Reena - Interview 07

Age at interview: 42
Age at diagnosis: 32
Brief Outline: Reena, 42, describes herself as Bangladeshi, and came to the UK aged 9. She was diagnosed with depression in her early 30s.
Background: Does voluntary work, married with 3 adult children and four children under 18. Ethnic background/nationality: Bangladeshi (born in Bangladesh); in UK for 33 years.

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Reena, 42, describes herself as Bangladeshi. She has lived in the UK for 33 years. Reena experienced postnatal depression after the birth of her second to last child. She says she became feverish, couldn't sleep, didn't enjoy meals, and felt scared and stressed. She says her mind was not working properly and she had weird feelings in her head. Her daughters' were registered as young carers and their schooling was suffering because they were looking after the other children and missing school. Reena says she was worried she might die, because her heart would race and she thought she was going to have a heart attack. She says she felt like she was in a different world. She asked her GP to check her heart, stomach, kidneys, head and brain. She didn't know why she felt like this and says her GP was puzzled, but then diagnosed depression and prescribed medication but her depression got worse and she stopped eating. Reena asked her GP for someone to talk to and for help with her children, they sent a Bengali woman, which helped. 

Reena went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and then to Bangladesh where she saw a Mullah, who told her it was magic spell and gave her a charm and was given special water and oil. She started to feel better and when she came back to the UK she decided she needed to be tougher. She went to the school and started to do voluntary work and started to feel better and visit friends. 

Reena experienced antenatal depression while pregnant with her last child. She was admitted to hospital in the final weeks of her pregnancy because she was found unconscious at home and the doctors said it wasn't safe for her to go home. When she came home with the new baby she says the stress began and her GP referred her to a CPN (community psychiatric nurse). Reena was observed by the CPN and by the health visitor and given family support, but says nothing helped. Reena was referred to a mother and baby unit in a psychiatric hospital for observation but only stayed for 2 weeks because she wasn't trying to commit suicide or harm her baby. 

When she left hospital she tried different medicines and saw a CPN but still felt unwell and fed-up; she says she was like the “living dead”. Reena says she went to her GP and told her if she didn't refer her to hospital she would commit suicide - because she wanted proper help. The hospitals refused to admit her and Reena says her GP told them it would be their responsibility if anything happened and eventually Reena was accepted at a private hospital. Reena was in hospital for 5 weeks and tried different medicines. Reena says she asked for an interpreter in hospital but they refused and said they would understand her somehow. She says that some of the staff and her husband asked her if she was pretending to be ill. Reena says there were no other Bengali people in hospital, but she made some good friends who looked after her. When she returned home, she was provided with support looking after the kids and doing housework, and saw a counsellor, health visitor, and CPN. Reena says they were mostly English but it didn't matter to her because she wanted to have practice and learn. She says the CPNs gave her courage. She also attends a group to talk to people, and enjoyed herself. She starting driving lessons and went to school and asked for voluntary work. Her dose of Citalopram was reduced to 20mg.

Reena says she didn't want to talk to the doctors about family matters, whether her marital problems were causing her to feel unwell, or whether anyone was causing her to suffer even though they promised it would be confidential. Reena says she probably would have got better if she had talked to someone 10 years ago but she was worried it would make her family suffer. Reena says she has a good GP who she has known for 25 years, and has fun with her even though she is English. She says she told her problems because she told her to trust her. 

Reena says when she became depressed her husband wouldn't listen and that sometimes he would hurt her feelings and make her feel worse. She says her husband's family abandoned her, and she mainly got support from her children. Reena says that in her culture no one is there for you if you are ill, but the English help when you are ill and give you respect. She says English people should go to heaven because they helped her so much at the hospital her and with their help Allah made her recover.  

Reena says depression is a mental worry that cannot be described completely. She says it's difficult to make a doctor understand, let alone anyone else. Reena says that in her culture, the women are isolated at home and experience stress from their husbands, in-laws, kids, and work but they keep it inside and this causes depression which leads to cancer, strokes and death. Reena says depression is caused by fear of other people. She says her husband is very strict and if she didn't prepare things according to his timetable he would shout at her or beat her' she says that often when people are suffering it is because of their husbands, not their family. Reena says she is not afraid any more because her GP is behind her. 

