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Gerry

Age at interview: 31
Age at diagnosis: 29
Brief Outline: Gerry feels he has had a tendency towards depression since childhood, but had always managed his life well until an event that happened to him when he was 29 left him feeling anxious and depressed. He struggled for a few months but eventually realised that he needed to seek help. Since then he has taken sertraline and had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). He feels that it’s the combination of therapy and antidepressants that have enabled him to recover.
Background: Gerry is single and works as a researcher. Ethnic background: White British

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Gerry feels he has had a tendency towards depression since childhood, but had always managed his life well until an event that happened to him when he was 29 left him feeling anxious and depressed. He struggled with things for about a year but eventually realised that he needed to seek help. He went to see the GP and was referred to see a private specialist (psychiatrist) as he had private health insurance through a workplace scheme. Initially he was reluctant to start taking antidepressants as he felt that there was a stigma to being on them. However the psychiatrist explained the potential benefits of antidepressants.
 
‘I didn’t want to go on antidepressants at the start, you know I felt there was a stigma to them… I went to see the specialist and he referred me for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy but at the same time because I gave him my story and told him how long I’d been struggling with depression he was of the view that I should try antidepressants as well.’
 
Gerry was prescribed sertraline and also took the opportunity to undergo a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). When he first began taking sertraline Gerry remembers feeling spaced out ,distressed and anxious at times and he wondered whether to continue taking them, but after a few weeks the initial side effects disappeared and he gradually noticed that he was beginning to feel more himself, more motivated to go out and socialise with friends again.
 
Gerry has spoken about having depression with his family and girlfriend, but is less inclined to talk more openly with other people, especially as his workplace environment is ‘not very open’ He thinks that if colleagues knew he was on antidepressants people might make judgments about him.
 
Gerry feels that the combination of antidepressants and CBT has enabled him to recover from depression. He thinks that antidepressants can alleviate symptoms, but that you also need to address problems.
 
‘I’d never recommend just having antidepressants because… they ‘re a medicine, they make you feel, you know, it’s like if you were diagnosed with a heart condition you’d get a triple bypass or something like that but, you know, if you have triple bypass and then like didn’t change your lifestyle and continued to eat fatty foods then you know you’re not, you know, it’s like going on antidepressants ...it’s fine for the condition but you’ve got to go, for me, do like talk therapies’
 

Gerry tried Cognitive Behaviour therapy...

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Gerry tried Cognitive Behaviour therapy...

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I really wanted to concentrate on the talk therapy which my GP was happy for me to do, he said go and discuss it with the specialist. so I went to see the specialist and he referred me for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy but at the same time because I gave him my story and told him how long I’d been struggling with depression he was of the view that I should try antidepressants as well. And I resisted for the first three weeks, so you know like I kind of spoke about it, accepted that I had this condition and but went and spoke to the specialist too and I said well no I’ll just try the CBT first and so yes I think I had a follow up, I went to see him, got CBT, got referred for CBT and then I went back to see him about three, two or three weeks later and, you know, he looked at me and said, I don’t think I actually started CBT but he said ‘Look I think you would really benefit from, from medication as well’ and just talked me through, you know, how it alters your brain chemistry etc.
 
So yes I decided at that point to start on antidepressants.
 

Gerry thinks people have too...

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Gerry thinks people have too...

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I do believe this like depression is, is one of those illnesses where you can, it’s like you can live with it for years and almost become a victim of it, you know, and maybe that’s where antidepressants don’t help as well, you know you can I don’t know you can almost see it as an easy way out, you know, ‘things aren’t going well for me I, you know I’m suffering from depression I’ll just take some antidepressants and I’ll feel better.’ I definitely think that you as an individual need to take ownership of it as a condition and seek, and seek help and never ever look to blame depression for what, do you know what I mean, that is quite important to realise you’ve got it to realise it’s an illness and realise you can get better rather than keep going on ‘oh I’m really prone to depression and the reason I’m doing or I’m feeling like this or I’m not doing well and not getting a job is because I’m depressed’ because then it becomes sort of self-reinforcing.
 
