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Shaz - Interview 08

Age at interview: 46
Age at diagnosis: 19
Brief Outline: Anorexia in her teenage years was the earliest symptom of Shaz's mental health problems. At 19 she began seeing a psychiatrist whom she still sees today. Over the years, Shaz has battled many illnesses including depression, anxiety and asthma and has taken medication for a number of health conditions she is living with. She has attempted suicide a few times.
Background: Shaz has an adult son and two grandchildren, whom she sees regularly as well as her mother. She lives alone, and in her spare time enjoys crochet and tapestry, gardening and music. She is currently studying millinery. Ethnic background' Australian.

More about me...

Shaz has grappled with self-esteem problems since adolescence when she struggled to fit in at school and felt she had nobody to talk to, having no friends and parents who were strict and emotionally distant. She recalls first feeling depressed at about 15, which was also when she began to abuse prescription drugs (paracetamol). After completing Year 10 she obtained a hairdressing apprenticeship. However in part because of an overbearing boss and a high-pressure workplace, as well as a desire to gain acceptance through being slim, anorexia got the better of her and she never pursued hairdressing. So severe was her anorexia that she was hospitalised, and it took nine months for her to gain enough weight to be discharged.
 
Back home, life with her parents and siblings was difficult as her underlying depression and bipolar disorder were still present and untreated. At 19, Shaz was introduced to marijuana by a boyfriend, and at 20 she became pregnant to another man she had intended to marry until she discovered he was a heroin user. While she ended the relationship immediately, she went on to have the baby. She credits her son, now 25 and a devoted father himself, with having inspired her to keep going during many a dark hour.  
 
Her son’s preschool years were a period of relative stability during which Shaz’s relationship with her mother improved, she maintained a healthy weight, and stayed drug-free. However she resumed using marijuana when her son was five, and looking back counts herself lucky that he wasn’t taken from her, so lax was her parenting during that time. She also drank heavily at different times over the next twenty years, went through periods of excessive spending, experienced major weight fluctuations and attempted suicide a few times via drug overdoses. The combination of illicit drugs, alcohol, prescription medication, food/dieting, and thrill-seeking was Shaz’s attempt to try to quell the sadness and self-doubt, anxiety and restlessness that continually gnawed away at her. Over the years Shaz has battled anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and significant weight fluctuations, as well as epilepsy and asthma. Shaz takes various medications, including sodium valproate, chlorpromazine, duloxetine, olanzepine, and diazepam. 
 
Recurrent periods of substance abuse and poor nutrition brought with them additional health problems in the form of paranoid schizophrenia, liver disease, and a serious bout of pneumonia. Recently Shaz has successfully quit marijuana and alcohol, and is on the lowest level of prescription medication in many years. She has had a long-term relationship with her psychiatrist and GP and holds them in high regard. Her self-esteem remains fragile and she doesn’t think she will ever ‘recover’ from depression, however she has found a measure of acceptance and respect from a number of women friends, enjoys a good relationship with her mother and son, and enjoys being a grandmother. She would like to have a loving relationship with a male partner but in the meantime fills her days with pleasures such as music, craft, and growing orchids.
 
 

A complicated set of circumstances caused Shaz long-term emotional distress and contributed to...

A complicated set of circumstances caused Shaz long-term emotional distress and contributed to...

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And then I met my son’s father. I was only with him a very short time and thought, ‘Oh this is the man for me’, you know. And at that time I was 20 and we were together about six months and then he said, ‘Look I’d like to start a family’. So I said, ‘Oh that’s fine, you know, we’ll do that’. And he said, I said, ‘You’ve got to marry me though’. And he said, ‘Oh yeah we’ll get engaged, blah, blah, blah’. So I got pregnant. And I was a month pregnant and I went into the bathroom and he was sitting on the toilet with a lady putting a needle of heroin in his arm. Now I’d smoked a lot of dope which, backtracking a bit I probably started smoking dope when I was about 19 because I met this guy, my first true love and he was a dope smoker. 
 
