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Becky

Age at interview: 24
Age at diagnosis: 20
Brief Outline: Becky experienced depression while at university, which got slowly worse. A difficult relationship break up in her final year sparked violent and aggressive behavior that was unlike her usual self. Mindfulness and CBT help her manage the ups and downs.
Background: Becky works full time and is single. Her ethnicity is White British.

More about me...

Becky was given a diagnosis of depression in 2010 when she was having a bad time settling into university. She experienced a relationship breakup in 2012 which brought out “the worst” in her, and she found herself becoming violent and aggressive and unlike her usual self. She still struggles to remember what was happening during those months. She was arrested a few times for breach of the peace, and for her own safety, and her parents then realised it wasn’t just depression. She was hospitalised involuntarily initially for a month and then, after just a week of being out of hospital, again for another month. The only other time she was hospitalised, this time voluntarily, was in 2014 when her parents got divorced. The experience of being in hospital was very different then, and she thinks that she was able to much better understand what was happening and was treated better by staff. 

Her first experience of being in hospital in 2012 was the “worst time” of her life and she couldn’t see a “way out”. She missed her final exams at university and lost a lot of friendships. She didn’t feel her parents understood or supported her at that time and she moved away from home. Despite a difficult period which followed, and being by herself, she managed to graduate and get a job and found good housemates and things started to get “back on track”. 

She was given a diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder in 2012 but her therapist thinks that a diagnosis of anxiety and depression better reflects what she is experiencing now. If Becky is having a bad day, the diagnosis/label can help her to differentiate the “illness side of things” from her as a person, and remind her that she is “not a bad person”. Although therapists say not to separate yourself from your moods, these thoughts can help her to get through the day, and that’s what matters most. She has good support from her therapist and GP and they discuss changes in her medication with her. She takes citalopram which, along with CBT, she finds works well. She previously took lorazepam and Diazepam in hospital which was fine while she was in hospital but wasn’t suitable for every life outside hospital because it caused drowsiness and lack of concentration. 

Talking therapies and CBT have helped her to be more aware of what is happening for her. Although she initially thought mindfulness was too simple to be effective, she finds being able to focus on the moment and pause her thoughts helps her. 

Becky works full time and her employer allows her to have time off when she needs it. In her day to day life, sleep is an issue and she has painful tummy cramps. 

Her experience has taught her to expect less from others in social situations and she thinks that whereas in the past she has expected her boyfriends to cope with her anger she now sees that she cannot expect that from them.

She uses social media and has acted as a peer support worker in the past and wants to help others. She thinks that its better to use the internet sites that are official rather than looking at individual people’s views and opinions on blogs and forums. 
 

During her first experience Becky’s parents “distanced themselves a bit” and Becky thinks now she was probably pushing people away.

During her first experience Becky’s parents “distanced themselves a bit” and Becky thinks now she was probably pushing people away.

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Early on, there was just, my boyfriend at the time was trying to help but because nobody knew what was going on, it was very hard, because I was lashing out at the people that were trying to help. My parents, I think they just, because it was so out of the blue for them, they didn't know what was going on and they sort of distanced themselves a bit just because they didn't know what to do for the best. And, obviously, I was probably pushing a lot of people away 'cause I thought people aren't gonna accept me like this. From a medical point of view there was quite a few sort of assessments where they tried various antidepressants and assessments to realise that something wasn't right, but it took a long long time to get any sort of diagnosis. I think I was, I'd been in hospital the first two times a month each and it was, I think it was then that I had the diagnosis and I suppose medication and the help has been sort of steady, but it's  not easy to get anything from anyone, really, 'cause people just don't know what to do and push you away. 
 

When Becky went into hospital voluntarily the second time she felt more “in control” and “everybody was really lovely”. When you’re unwell she says you’ve got to “let somebody else take over”.

When Becky went into hospital voluntarily the second time she felt more “in control” and “everybody was really lovely”. When you’re unwell she says you’ve got to “let somebody else take over”.

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I mean, because I was sectioned obviously, there was some times when I was shouting and screaming, kicking, things like that, I was treated completely differently to when I was walked in the next time just wanting to feel better. But that's just because I had not, I hadn't got a clue what I was doing the first time I was—I was on so much medication, I didn't know where I was, things like that. And it just seemed scary, 'cause it feels like everybody is trying to take control. But the second time I felt more in control and that was, that's important I think. But yeah, at the end of the day, they, they do the same things and it is your frame of mind and the people that are in there as well. Everybody is so lovely and understanding. Everybody knows to an extent what you are going through 'cause they've either seen it, been through it and at the end of the day, you don't know what's best for you otherwise you wouldn't be in there, so you've just gotta let somebody else take over while you can't. So it, it did help me. I hated it at the time. And I thought it was the end of the world, but I'm still glad that I went. 
 

