Clinton - Interview 35
Age at interview: 38
Age at diagnosis: 19
Brief Outline: Clinton was diagnosed with depression when he was 19, which he thinks was related to childhood sexual abuse and some family history of mental health problems. Since his diagnosis he has been proactive in investigating and trying different medications and therapies. Today a 'mental toolkit of techniques' to deal with depression in conjunction with antidepressants enable him to enjoy a more positive and calm life.
Background: Clinton is an entertainer and musician who lives with his wife. Ethnic background' Anglo-Australian.
More about me...
Before Clinton was diagnosed with depression at age 19, he experienced a constant feeling of ‘inner dread’ and felt that the ‘world didn’t make sense’. During adolescence he had behavioural problems related to what he describes as a ‘white hot’ rage that caused him to lose his temper easily. His parents didn’t know how to help him and sent him to a psychiatrist when he was 13. When he was 19 he recalled sexual abuse that occurred when he was a child and visited a sexual abuse counsellor. Clinton reflects that this was the first step in understanding his behavioural and mental health issues. He also went to a GP who diagnosed him with depression and referred him to a psychologist.
Although his diagnosis helped Clinton make more sense of his feelings, throughout his 20s he continued to experience depression and behavioural problems. He was a successful young musician and actor and began touring in bands and drama groups when he was a teenager. The lifestyle associated with this included drinking, recreational drug-taking and ‘wild behaviour’, which mitigated the effects of the positive work Clinton was doing on his mental health and behavioural issues in seeing counsellors and GPs. It also meant that life was difficult for those around him – particularly his various girlfriends. It was not until he was in his early 30s that Clinton thinks he made significant steps in getting better. He noticed positive changes around this time, as did his family and friends.
These changes were the result of what Clinton describes as many years on a ‘journey of self-improvement’. He has seen many counsellors, tried different medications, used mental health support groups, and noted down techniques or advice from health professionals and then investigated and experimented with these, in the process establishing what he calls his ‘mental toolbox’. As a result of these efforts Clinton now enjoys a calmer, more positive life, is happily married, and has better relationships with friends and family.
Clinton appreciates interactions with health professionals that are respectful and prefers to be offered a hopeful outlook and given constructive information and advice. He describes recovery as a ‘journey of personal growth and constant learning’, and believes it is important for him to constantly maintain his mental health, using the analogy of a garden that requires care and attention. His personal recovery goal is to enjoy a consistent level of good mental health and have a feeling of inner peace.
Clinton’s advice to others experiencing depression is to exercise every day, maintain a list of techniques you can use, reward yourself with time out, and contact local mental health support groups. When visiting health professionals, he suggests planning questions and a list of things to achieve.
Clinton took a very methodical approach to learning more about depression and its treatment.
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And so from doing a lot of this checking and talking to other people with similar conditions and things, they would give me things that worked for them, then I'd remember those things and write them down. Do a little bit more research on maybe how someone from, say, [university name], or someone who was studying it, a trained psychiatrist, a website, a government run website, how they - any information they may have. Talked to friends. And then when I had a compiled, group of things, I'd try them out. And the things that worked for me I'd keep, and the ones that didn't I'd throw away.
And the great thing is also with websites these days, and the internet, there is always a place where you can go. And the government websites are always a good place to start, or [NGO name].
Clintons mother was an important source of support as she had also experienced depression. He...
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I've had just about all different reactions, and I've had about all different types of input from family, both positive and negative, that you could imagine. I've had some negative and some positive. For example, you know, my mum's been through so much, having been hospitalised with post natal depression, being on lithium, you know, diagnosed with major depression, and other things that she's been diagnosed with. That she's got so many pearls of wisdom to offer.
She used to run a [mental health peer support group] group of her own, and so she's, you know, got all this fantastic knowledge. My dad used to be a social worker, so he's got all of this fantastic, ah, knowledge as well. But then again, you know, my dad was a social worker, but he never picked up that I'd been abused. My dad was a social worker, but he had no idea that I had major depression until someone else diagnosed it. So even a person who's, you know, trained in that field, and spends their day-to-day life dealing with others, and - and helping them get diagnosed doesn't always mean that they can see what's going on in their own patch.
I must say that there are some members of my family who I feel disappoint - disappointment with. Great disappointment. After you had the courage to tell them you'd been sexually abused when you were 19, ah, and for them to meet that with surprise, and then silence, that's not - it's not conducive - you know, or someone else saying to you yeah, I was abused too. As in, you know, don't - don't think you're that good. You know, ah, so - but then again, some - you know, everyone of those family members who's given me something bad, you know, more than likely they've - they've also told me something positive as well.
And I do know that, you know, I - I'm - I'm very lucky. My - my parents are - are still together. and I do know that everyone in my family loves me. And the people that love me in my family, do so unconditionally, and they just want me to be happy, and so that, for me, has become more than enough.
Everyone else has their own life to lead, and everyone else has their own stuff to sort out. And so my expectations - I've become far more self-sufficient, and I just enjoy what my family can offer me. But I don't expect anything anymore.
I was disappointed a lot, but that was probably because my expectations were too high, and I felt I deserved, you know, something like an Oscar winning movie, or something as - you know, the whole family's there to greet me, and everything ends happily.
Clinton talked about the importance of receiving from health professionals an accurate diagnosis,...
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I used to want them to tell me what was a - what my diagnosis was. And then after - after psychiatrist number, 10, I guess, you know, you start to think look, this may be, hope beyond hope. And my last diagnosis, is, I think, is very accurate. Not entirely, but very accurate. Enough to give me some big - big helps. I think what I want from medical experts is support. I want to walk in there expecting that I'll be treated with dignity and respect. I want information delivered to me in a constructive and proactive way.
