...?
 
I just think of my little boy and think he deserves better than that really, he deserves a good mother and that’s what I’m trying my hardest to be and that’s all that matters to me at the moment, is that I’m a good mother to my son and I’m, a good person, and just live my life, try and be a decent human being, try and do something, so.
 
That stopped you.
 
Yeah. I’ve just messed up so many times, and, [sighs] I’ve finally got my life back on track, I’m living with my son, I’ve got a nice house, I’ve got a lot going for me so I’m not going to ruin that.
 
Has the way you see yourself changed?
 
Oh yeah [sighs], yeah [sighs] I’m a completely different person.
 
Tell me a little, tell me more?
 
I’ve always, my confidence has soared, I’m very open. I look back and think I was not a nice person then.
 
In which way?
 
In every way really I was bitchy, I was nasty, I was snide, I didn’t care, and now I do, I’m, I now have a lot going for me but I didn’t feel like I did then. I have pride in myself, I’m proud to be who I am and what I’ve got, it may not be a lot to some people but this is what I’ve got.
 
So, and for what I’ve, for what I’ve come, come through, and through all my experiences to be here now saying all this, I’m very proud of that fact. So I’m a completely different person to who I was back then.
 
You said you don’t want drugs around you, you don’t want drugs around your son, why not?
 
Why not? because they’re dangerous, they’re, just it’s not a nice thing and I don’t want drug addicts who, when you’re on drugs you’re unpredictable, I’m not having that around my son, I don’t want someone who can, flip from being nice to nasty in a second, it’s dangerous.
 
Because that was your experience?
 
That was my experience yeah. So, I want my son to grow up and lead a good life and be a good [short laugh] little boy and. I don’t want him being pressured into doing drugs so I’m going to teach him, when he’s old enough to understand.
 
Will you talk to him about?
 
I will talk to him about the stuff. 
 

Tara hasn't always found antidepressants helpful but is reassured that they’re 'there' in case she ever needs them.

Tara hasn't always found antidepressants helpful but is reassured that they’re 'there' in case she ever needs them.

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I’ve been on anti-depressants, a few different kinds, I never really felt much help from them, so after a while I decided not to take them whatever, but , the last time I was prescribed them I took them and I did get some help from them, but then you’re, when you start to feel better you eventually wean yourself off them, but I always know that they’re there, but I would rather talk about my feelings than go, and take anti-depressants when I don’t really need to.
 

Tara was only thirteen when her boyfriend started putting pressure on her to take cannabis.

Tara was only thirteen when her boyfriend started putting pressure on her to take cannabis.

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And it was having, I was being pressured into trying stuff by my partner who was fairly abusive and quite forceful on me, so I, just do stuff for the sake of it, never quite enjoyed any of it, but obviously you get the rush of certain things or you get chilled out from certain things and it’s quite a scary time because watching people inject heroin and watching them pass out, slumped in a corner it’s not nice for someone to see at that young age when I was thirteen myself. Going on to like thirteen, fourteen, fifteen then, when my relationship with that partner ended, as did much of the drug use, but I still had the after effects, I had Cannabis Psychosis for lots of smoking of green, oh I had mental scars from all my experiences
 
So you, you felt sort of pressurised to do drugs?
 
Yes, yes.
 
While you were with him?
 
Yes I, yeah very pressurised to do drugs, [sighs] he was six foot four, he was a big, big built bloke, rugby player, and he had such a hold over me, and I was terrified of him but at the time I was thirteen, naïve, I thought I was in love with him, because despite all the bad things and how bad he was towards me he did show me love and affection, so I was with him, I was, I was scared to leave but at the same time I didn’t want to leave because I didn’t have many friends, he, he was there for me in a way, lots of people who are abused do love the person who is abusing them, so, [sighs].
 
 

Tara hated school but a teacher persuaded her to take her GCSEs.

Tara hated school but a teacher persuaded her to take her GCSEs.

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I hated school. Hated school [laughs], I didn’t do, I didn’t do too badly to be fair but I had, I probably had it in me to do a lot better, if I wasn’t going through what I was going through, in my last year, I was very depressed, I was self-harming, I had a random suicide attempts just to try and get something done but, I went and spoke to one of my teachers and said, “Look I’m not going to be able to take my GCSEs, I just, I don’t want to do it, I’m going to fail everything.” He finally persuaded me to do them and I done okay, I scraped a handful, but I had the potential to do a lot better.
 

Tara asks doctors and healthcare workers to be patient, gentle and to think about how the patient might be feeling.

Tara asks doctors and healthcare workers to be patient, gentle and to think about how the patient might be feeling.

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Listen a bit more. Listen instead of blabbing your mouth, try and get to know the person before you just come out with a load of crap, well they don’t understand and explain things more, because a lot of the time I didn’t know what the hell they were on about.
 
Why?
 
They’d use all these technical terms and just like go on and on, I was like, just be honest and open with them.
 
Okay.
 
and explain.
 
And use plain English?
 
Yeah, yeah [short laugh].
 
Okay.
 
Just, yeah.
 
Do you think that as a teenager you would feel confident to go and tell a doctor or someone and say, “Sorry I don’t understand this.”?
 
No. No a few years ago no way, like I said my confidence has soared and I would be happy to say that now but at that point no.
 
So at that point you sat there?
 
Yeah it’s quite intimidating to have someone that you barely know or you’ve just met asking you deep and personal questions so just go easy on them to start with, before you delve into their past and pick their lives to pieces in front of them when they’re upset, because it’s an upsetting time having, speaking to a counsellor or a psychiatrist, or being admitted to hospital and you, just having someone, who doesn’t really show any emotion who’s just like sat there, like a statute, just repeating these questions, trying to get everything out of you.
 
And that’s how you felt?
 
That’s how I felt quite a few times, and it’s just, it’s not nice really.
 

Tara's favourite therapist was young, able to laugh and good at getting her to talk about her problems.

Tara's favourite therapist was young, able to laugh and good at getting her to talk about her problems.

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It takes a while, you’ve got to find someone you click with, who you’re able to open up to, to get benefit from those situations so...
 
Have you found anyone?
 
I yeah I had had a counsellor, she was amazing, I found her through the YWCA so that was after having my son, she was brilliant and she helped me through so many things and so you, you can find them there [laughs] are decent people out there.
 
Okay, what made her different?
 
I don’t know, we connected on a level, I mean, she was young, we were able to have a laugh as well as just talk about the serious issues, she wouldn’t pressure me to talk about stuff, she’d hint and prompt me to, discuss things so, no it was just easy with her and sometimes it’s a struggle with there’s someone you don’t want to talk to.
 
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