But when I found out my son’s father was a heroin addict, I, when he went to work the next day, I just left. I rang my brother and I said, ‘You have to pick me up,’ and explained it to him. 
 
I remember how, I remember when I was about in Form 2.
 
I wanted to shave my legs because all the girls were shaving their legs, you know. So I think oh yeah. So I said to Mum, I said, ‘Mum, can you, you know, buy me a packet of razors?’ She goes, ‘What do you want razors for?’ I said, ‘Shave my legs’. ‘Oh no, you’re not shaving your legs. If you shave your legs, they’ll grow back hairier’. Now I must admit, I only had fine downy hair but that’s not the point. And it was things like that that made me not fit in. So I really actually do blame my mother and I still do and she knows it and she actually blames herself, to a degree because - like we’ve got a pretty good relationship now, like we call each other girlfriend, you know, and when we meet, we go, you know and...
 
So I do feel the attitude of my parents didn’t help and they weren’t really in tune. But now I know they were only doing what they thought was best. So I’ve had to let that resentment go. I’m very lucky because my dad passed away just over a year ago and I’m very lucky that he - ‘cause I went through a phase where he wouldn’t even let me go and visit with them ‘cause I had - I’ve got tattoos and I had all these piercings up my ears and everything and he just thought I was like a freak show and couldn’t understand it, you know. But in the end they come around and let me go up and it was good, because if he had have passed away and I hadn’t been able to have some… understanding from him - not that he was - like they were never really affectionate. 
 
We, we never really got - like I was a very good student, very good, even in primary school, you know, very good. And I learnt the piano. I learnt that for many, many years. But this is one other thing that I think happened, my Mum come from a very poor family and so did Dad and they got married and Dad started his own business. And he was very successful but he was very clever with his money. You know, he invested it in properties and he was a very smart man. And what Mum wanted to do was - this is what I think happened with my own psychoanalysis you know, she was trying to live her life through me. Because she’s often said, ‘Oh you’ve learnt the piano for so many years and you did all your exams and you went so well,’ and she says, ‘I wanted to learn an instrument but my parents couldn’t afford it’.
 
So I think she pushed me towards things that even though she was well meaning, it wasn’t what I needed. Does that make sense? 
 
 

Shaz described the isolating nature of depression.

Shaz described the isolating nature of depression.

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Oh that’s really hard. Sometimes you don’t want people around and you just like want to be by yourself. Not that that can be bad. That can be good ‘cause we all need time to reflect and have some time out. But then when you’re depressed and you’re unhappy and you’re not functioning normally, you know, your friends might say to you, ‘Oh, come on let’s go out to a nightclub,’ and you don’t really want to go because you can’t be bothered getting dressed or you can’t be bothered putting makeup on. It, it’s an effort. But yet you want to be with your friends and they’re - I know they - initially they tried to incl- - my hairdressing friends you know, they tried to get me to go out with them and that, but it got to the point where I didn’t want to.
 
And it wasn’t because I disliked them, that was the depression. I was… just so consumed and confused. It’s like I had the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other and they’re just fighting and your head’s just going like that and you, you don’t know what’s going on. You, you become irrational.
 
 

Shaz’s participation in a millinery course made her feel accepted.

Shaz’s participation in a millinery course made her feel accepted.

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But I started going back to school and I’m studying millinery which is very interesting. And the girls - it’s an all girl group and they are fantastic. There is no bitchiness which normally girls are pretty good at bitching about each other. They back, backstab each other to bits. But these girls, well we’re all more mature women but there is a couple of younger girls but we all help each other, we all borrow each other’s equipment. We all respect each other. We all sit and have lunch together and talk about what we’ve been doing. And that makes me happy. And I really, for the first time in my life feel accepted for what I am.

 

Shaz described different medications she had tried for her mental health, but didn’t know much...

Shaz described different medications she had tried for her mental health, but didn’t know much...