Yes I see what you mean, so it’s no good just taking tablets and then expecting them to do all the work for you and kind of address your life in some way.
 
Yes, yes exactly. You’ve got to really take ownership of it. Otherwise it’s just, you know, like I say the analogy of it’s just like getting a heart operation but not doing anything about changing your lifestyle, you know, what’s, what’s the point.
 

Gerry said it can be easy to think

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Gerry said it can be easy to think

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I mean if you ever read the instructions that go with antidepressants it basically says ‘anything can happen to you’ and there’s a chance that it could be to do with antidepressants but, you know, just basically it like covers every possible scenario.
 
And how much do, I mean you said you read the leaflet when you take some tablets, what do you feel when you read it?
 
I feel like ‘dizzy oh yeah... I feel a bit dizzy or yes I have had a bit of a dodgy stomach’ so you know you just think every possible ailment, you know, that you could easily have without antidepressants, the only thing that I definitely, like I say is the sexual performance thing, that is definitely something that I can attribute.
 
Yes it’s a very physical symptom.
 
Yes, other than that, other than the first couple of weeks, you know, the only other ongoing symptom really is that. so yes, what was the question, did I answer it?
 
The instructions basically means that a lot of things can, they’ve done a lot of tests and possibly this could happen so, you know, it’s probably very difficult to give succinct accurate information about the effects of, or the side effects rather than the effects of antidepressants.
 

When Gerry started taking sertraline...

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When Gerry started taking sertraline...

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It was sertraline that I started on and now let me think. Then I, then I was on, yes so I started on sertraline and I started the talk therapy and really the combination of the two I’d started to pretty quickly feel better again. I want to say maybe, maybe three or, about three or four weeks after I’d been on, it would be about… yes since I’d got antidepressants… I’d start on the actual, for the first I’d say five to seven days they were very, very, I kind of realised that the power that the drugs had and caused a feeling like sort of, I can’t even remember what I really felt like, I just remember being quite distressed because I felt a bit spaced out for about the first five to seven days and being like’ oh should I persevere with this because, you know, it’s kind of not, it’s not really helping me’. But I’d read Google and I’d read a lot of people’s stories saying like it will sort of kick in after two to four weeks so I thought well I’ll keep on going. so I kept on going and it probably was about two or three weeks in, into my course of antidepressants when I did start to say well like hold on there’s a bit of a mood shift here, you know, I could feel the, the heaviness lift and I felt more relaxed I wasn’t having the, you know, I was still having anxious thoughts but I wasn’t, the actually physical manifestation of anxiety that sort of pang that used to hit me there, it wasn’t that, that abated you know, it kind of you know, they almost levelled me off.
 

Gerry was taking sertraline

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Gerry was taking sertraline

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I wasn’t an insomniac but I was having trouble going to sleep so he prescribed me trimipramine, a very small dose just to help me get to sleep, I actually I don’t take that anymore.
 
So did you just take it now and again when you wanted to sleep?
 
No I was taking it as prescribed for maybe up until about a month ago I would say yes a month and I’ve just started to come, because I, not today but during the week and stuff I‘ve cut out caffeine, I didn’t really drink alcohol during the week and that’s, basically that’s helped me with my sleeping I’ve just felt really tired at night and I’m sort of out like a light so I don’t feel like I need to, to take them now, they weren’t having any impact on the, the sort of I don’t really think… there were there to help me sleep with a small amount of antidepressant effect but the major drug was sertraline.
 

Gerry feels antidepressants can help...

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Gerry feels antidepressants can help...

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I guess I can make a distinction between starting to do the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and how that, that altered how I was thinking, you know, my thought processes I started to understand a lot more about how my brain works. but definitely I attribute the, the physical manifestation of either depression or anxiety that being the, you know, the shortness of breath or the sort of being the involuntary clenching when you became anxious or, that definitely the antidepressants helped take the edge off that. And now I would say I’m coming to the end of my CBT treatment now; I’ve had about 15 sessions of CBT. I just went to see my specialist during the week there, he says that I’m in remission now but I should keep on going on the antidepressants for about, he thinks until about March or April next year so that’s going to be about nine months I’ll have been on antidepressants. Touch wood hopefully, you know, I’ll be oaky by then and I won’t have a reoccurrence of the depression so yes.
 
