Louise - Interview 36

Age at interview: 45
Age at diagnosis: 32
Brief Outline: Louise was diagnosed with depression when she was hospitalised after an injury. She has benefited from yoga, professional help and involvement with a peer support group and antidepressant medication. She now manages a community mental health organisation.
Background: Louise is separated from her husband and lives by herself. She is the full time manager of a community mental health organisation. Ethnic background' Anglo-Australian.

More about me...

Louise’s parents divorced when she was fifteen and this came as a shock. She blamed herself, lost a lot of weight and remembers feeling physically cold. She was in a lot of emotional pain but didn’t know how to express this. With the support of her friends and her school she overcame this, regained a healthy weight and after graduating from high school became a successful chef. She travelled Australia and then went overseas for further training where she met her husband. 
When Louise was 32 she injured her ankle rollerblading which led to an operation and eight weeks off work. When she returned to work she realised she wasn’t feeling emotionally well. She cried frequently or was silent, both at work and at home. Every day felt incredibly long and each day was harder and harder. She spoke to her family and saw her doctor, who diagnosed her with depression. He prescribed antidepressant medication and also suggested counselling because she was getting married in a few months time. Louise saw a counsellor who used guided meditation and explored some issues from her past. In particular she was able to make links between her time in hospital and her experience of her parents' divorce when she was younger. By the time of her wedding Louise was feeling much better. 
Two and a half years later her distress returned. Louise was working with underprivileged people, which was stressful because she took on a lot of their problems. She was also overwhelmed with family commitments and overseas visitors.  She decided to go back on medication and also sought out a local peer support group she had heard about. The support group was very beneficial, offering support and sense of ‘calm and order’, and was a real turning point in addressing her mental well-being. She continued with the support group and stayed on medication for two years. Eventually she accepted the role of manager of the organisation that runs the support group. Last year when her marriage collapsed Louise returned to medication, on a low dose. She has continued with her support group and receives great support in her workplace and from close friends. 
Louise goes to group fitness classes, practises yoga and boogie boards. She learned the skill of relaxing and finding a balance of work and time out. Accepting her depression has been very important to her recovery. Louise now recognises what can contribute to her mental ill-health, like taking on too many things and wearing herself out. She knows that balance is important when she feels overwhelmed. She uses guided meditation techniques she learned from her counsellor, maintains her yoga and group fitness, and continues to take medication under her doctor’s guidance. She would advise people experiencing depression to seek out local support groups and see their doctor. She is positive about the future and looks forward to more travel and new relationships.

Louise spoke about an experience of a GP who dismissed her worries about her depression returning...


But I do remember a doctor - not my normal doctor - it was one of his replacements - and I went to him one time and I said I think I have depression again and he said what have you got to be depressed about and really, that's the last thing you want to hear, because you could have on the outside everything going for you. But inside your mind and your spirit and all of that and your emotions are just in absolute turmoil. So for someone to say that is not helpful at all and it puts pressure on you to those expectations again of well what have you got to be depressed about? You should be happy. You've got this and you've got that.


Louise felt ‘self-absorbed’ during some phases of her depression and not able to benefit from the...

I think because, you know, we, we're all connected to other people in some fashion and even when we have depression and mental illness, we tend to isolate there are still people connected to us and sort of caring and sort of loving us. 
But we don't sort of really see that ‘cause we're so self-absorbed, we just can't see out of the, the black hole.
Certainly - and even recently, my parents had quite worried about me and certainly with my work colleagues, not so much here at (organisation name), because they're understanding, but my previous workplaces. Even though they were understanding it puts pressure on them - yeah, it affects all of your relationships and some people are more understanding and some people aren't. yeah it just, it just affects all of your relationships.
What about when people have been understanding? Has there been a friend or a family member who - that has made a particular impression on you? Who was very understanding?
Yes. I think - I have one friend that I was working with. it was during my first bout of depression and she'd gone through some problems her, herself and she was the first person I told that I had depression and she was particularly understanding and supportive and I still see her now and we - we have nice deep conversations, which is really great.
But I guess with friends, some friends don't understand at all and it's important to remember not to burden them because they don't understand. But there are other friends that do understand, but you don't want to burden them either. But they are good to speak to you about certain things. It could be about one particular work thing or one particular relationship thing. Not to burden one person with everything.

Louise summarised the benefits of group physical activities.

It can be, yes. I did take up yoga, I forgot to mention, and I found that enormously helpful and I still do it. That was really helpful and also another thing I'd - I've changed with the help of the (organisation name) program. One of the principles is to keep contact with friendly minds.
Well, I find if I'm on my own, sometimes my thoughts and my imagination can start getting away with me again. So when I was at the gym and I was doing my program in the gym, although people were around me, in my head thoughts were still going. So a change I made there was to get into a class. So I've been doing Pump for about nine or 10 years now and I have to follow the instructions there of the instructor and - so that keeps my mind focused on the one thing.

Louise described how her counsellor motivated her to take a more active role in getting better...


It’s a – I think it’s a bit like when you take your car to a mechanic. I mean, I can change my tyres. I can – I really can do that. But, it’s easier if I go to a professional and get them to do it, because they can do it faster and quicker and they’re aware of things that I might not be aware of and I sort of see it along those type of lines and it wasn’t as though when I have depression that I don’t – I don’t think to myself I’m just going to give up on it all and – every day, you know, I think it’s a new day and start again, start afresh.

But it gets to a point where it’s just not working anymore. So you go to a specialist in an area and if it’s – I know that my keeping physically active is good and I actually really don’t like physical activity, like exercise. But it’s good for you, so I do it. so yeah I go to a gym and, and, and I’m with people and, and I’m going to the doctor that, that’s the medication part of it and going to see a professional person. They know how to ask questions that can delve deeper into things of why you might have a certain line of thinking and how you can change that, ‘cause it really all has to do with your thinking.


Louise saw recovery as being about developing a new self.

Recovery. I think it's not to get back to how you were before, because that was your old self and you want to be developing your new self, because life is about changes and if you try to hang onto all those old things, you are going to find it really, really difficult
You want to be learning new ways of thinking and doing things and that's what I see recovery as. I don't see it as a permanent thing, ‘I've now recovered and I'll never have another bout of depression again’. It's like saying I'll never break my ankle again. I might break my ankle again.
You've got to mature and it’s through adversity that you do mature and that they say it's easy to steer a ship in calm waters. It's when you get into those choppy seas you see the real character of a person. so yeah, having, having depression and the things that are associated with it and working through them and - and being open. I’m quite open to lots of things and a lot of people aren't.
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