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At the moment I’m on a anti-depressant called Cymbalta (duloxetine) which is - I don’t know that much about and I don’t really know whether it helps or not. But that’s a new sort of drug, yeah
 
I have. It was called - what was it called, started with an S. Serenace (haloperidol), I think and don’t know exactly what it was meant to do but it was prescribed by my psychiatrist, but it made me, it did, it made me really low. And I virtually just stayed at home in my pyjamas all day long. I didn’t do anything and I hate the television. I love my music but I wouldn’t even listen to my music. I’d just curl up on the couch like a veg-head and after much discussion and on it for about six months, he said, ‘Look we better get you off it, I don’t think it’s doing any good’. Then when I came off that, still took a while, I think once you’ve got these drugs in your body, it takes a while for them to get out. They’re, they’re not just going to disappear when you stop taking the medication. 
 
But, and that was when he put me on the Cymbalta (duloxetine) instead.
 
 

Shaz described her experience of being hospitalised for anorexia and being discouraged from...

Shaz described her experience of being hospitalised for anorexia and being discouraged from...

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Well when I was in the private clinic, they never really had anyone that was like going to hurt themselves or anything, you know, but it was like, you know, they’d rattle the bell and you’d all go up and get your medication, and um. Then you’d get up in the morning and they’d have their morning meeting and discuss what - like they sort of tried to arrange the day. And we’d have like sessions where we could go down to the music room like in groups and we could all choose a different record and listen to, you know, we’d all sit on bean bags and chill out listening to this mu - selection of music and that was good, you know.
 
This was their way of rehabilitating us, you know. And then we had like occupational therapy which we got to do like sewing or pottery or, you know. It was a very good hospital to be in, very good. But… it was very difficult from the point that any friends you made were there for the same reason that you were. So they really discouraged making friendships, because… we all had different issues. It’s not as if there was only anorexics, you know, there was all different issues that were there. But... the days just drifted away, just, the nine months just went, you know, and. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t a nasty experience. It’s not as if there were bars on the windows or anything. But… it was difficult. It was hard. It was sad. But Mum used to come and visit me every day. 
 
It must have broke her heart just to see me… you know and like it had gotten to the point that I was on a lot of medication. I was like a walking zombie. And some days I wouldn’t even remember that she’d come to visit. But then even then I was hyperactive sort of. I was still having severe - like I’d, I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to sleep during the day but I couldn’t sleep at night. And I used to just sit up all night doing tapestries and stuff. And they were trying to - I was even taking sleeping tablets but - and this is the thing, for some reason I seem to have a very, very high tolerance to medication. Like they really had to have me on large doses.
 
 

Shaz was open to complementary approaches but couldn’t afford to pay for them.

Shaz was open to complementary approaches but couldn’t afford to pay for them.

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I went through a phase where I was seeing a naturopath but the, the only reason I stopped that - I did find it helpful and she was very good, but it’s expensive. See and this is the thing with medicines you can get from your doctors and that, they’re a lot cheaper. But a lot of the medications that they actually supply do come from natural ingredients anyway, you know. So I think they do have - like naturopaths and people like that do have their place in society but um… I think a lot of it’s what your attitude too, like whether you think it will work.

 

Shaz kept seeing the same psychiatrist for a long time, despite pressure from friends to find...

Shaz kept seeing the same psychiatrist for a long time, despite pressure from friends to find...

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Disassociating, yeah. I’m disassociating from my body. And I’d mentioned that to my psychiatrist and he said, ‘Well that’s a little bit concerning,’ but… he is so cool. I’ve been seeing the same psychiatrist ever since I was 19. I’ll be 46 in August, go and see him every three weeks and I can talk to him about anything. I can fart in front of him if I have to. And a lot of people have said to me go and see another psychiatrist, he’s not fixed you, because I’ve been seeing him so long. And I say, ‘Why would I do that? Why would I - even after seeing him for five years, why would I just pick up, go to someone else and try to start all over again?’ 
 
But that’s the thing what people say, they say, ‘He hasn’t fixed you’. But I don’t think I’ll ever be fixed. 
 
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