My name is Claire and I’m 41 years of age with two young children. I had my children when I was 34 and 38 years old. I got married in 2004 but earlier that year I had ECT and had been catatonic. In my 20’s I had pushed myself a lot with my education and seeking qualifications. After a four year degree I stayed on at university for more study, for a further three and a half years. However during the postgraduate years I didn’t take enough breaks from work, split up with a long term boyfriend and did a lot of travelling which has its upsides of course. However over the course of 3-4 days I spiralled into depression and psychosis in 2000, something smaller triggered nightmares and my sleep pattern was lost. I spent just less than 3 months in hospital, I was treated with antipsychotics and antidepressants. I had paranoia and crazy thoughts until the medication kicked in, I was suffering from mental and physical exhaustion after a prolonged period of self-imposed pressure and of simply trying too hard. It was difficult returning to university after this period in hospital, I had some counselling and besides a huge weight gain I was generally better. At this time in my life I was living in Ireland and relocated to England in 2002, whereupon I met my husband.
I had taken up a job about an hour’s commute from home in 2004 and I had not taken the break I needed after a final thesis submission in January of 2004. When I started the new job, I found myself attracted to a colleague and also developed a physical health problem that threw off my sleep pattern. My mental health quickly nosedived. I tried to get help from a GP, from A&E but at that period access to services was difficult and my notes from my previous episode were not sent over from Ireland. I found myself lost and suffering from severe panic attacks. Within about a week I was seen by a psychiatrist who prescribed unlimited Valium, but it was having no effect and soon I was helpless and in need of physical and mental care. After admission to hospital I became catatonic and this was deeply distressing to close family and my partner. Eventually though I was lucid – communicative at times I was given a course of ECT and luckily for me I suffered only memory loss of the period of treatment. Though since then I have learned that ECT was not the “only option” as was presented to my family and partner. Talking and communication was still possible during lucid periods and this is worth knowing.
During my recovery I felt re-assured that I was going to get better, I had a somewhat spiritual experience of hearing my grandfather who had passed on some years before say to me – “You’re the luckiest girl in the world, you’ve got all the help you need” and he was right. Afterwards I eventually took the time out that I was long overdue, and let the dust settle in my mind. I gathered my thoughts over the coming months and figured out that I didn’t want to work with computers or in academia anymore. I wanted to help people and that’s what I set about doing. I changed my career to working with long term unemployed people with disabilities and this led to rewarding work which filled me with a sense of usefulness and pride. After 2004 there were re-current episodes of depression and psychosis but I was treated at home and these days I stay on a low dose of medication and generally keep well. I took up gardening since about 2003 and that is a great therapy for me especially if I’m struggling. I also keep a diary and talk more openly with others about anything I’m struggling with. I do Reiki on myself which helps to tune me in to my own wisdom and a friend used to do a healing energy technique with me too which helped enormously. I also find guided meditations particularly therapeutic when I’m unwell. I also get a lot more rest and take life at a slower pace. Someone once said to me – “When God made time, he made plenty of it” and this is so true, I no longer rush through life at quite the same intensity or pace as I once did.