So all the while that you’ve been on the antidepressants then you’ve been going through this course of CBT as well.
 
Yes.
 
I mean how would you say that those two things combine together?
 
Really well. The CBT or the antidepressants help, like I say these....physical, these physical feelings like the other thing was when I used to try and go to sleep at night I’d always feel like there was this black shadow like, it was weird like weird to describe you know I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders when I went to bed at night and almost like having, you know big black ghost behind me like really pressing down on my shoulders, these are the sort of physical manifestations I was feeling. But stuff like that was, that’s what I mean by ‘levelling off’ you know, that, that really dissipated and I can contribute that to the antidepressants, I’m pretty sure in my mind. But you still think depressed thoughts and what the CBT’s done is help me stop thinking like that so ....realising when I’m having irrational thoughts how I can, you know, (A) realise that I’m having them but (B) sort of like developing strategies to cope with them really I guess. So there are definitely two... attacks from two different sides you know what I mean. And I would never ever I wouldn’t have wanted to and I’d never recommend anyone just having antidepressants because that’s like anything that’s a, for me they ‘re a medicine, they make you feel, you know, it’s like if you were diagnosed with a heart condition you’d get a triple bypass or something like that but, you know, if you have triple bypass and then like didn’t change your lifestyle and continued to eat fatty foods then you know you’re not, you know, it’s like going on antidepressants ...it’s fine for the condition but you’ve got to go, for me, do like talk therapies or like CBT or, you know, counselling or whatever because that’s what’s going to fully cure you and hopefully, touch wood, keep you healthy in the future and stop it reoccurring.
 

Gerry looked on the internet to find...

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Gerry looked on the internet to find...

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I knew enough about depression before I went to see the doctor to know what I was likely to, what was likely to happen to me so, but most of these websites that you go on are people with a, bloody Americans …excuse me, with stories about being on Prozac and stuff and, you know, that’s just they don’t ring true, you know, you really are, there should just be a massive health warning on these websites because, you know, I don’t know I’m pleased I got referred to a specialist if you know what I mean.
 
Overall would you say that you had enough information... I mean you said that the psychiatrist didn’t give you that much information but it sounds like you did your own research. Would you say overall that you had enough information about the drugs that you’re taking, did you feel happy with what you know about them?
 
Well probably not to be fair like that, that is the one thing I would, you know I, I don’t know I think it was probably the specialist’s strategy to just try and make it seem like ‘everyday’... ‘everyone’s on them’, just take them sort of thing. But I think it’s my personality, my character that you know I want to know the ins and outs and the, you know, always kind of I guess that’s just my anxious nature but so I would have just liked a bit more, I mean obviously the, I mean if you ever read the instructions that go with antidepressants it basically says ‘anything can happen to you’ and there’s a chance that it could be to do with antidepressants but, you know, just basically it like covers every possible scenario.
 

Gerry explained, I’m completely fine...

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Gerry explained, I’m completely fine...

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People just see it as you’re a bit crazy if you’re on antidepressants, you know, it’s usually, I mean I’ll be completely honest it’s especially from the kind of place I come from sort of my friends it’s, I’d just be... emotional girls should we say... going on antidepressants you know, maybe they should just pull themselves together. Yes.
 
Is it a bit of a macho thing?
 
Yes a bit of a macho thing yes. You know I’m, I’m completely, I’m completely fine with being on antidepressants and suffering from depression but I don’t really feel the need to go and bang the drum and try and change everyone’s perceptions and attitudes about it I’m just glad that I sought help and I feel better really and I don’t know maybe that’s not the best idea, I’ve got a lot of respect for people that are out there trying to raise awareness of it because it is very important but I don’t know I think that once you, the big thing for me is acknowledging you’ve got depression and getting help yourself.
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