Becky had a good experience of starting therapy only days after a referral, but also experienced long waiting times for talking therapies. She talks about the difficulty of coping while waiting for therapy.

Becky had a good experience of starting therapy only days after a referral, but also experienced long waiting times for talking therapies. She talks about the difficulty of coping while waiting for therapy.

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The CBT was actually really really quick. Once I got the actually the referral in, I think I saw somebody within two or three days to have the assessment. And then I got a phone call to start pretty much the week after. I mean, I think that's just how it worked at the time and I was quite lucky. But other times, I've had to wait sort of six, it might be six to eight months, I think to be picked up. —

It's a really long time. A lot happens in six to eight months. 

Yeah. I'd just moved and they said they'd send all the paperwork and then they didn't. And every time I called and again I felt like I was annoying everybody and that makes you feel really bad about yourself. And you don't need that when you're feeling really low anyway. But the waiting times can be pretty bad, to be honest. But it is what it is, I suppose. When I was really bad a couple of year's ago, everybody called me manipulative. But I knew if I started shouting and screaming I'd get seen straight away and I don't think that's the best way forward. But unfortunately sometimes you are put in that position and that's when people say, oh, it's a cry for attention and I'm like, no, it's a cry for help. I just don't know what else to do. It has got better recently. But I almost think the better you are the more people listen to you, because before you're so crazy and loud and you are screaming and not as many people are wanting to help, but that's when you actually need the help the most. 
 

Becky has found CBT really helpful but didn’t find other talking therapies she had previously had worked as well. She thinks maybe there is a “time and a place” for the right therapy.

Becky has found CBT really helpful but didn’t find other talking therapies she had previously had worked as well. She thinks maybe there is a “time and a place” for the right therapy.

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Yeah, I think it's been four or five years, I think. And it's only really, I started doing CBT about four months ago. And that's really really helped. I've got a lot more understanding of what's happened to me and all that sort of stuff and being able to deal with a lot more things and see it from a completely different point of view. So that's, that's really really helped. Before then, I probably wouldn't have been able to even start to explain myself, so.

Do you think that you could have, would that have been something that might have helped you earlier on or do you think there is just a time for everything and—

Probably a bit of both. The understanding really would have helped. And like, things like because I can remember and I sort of wanted those answers and people not being able to really give them to me. At the time, I thought that would've helped. But I'm not sure it would have anyway. I think there is sort of a time and a place and maybe I'm in that place now to start understanding and it might have helped before, but I've done quite a few different therapies and talking therapies, counselling and none of them have had that sort of moment for me when everything changed and I understood. So, I don't know if it would've helped or maybe this is the right time or maybe just the right therapy for me. 
 

Having a good relationship with your manager and not having to hide how you are feeling was important for Becky. She works full time and if she needs to take time off for therapy she knows no one is going to “judge” her.

Having a good relationship with your manager and not having to hide how you are feeling was important for Becky. She works full time and if she needs to take time off for therapy she knows no one is going to “judge” her.

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Because you're working full time now, yeah. Have they been quite understanding. 

Yes, completely,

Has that been—do you think it's important to be working as well?

I do think it is. I had a couple of months off. And, it's not helpful to sit. You've got more time to yourself. More time to try and get through the day and you end up just counting the minutes until you can go to bed again. It's no life. My manager and all of my sort of colleagues have been absolutely amazing and I really couldn't have asked for any more. But it's so important to have that understanding like if I need time off for therapy, I can have it. And I don’t have to feel like I have to hide who I am, because they can see it and they understand it. It is so helpful. If I want to go and cry at work, no-one's gonna judge me for it. They are not gonna think any less of me. 'Cause we all have bad times. And I think that's important like, you never know what somebody else is going through, so you've just gotta be, that's just kind, just in case somebody is having a bad day. 
 

Becky has days when it feels like someone is physically pushing her down, but she says its important to remember that not every day is going to be like that.

Becky has days when it feels like someone is physically pushing her down, but she says its important to remember that not every day is going to be like that.