Reena says she knows how to help people with depression because she knows how they feel. She says they need to be treated slowly and gently; people should give them support, keep them cheerful, and never hurt their feelings. Reena says people with depression should talk to someone they trust to get it out of their system. She says make your GP your friend.

Reena says she was discharged years ago and was lucky to survive because she knows people who have died from sadness. She says she could get ill again if she becomes lazy or starts worrying. Reena likes to get involved and help other people, she's helping another woman with depression and helps people with their kids because she knows what it was like when no one helped her.


She received no help from her relatives when she needed them and there was no-one to look after...


So auntie, were there no other relatives at the time?

My, was I had everybody here really but what I have to say is when you are ill then no-one wants to know you, understand? In our society, no-one is there for you if are ill. And the English are like, when you are OK, they don't bother but if you are ill then they help. They give you respect.

Have you got no-one in this country?

I have got everybody here, but I did not get anyone when I needed them…

Are you on good terms with your relatives?

No, I do not want to mix with the relatives. I want to be on my own. When I needed them nobody was around. Everybody is good weather friend. If I invite you all now, if I arrange something gorgeous in a park and build a stage and arrange for cakes etc you would come well dressed and even bring a gift. If I have to do this for the relatives as well, then it's better if I do it with whoever, I didn't get them when I needed them. When I was ill, my children suffered as if they had no mother. Nobody helped us then. Nobody would comb my kids' hair or give them a glass of water. So now I can't be bothered to treat them. I did a lot for them and they abandoned me. I don't want to give them the same chance again. One has to get stronger through suffering. One can not go out without getting strong. Who made me strong? The two psychology nurses that came, they used to give me courage. If I was sitting down, they would say, ”Why are you sitting down? Let's go for a walk.” If I said I couldn't, they would say, “We are with you, you can do it.” Or if I said I couldn't go somewhere because I didn't know English, they would say, “Why not? We are with you.” One of them was Bengali and the other was English. They would say, “Whatever you are stuck with, we are here to help you.” It was all right in the olden days. If you were nice to others, they would reciprocate. Now you can be nice but get nothing in return.

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She believes people use different terms to describe how they feel but it all stems from depression.

I think a lot people, men and women, are suffering from depression without us knowing it. We say it aches here or there; in the stomach or in the leg. But in fact all of that is from depression. Whether one feels frightened or his heart races, it's all from the same thing.


She wanted "proper help" from her GP so she told her if they didn't admit her to hospital she...


Sometimes I was better sometimes I was worse. It was going on like that. She was about one and a half and I wasn't feeling well; sort of fed up. I felt that I was a living dead. My children were looking after me, I could not do anything for them, they would do the cooking. So I felt what's the point being a mother like this? Sometimes I used to feel like just walking out. It was like that, so one day I went to the GP. I thought I would have to use some tricks. If I didn't then she wouldn't send me to the proper hospital. If I went to the proper hospital then they would give me proper help. So I told the GP see, I have told you about all my problems; I want to tell you more; and if you don't send me to hospital today then I will either walk into the path of a vehicle or take an overdose and kill myself. She asked me whether I really meant it. She used to trust me, I said I was really fed up that day. I was feeling really bad that I wasn't able to do anything for the kids so she tried to arrange for a hospital straightaway but no hospital accepted me. They said she doesn't really have any serious problem; she wouldn't do anything; she is just depressed. We don't have any beds. They looked for a bed at the mental hospital and didn't find any at… The GP insisted that somehow they would have to accommodate her today, if you don't and anything happens then you would be responsible for that. In the end they made arrangements for me a private hospital at [nearby area] at midnight. I didn't want to go back home that day. If I go home then people say things and I can't stand that. So I said either you admit me at the hospital or I will just run away from home. So the GP put pressure on them saying if you don't take her in today and anything goes wrong, you would be responsible. So they took me to the private hospital and got me checked.


Reena describes her symptoms of depression and how she felt better after going to Mecca and...


I was still suffering, I used to feel awful. I did not enjoy anything, I would only feel nice if I sat down quietly on my own. So at that time I asked my husband to give up work. But he did not, used to go out with them to the park for fresh air. It went on like this for about six months, six months. After that my husband planned to take me to Mecca for a pilgrimage. He thought that if we went there Allah would fix all the problems. At that time I stopped eating for about a month.

