Preferred name: Allen
Age at Interview: 37
Age at diagnosis: 21
Background: Allen lives with his partner in an inner suburb of a large city. He is currently working part-time in the mental health sector. Allen was born in Australia and identifies as having an Anglo-Saxon, Protestant background.
Allen said that he received a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder in his early 20s, and was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder in his early 30s. He has spent time in mental health units and tried a variety of medications. Allen sees a psychiatrist and a psychologist, and is currently prescribed mood stabilisers, an antipsychotic medication and a benzodiazepine.
More about Allen
Allen explained that he began experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression during his adolescence, which became more acute in his late teens. He described how 'pressure to succeed' at school from his parents (who were both teachers) and the school contributed to his symptoms. Allen said this pressure 'completely burnt [him] out' and led to him leaving school early in Year 10. He did not attend school for nearly two years. After returning to a different school, and then another, the final of which Allen described as 'better', he 'did fairly well' and completed Year 12.
When he was in his early 20s, and attending university, Allen was hospitalised and received a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. Finding the diagnosis to be 'useful in the initial stage', he explained that he could research it. However, Allen will only share this diagnosis at work under certain circumstances, because he feels that people should 'treat [him] as a person, not as a diagnosis'. He also explained how his psychologist diagnosed him with obsessive compulsive disorder in his early 30s, but his psychiatrist believes these behavioursÂ are 'symptoms' of schizoaffective disorder.
Allen has been hospitalised three times, twice as an involuntary patient. On the first occasion, he was in his late teens and described being 'handcuffed against [his] will' by police in his home after his parents called the Crisis Assessment and Treatment (CAT) team. Allen said this stay in hospital was 'very unhappy' because he wanted to 'get away' and go home, and as a result he was not 'compliant' with daily recreational activities, treatment, or medication. Although his second time in hospital when he was 21 was involuntary (a very acute episode) and after he was discharged he 'accepted [he] was unwell' and was more compliant with his treatment. In his view, involuntary treatment was a 'negative' experience for everyone, 'otherwise it would be voluntary'.
Allen is currently prescribed mood stabilisers, an antipsychotic medication and a benzodiazepine. He said he has a 'trust relationship' with his psychiatrist and sometimes self-manages his own prescriptions. Allen finds side effects to be 'unpleasant', but feels that it is necessary to 'put up with them'. Some of his past experiences with medication were more negative. One medication he was prescribed 'cause[d] mania' and 'in combination with other factors' led to his second hospitalisation.
Allen has been seeing the same psychologist and psychiatrist for several years, as well as a GP more recently. He said they are the three people 'involved' in decision making around his condition. Explaining that counselling was helpful to him, Allen emphasized the importance of talking about things outside of mental health and focusing on 'just getting your mind off it for a bit'. Allen said he doesn't think health professionals want to be treated as 'holy', but instead as 'human'. In addition to being able to talk to his psychiatrist about changing medication, Allen also feels comfortable putting off appointments until he needs them. He said he had been told recently by his psychiatrist that his disorder was 'in remission'. However, Allen feels that his mental health is 'a constant thing' that 'needs constant management'. He finds that he has 'done what [he] set out to do' in regards to his recovery and is positive about continuing to get better 'piece by piece, step by step'.