So I want the - I want to - I want that experience my interaction with a medical expert to be positive first, because I need to be in a positive mindset - as positive as I can be when I'm there - so that I can absorb the information, and really make the most of it. But I - one really important thing is I can expect anything I want from these people, but what I can do is plan before I go and see them to find out what I want.
Clinton related his depression to childhood sexual abuse, but also reflected on hereditary factors.
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Ah, and in that particular dream it was cemented in my mind that, ah, I had been sexually abused when I was around the ages of four and five, ah, by a next door neighbour who was, about 16 years old at the time that it happened, and quite, severely, mentally challenged. So that may have given me some answers as to what was going on before I became depressed, and when I was growing up as a child, and as a teenager, because my parents had a lot of problems with me. They took me to see a psychiatrist when I was about 13. Ah, they basically kicked me out of home when I was about 16, and then went on a holiday around the world. That's one way of saying goodbye.
Well something that's really fascinating is to look back, through the genes, and the family tree. And so that's one thing that I pursued, and found out that I had a grandfather who I never - never met, who was a chronic alcoholic, that apparently there was, you know, other stories with other distant relatives. But the - my Mum had been diagnosed with, major depression, and then she was actually one of, the first people in [place name] to be put on, lithium. And so there's some real - you know, some flags that come up there, and you think okay, well...
So then, you know, for me, the story which was me just having sexual abuse, all of a sudden there's another paradigm that comes in that my Mum was taking - was put on lithium that she was hospitalised many times, especially after giving birth to either myself or one of my two brothers. So then there could be a genetic component as well. So the picture starts to become more complex. But then you're also getting more answers.
Clinton talked about recovery as a serious of small victories often followed by another little...
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The other thing my wife really appreciates is the amount of work I've put in has really reaped benefits, but she knows that - how seriously I take this marriage, because it comes down to when she sees me reading a self-help book, when she knows that I'm online doing some research, when she knows that where I'm going on Wednesday is off to see my psych again - and I've never, ever stopped the journey. And - and if I had a year with no medical expert contact, or no reading of books, or no brain exercises, or no, you know, working for [NGO name], I - that - that would make me scared.
I have to have that learning, this constant, ongoing journey, this constant, ongoing learning experience. And I don't ever expect it to stop. Because even if I did get to a point where I felt perfect, then it becomes no longer recovery.
What we need to do is we need to make a port where ships will call, and that ship can be your own. You need to make a life for yourself where, you can be happy, and have some peace. And everyone has different expectations for things, but when you look to tomorrow, is there hope? Is there something enjoyable coming up next week, or next month, or next year? Is there something for you to look forward to? And that's what I do.
But I've managed, over the years, to break my expectations down to a point where just being in my garden is now enough. And the simple pleasures, I'm really starting to savour them.
And I just know that if I keep working the way that I've been working - in fact I can even afford to relax a little bit now that I'm 38, and that I've spent 15, you know, 15 years on myself. I can afford to relax a little bit now, but I know I'm always going to have to do a little something every day.
For Clinton, recovery involved reconnecting with a broader social environment.
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So you have the - recovery for me would mean being able to have a life where I am making a difference to the world, so some form of positive social interaction; where I'm happy inside myself, so I can be self contained; and recovery for me is to get to a point where I can live life without having something going on in my body or my mind that is like a toothache.
A mental toothache. Recovery for me is doing enough work, getting enough assistance to get to a point where the - even a mental toothache, or even - I can - I could put up with a - having a mental sniff, but anything more than that is something I would not consider recovery.
Living in an environment where I am able to grow, living in an environment where I'm able to continue to move forward, that's recovery. If I'm in a world where there's an abusive relationship, or someone living with me who's constantly yelling or stressed, and my entire day is stressed as a result, that's not recovery. Recovery is also something you think of in terms of oh, they've recovered. Recovery is, for me, something you can look at in terms of the future, but it's also a present tense.
Clinton was diagnosed with a suite of mental health conditions as a consequence of sexual abuse....
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A lot of conflicts. I was caught stealing when I was young, and all those sorts of things. But when I was 19, and I had that dream, the next day I went to a sexual assault counsellor, and the floodgates opened, and I could recall every single thing about, the place where the abuse happened. I could've drawn a map of it and shown where the skateboard was, and where this was and that was - the smells, everything. But once the floodgates were kind of opened, and that - and I thought well here I've got a - I've got a starting point.
So the sexual assault counsellor suggested I go and seek, you know, some information, and just start a - a journey, if you will, to find, to learn about what was going on. So I went to a doctor who diagnosed me as having depression.
It's really interesting to try and make the connections, and even psychiatrists who diagnose me now, normally the diagnosis will start with, ah, Clinton's mental history is complex, and then go into a five page analysis of it.
And in some ways I've stopped searching for - for actual labels to what I - to what I have. The last diagnosis that I got was very helpful, but if you look back across the last five diagnoses I've had you can include ADHD, bipolar two, post traumatic stress disorder, major depression, general anxiety disorder, and a list - there's - there's a - there are other - other ones in there as well.
And - so what I've had to teach myself is, I guess, that there's this spectrum, and that I'm contained somewhere within that spectrum, but it's not a straight line. It's almost a three dimensional plane. And this might be the bipolar spectrum, this might be the depression spectrum, and I'm over here somewhere, you know. And I have to take into account that there may be questions that I'm seeking to answers about what's going on in here that I'll never find the answers to. And so I more look at - at the history, but also the reactions that I have to situations that I'm faced with, and I try and learn from my reactions, and see if they give me some...