You lost your appetite?

Lost my appetite totally. So he took me to the pilgrimage. We stayed there for two weeks.

All of you?

All of us, everyone and we stayed for about nine days. After that he said let's go to Bangladesh. So went to Bangladesh. We stayed there for about one and a half to two months. After we went there they gave me a charm. It's called by or something; said that it would get better. So after getting to Bangladesh there was some change. I started eating again from the second day I was in Mecca, I started eating. The suffering was less than before.

Was it after going to Bangladesh?

After going to Bangladesh…

Now auntie, I am asking questions because a lot of the ladies go to the Mullahs and we want to find out about that did any of that help you?

I feel that both of them helped me.

What did they give you? A talisman?

They gave me special water and oil and told me that somebody did a spell on me. So a talisman normally works against magic. Towards the end I myself got treatment from a Mullah, I felt that helped. After a little while I got better.


Reena says work helped her "to keep my mind fresh". (Audio in Bengali, text in English).


So slowly I gained confidence, I had the courage. I would have to stand up, have to talk, have to try. So they sent me on a course. I had to go. So because of all this support and their encouragement I started a course. I took four lessons and then gave up driving lessons. I was doing well with my driving. Even the instructor asked whether I used to cycle before or anything like that. I said that I hadn't so he said, “How come you are so good at driving? You have got all the right ideas.” And then I went to the school and asked for a job. They gave me Year three. Now I was not able to manage Year three, I did not know enough English so I said, “Put me in the nursery group.” So they offered me playground duty, so I took the playground job. Then they suggested to me to go on a course. I went for the course and then because of my illness, my baby started eating other things, I joined with the nurses. I worked with them for about three months.

Voluntary work?

All these were voluntary work, it was not regular work. I just used to be with them, like at the school I didn't do full-time, just two or three days, it was not really a job but to just keep my mind fresh. It was better than sitting at home doing nothing. So doctors said, “When you are fed up with the work, you just write it all down and come away. You come home and then either watch a film or read a book or be with friends. But don't force yourself to do the work. If you do you will get bored and have problems.” And, you know, if I were nervous I would have anxiety attacks. So I started following their advice. Like if I was cooking and felt bad, then I would just leave everything and go out with them maybe to the park and have a chat and freshen my mind that way. Or sometimes I would just lie down for 15 minutes.


Reena feels her family "abandoned" her when she became unwell. (Audio in Bengali, text in English).


So they were watching me for a while; they provided a health visitor, family support and also they sent somebody to help me give a bath; also somebody to talk to. But nothing really helped. And the main problem I did not mention to anyone, about what happens; who tells me off etc. My husband used to hurt me by his words; his family as well, I was very close to his family. Every Saturday it was like a party at my home. As soon as I started suffering from depression, all of them gradually abandoned me. Then there was nobody to look after me, only the kids. Even my husband didn't listen. In the end he gave up work after the daughter was married off. He did not give it up prior to this…

And before going to [local] hospital I said to my GP, told them my story and said, “Even you guys don't care for me, my family doesn't care, I haven't got many friends either. I want to talk; everything is just building up inside me.” So the GP said you can talk to me, there would be no problem. So I started talking to her slowly.


Reena went to one hospital that was so awful it would make you unwell and she made a complaint...


After five weeks they transferred me to [another] hospital. After getting there and looking at the situation, I did not stay there. I phoned my daughter and said come quick. It was so smelly and such an awful place. It was better to die at home. I complained about it. Now they have changed it, they have brought it into [another] Hospital. I said if it is like this I won't stay here; on top of that I will make a complaint against you. At least you get the carpet changed. They were eating and going to toilet at the same place. They sent me there for three months. But I left within the hour. The nurse said, “If you don't like it get out now.” She said to my daughter, “If you love your mum take her out now, otherwise she can't get out before three months.” So my daughter wanted to see the senior doctor. They said she couldn't before the next day. She insisted on seeing him straight away and told me to put proper make up on so that if the doctor came he would see that I was not ill. I did accordingly and came out and also complained. Because anybody staying in that environment would get ill, rather than getting better, one would get worse. My condition got worse in that hour. I came out from that hospital fresh and became ill in there. So I planned if I had to die, I would die at home rather than staying at that hospital.

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