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Tracy

Age at interview: 49
Brief Outline: Tracy experienced postnatal depression after having a miscarriage. She then had postnatal depression after her second daughter. Although she had ECT over 20 years ago she still experiences problems with her memory of that time. She wouldn’t recommend ECT to anyone, and found it didn’t help her depression.
Background: Tracy is a charity coordinator and lives with her husband and two children in West Wales. She describes her ethnic background as White British.

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Tracy originally experienced postnatal depression following a miscarriage. At the time she didn’t think she needed help and, because of her nursing background, she felt she dealt with it in a clinical manner. After her having her second daughter, she became highly depressed. She saw a GP who she liked, and they tried ‘a million different drugs’ that didn’t have much effect on her depression. Later she took a serious overdose. Tracy was admitted to hospital as a voluntary patient but was told if she left the ward she would be sectioned. She remembers that staff didn’t want to section her as they thought it would affect her career as a nurse. Altogether she spent five months on the ward and staff struggled to give her a diagnosis. Tracy hated every minute on the ward apart from the friends that she made. There were times when she was really happy but then highly depressed soon afterwards. Tracy has been admitted to hospital a few times since then.

Tracy had trained as a nurse and saw that ECT worked for patients initially but had no long term effect. She can’t remember if the side effects of ECT were ever discussed with her because she struggles to remember that period of time more generally. When she was on the ward she can remember seeing people act differently after they had ECT – she remember one man not being able to remember where his room was. Tracy still struggles to remember the time she had ECT, and finds she cannot recall other pockets of time from before and after the ECT treatment. She is sure this is due to the ECT and not just her depression. She finds the loss of the memories of her children growing up particularly painful. Tracy thinks that she had about ten ECT treatments but is unsure and doesn’t think it helped lessen her depression.

After this time she was on ‘extreme’ levels of medication and was helped to come off her drugs with the support of her CPN. She moved to Wales and found she got a little depressed afterwards. Tracy has found that there has been a tremendous stigma about mental health problems and that people don’t see depression as a real illness.

Tracy thinks that ECT may well work for some people but she feels strongly that she would never have it again no matter how depressed she became. The pleasure in Tracy’s life comes from her job, her family, her church and her friends.
 

Although Tracy thinks she might have been depressed as a teenager, after having a miscarriage and giving birth to her daughter she says depression “hit me”.

Although Tracy thinks she might have been depressed as a teenager, after having a miscarriage and giving birth to her daughter she says depression “hit me”.

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I grew up in quite a stable family and depression probably hit me, when was it? We, my ex-husband and I moved to [name of country]. He was in the services and whilst I was there I had a miscarriage and I lost the baby at about sixteen weeks and because of my nursing background, I don’t think that helped, I just was very clinical about it, and it didn’t affect me at all.

But to my surprise I had postnatal depression which I, stupidly, never realised could happen with a miscarriage and they were really nice. They didn’t know how to deal with me there, but they sent me back to the UK and I stayed with my Mum for a bit and then my ex-husband came back to the UK with me. 

And then a year or so later I had my second daughter. And it was probably about a year after that I started to become really depressed. And I can remember having to go to the Department of Psychiatrist and the psychiatrist interviewed me, and he went off to get some paper work and I just ran. I had a little moped at the time and I drove that home and took a massive overdose and I went to the general hospital and I have vague memory of it.

Had you ever experienced anything that you would call depression or low mood or anything like that before hand?

I think in my teenage years, possibly. But Mum had severe mental health problems, depression, and you know, whether it was just a reaction to what was going on at home. My Mum lost my sister when she was a baby and that was before I was born and she’s never really recovered from that. I don’t think you can recover. And so, whether it’s, no, not really [laughs]. No, but it was in the family. 
 

Tracy experienced severe postnatal depression when she lived abroad with her ex-husband who was in the army. She had no one she could talk to and her mother came over to help.

Tracy experienced severe postnatal depression when she lived abroad with her ex-husband who was in the army. She had no one she could talk to and her mother came over to help.

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So when you began to experience postnatal depression, what did it feel like? What was going on for you?