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But I still get days when I think, I don't wanna get out of bed. I don't wanna do this. And I know it's easy for everyone to say that sometimes. But sometimes it is so powerful, like it is physical, it's not just in your head, it feels someone's pushing you down and you can't get up. That's when it feels like, I suppose, it's taking over. And you get those days when you think it's not gonna get better. But it's a case of getting through the day and thinking, well, if it's not better tomorrow then maybe it'll be better the day after. I suppose it works differently for everybody. And some days, I can see that sometimes I can't and I need someone else to tell me that it'll be okay. But, it, it depends. But sometimes it, it still feels like it's controlling me rather than the other way around and some days I have better days and I think, actually, I can take control of this and I'm not gonna let it beat me. But just because you have a bad day doesn't mean every day's gonna be bad. I think that's really important to keep in your mind just, yeah, maybe bad tomorrow for the rest of the week, but it will get better at some point, even if it's just for a little bit. You just gotta keep looking for those good moments. 
 

When it was first suggested to her in hospital Becky thought mindfulness was “a load of nonsense”, but now she uses it regularly and it “definitely helps” with her “wandering” thoughts.

When it was first suggested to her in hospital Becky thought mindfulness was “a load of nonsense”, but now she uses it regularly and it “definitely helps” with her “wandering” thoughts.

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I've done a lot with like mindfulness and things like that. And, that definitely helps me. It sort of pulls it back to where I am now, like I said, I get through sort of ten minutes at a time and that's really helpful to use mindfulness, because I can just be there, in the moment and I'll walk round shopping centres and things. Sometimes I get upset when I see various things that you can't always control and just being able to pull it back and be in that moment. 

That sounds really helpful.

It doesn't always work, but I'm getting there with practise. That is the most helpful thing that I've learned in the experience. 

So when you say being in the moment, can you describe that a bit more to people?

I suppose when you more start wandering to all those thoughts, you do not want to. You've gotta learn to accept that that thought is there [crackling on mic intermittently], because you can't always push them away, because I don't think that's necessarily helpful all the time. Just being able to think, I'm sitting here. This is what I can see. This is what I can smell and this is what I can read on my computer or just anything I'm doing at the time or a good example of when I, when I was in hospital when they were trying to explain this to me is when you're sort of in a supermarket and there is a child screaming and you can feel yourself getting flustered and it's hard, and it's just a case of remembering actually, I'm here, I'm standing here. This is what I can see. And I don't have to concentrate on the screaming. I can just recognise that it's there and carry on with what I'm doing. Nothing that you're seeing or thinking or actually going through can control that moment if you don't want it to.

How does that feel differently? Does it make you feel differently in relation to your thoughts or--?

It feels like it takes a big weight off, sometimes. When you're sat there and there's a million and one things going through your head and you're worrying about this and things it's just nice to think, actually, there's nothing I can do about that in this moment. So I'm just gonna put it to one side until I've either got the energy or the resources to think about it and I'm just gonna do what I'm doing now. So, I suppose if you are at work and you're thinking about all those bills I've gotta pay later like you physically can't do anything about it now to find a way or some sort of time to think about it later and deal with it that way and to be honest, most of the time you find that it's not even that much of a worry [crackle on mic intermittently] any more. It's just a case of, I'm doing this now. I'll think about that again later. And most of the time, most of the time when you actually get back to that thought, it's not as bad as you thought, which is, it's really good to. Especially like when you're lying in bed, at night and that's most people struggle I think when you can't sleep and things and you think, I need to say this to this person tomorrow and okay, well, deal with it tomorrow, because there's nothing you can do now.

Thank you. That's really helpful. And just so that was something that they sort of ran through with you when you were in hospital. Was that the most, the last time you were in in 2014?

It's the first time, but at the time I thought it was a load of nonsense and it was up there with the silly things they suggested like, when you're having the worst day of your life and you don't wanna live any more and they suggest going for a walk or something and you think, why on earth are you saying that to me? I couldn't see how it would work. I thought they were just saying things they weren't listening to me or they weren't understanding. But now I've got an understanding of it myself and I can sort of relate it to myself and apply it in everyday—I think it really is the best thing. 

And did you sort of come across it again and then think, oh yeah, that's what they told me in the hospital and it triggered.

It's more of a case of I've picked it up by accident. I didn't even realise I was doing it and it's only recently, I thought, oh, this is what they were talking about.

That's amazing. Just naturally doing it and then you realised that was the label for what it was that was helping you. 

Yeah, yeah, I think it is sort of a lot of people talk about mindfulness with all the colouring books and things. And it is a case of just bringing you back to where you are with the moment. And, I suppose, they explained it in such this big way and it's gonna change your life and I thought, don't be ridiculous. But it, it really can. And it, it doesn't have to be a big thing. You do it in day to day life without even realising you're doing it. 
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