I just kept crying all the time. I hated life. I hated being where I was. Although [name of ex-husband] was in the army we were put in this lovely place in [name of country]. I loved the town and everything and the people. But there were very few English people. In a way it was a blessing because we didn’t have true military life. We were in with [local people], so I knew more about where I was living, but I had nobody I could talk to. My Mum came over because I was that bad she actually came on the coach, which she would never, ever, ever had done, apart from “her baby needed her”. So that was lovely. And she had to look after my daughter. I was just tearful all the time. I just hated life completely. And they weren’t used to that there. So the army doctors and things didn’t know how to treat me and I think that was why I was sent back to the UK really. 
 

A year after her second daughter was born Tracy became very depressed. She had an appointment with a psychiatrist but ran home and took an overdose.

A year after her second daughter was born Tracy became very depressed. She had an appointment with a psychiatrist but ran home and took an overdose.

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And then a year or so later I had my second daughter. And it was probably about a year after that I started to become really depressed. And I can remember having to go to the Department of Psychiatrist and the psychiatrist interviewed me, and he went off to get some paper work and I just ran. I had a little moped at the time and I drove that home and took a massive overdose and I went to the general hospital and I have vague memory of it. 

I think what happened was I panicked at the last moment and phoned a colleague of mine and she came and took me to the hospital.

So you went in to see the psychiatrist but, sort of, ran away half way?

Yes, half way…

… through. Can you remember anything else about that appointment or…?

I don’t know why I was there by myself, why nobody came with me? My ex-husband must have been at work, or whether I just wanted to go by myself. I can’t even remember if it was an emergency appointment. I think probably it was an emergency appointment. I tried to hide my depression and I think that’s quite normal for a lot of people. You know, people were shocked that I was that bad really, because I’m quite a jovial person most of the time and I think a lot of people with depression hide it, mask their symptoms with mucking about.

No I can just remember the long corridor that I had to run and hope that I wouldn’t get caught. And I, oh I got on my moped and went to my friend’s house, but she wasn’t in, and that was the final straw. You know, how dare she not be in when I need her so desperately? [small laugh]. And I just went home and took all the tablets that I could find. How I haven’t got, how I haven’t mucked up my liver I don’t know.
 

Tracy found both her faith and the church had played a big part in her recovery.

Tracy found both her faith and the church had played a big part in her recovery.

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I think without my faith I wouldn’t be here. You know, when I said about what helps you, you know, my husband, my family, but definitely my God. Definitely, He gives me, you know, my faith gives me my self-worth. Five years ago I was lucky enough to go to Alabama and I’m not interested in birds at all, but I kept seeing these Pelicans and I was just fascinated by them, and I was swimming in the Gulf of Mexico and I was praying and I just said to my, I said to God, “I’d love to see a pelican dive.” And within seconds a pelican dived and picked up a fish. So close to me, it was just amazing and that to me was life changing, that this God that made the universe could be that interested in me, little Tracy, insignificant person, in comparison with all He’s made that He could be bothered to make that happen just for me, that had no significance to any other person. And that was life changing for me. So yes, my faith has a huge part in keeping me sane. Some people would just doubt the sanity though. No but yes, I don’t think I would exist if I didn’t have my faith. So… [wells up] …there you go [laughs].
 

Tracy struggled to remember some of her daughter’s Dedication and feels frustrated. ECT didn’t work for her and she thinks it is barbaric and it was taking time out that actually helped her.

Tracy struggled to remember some of her daughter’s Dedication and feels frustrated. ECT didn’t work for her and she thinks it is barbaric and it was taking time out that actually helped her.

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But the one particular thing that’s hit me recently that my daughter has given me that picture of her Dedication and I can remember who her godparents were. I can remember the songs that were sung at the Dedication, but the picture, the building is completely alien to me, the posters on the wall, and I’m just so frustrated thinking “Why can’t I get that memory back?” And I blame that on the ECT. You know, my first daughter said before I became depressed, so it was a memory before the ECT, but I think well of course I don’t remember, I don’t know how much memory loss I’ve had because you can’t remember what you’ve lost [laughs].

And, you know, even now I go back to things and the memory is just gone, and personally I think ECT is awful. I think it’s barbaric. I don’t think they understand how it works. I know my GP, my current GP thinks it’s very good and it does work. But I just, to me personally it doesn’t, and go back to previous patient, you know, perhaps the time out is what actually does work. 
 

Tracy felt that ECT didn’t help with her depression and she would recommend people pursue other avenues. She lost a lot of memories and doesn’t think enough research has been done on the after effects.

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Tracy felt that ECT didn’t help with her depression and she would recommend people pursue other avenues. She lost a lot of memories and doesn’t think enough research has been done on the after effects.

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Well perhaps it does work for some people. It must do otherwise they wouldn’t continue to do it. I hope that that’s why they continue to do it. But I would never have it again no matter how bad I was, because the worst thing for me was the memory loss. And I know I’m not the only person that’s suffered with that, that’s quite a normal thing. But I don’t think enough research is done into the after effects either. No. My recommendation is “stay well clear”, and pursue other avenues first. But like me they are desperate, you try anything. Don’t.

I don’t think it helped with the depression at all. I can’t even remember what my ex thought about it. Whether he thought it did or not. I can’t even remember my parents visiting me. I know they would have. But no it definitely didn’t do any help, unless it’s wiped off a memory that was bad that I wanted to get rid of. I don’t know, because I can’t remember, but that would have been the only positive thing that might have come from it. But if it is I’m unaware. I don’t like it at all.
 

Although Tracy said the medical professionals in the general hospital didn’t treat her very well after she attempted suicide, the people in the psychiatric unit were very kind.

Although Tracy said the medical professionals in the general hospital didn’t treat her very well after she attempted suicide, the people in the psychiatric unit were very kind.

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I can remember them not being able to find a vein and I had to have my drip in my foot, and I can remember the people in the general hospital not treating me very well. They, having worked there, the majority of people just thought that we were wasting their time and it very much felt like that. Whether it was my depression and so that changed my perception I’m not sure or whether it was reality. And I can remember getting the hospital ambulance to take me from the general hospital to the Department of Psychiatry.

You know, I’ve got some memories of in the Department of Psychiatry. I was there for five months. I still remember some of the people that I met, and the fact that they were so kind to me and not sectioning me because they thought it would affect my career.
 

Tracy had had varied experiences of talking treatments. She found group psychotherapy and CBT very good, but said the counsellors she’d seen weren’t very skilled.

Tracy had had varied experiences of talking treatments. She found group psychotherapy and CBT very good, but said the counsellors she’d seen weren’t very skilled.

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I know that a lot of GP surgeries have tried to get counsellors in and things. I’ve never found counsellors very good, but I have had a psychotherapist and that really made me think and, and cognitive behavioural therapies, I think that’s probably the best thing you could have, that gives you an option, you know, teaches your brain to choose a different pattern. I think something like that would have really helped me. But I just started some treatment like that when I moved up here.

The psychologist wanted me to carry on my treatment up here, it was never pursued either by the medical team or me, because I was better [laughs]. But yes, I do believe that cognitive behaviour therapy would be a really good thing, because it teaches you to think differently and I think people with depression need to think differently. And be taught not to be negative all the time. You know, when you hate yourself you’re not going to like anyone else either. And so life isn’t worth living and if you can be taught to like yourself then you’ll like other people and you’ll get on a bit better I think.

You were saying you’d had a better experience with psychotherapy?

Yes, it was a group psychotherapy meeting and we had lots of arguments because we were all very self-opinionated. But the psychotherapist really made me think about the way I think about things. Like she came in one day and she said, “Just to let you know I won’t be here for much, I won’t be here for much longer.” And we all had to go round the room saying why we thought that. What we thought about that and mine was, “Oh my goodness, are you okay?” I automatically thought she was dying. And in fact she was pregnant. But that didn’t come into my mind. And so she made me think about why I was thinking those things and I suppose that’s what the cognitive behavioural therapy does, it makes you think why you think, why you do the things that you do. 
 

Tracy says although it works for some people she would never have it again no matter how bad she was. She recommends people avoid ECT.

Tracy says although it works for some people she would never have it again no matter how bad she was. She recommends people avoid ECT.

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Well perhaps it does work for some people. It must do otherwise they wouldn’t continue to do it. I hope that that’s why they continue to do it. But I would never have it again no matter how bad I was, because the worst thing for me was the memory loss. And I know I’m not the only person that’s suffered with that, that’s quite a normal thing. But I don’t think enough research is done into the after effects either. No. My recommendation is “stay well clear”, and pursue other avenues first. But like me they are desperate, you try anything. Don’t.
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