Preferred name: Charlie
Age at Interview: 49
Age at diagnosis: 20
Background: Charlie is single and lives with her pet bird in a large city. She was born in Australia and identifies as Australian. Charlie is not currently working.
Charlie received a diagnosis of schizophrenia when she was aged 20. She has spent time in mental health units and tried a variety of medications. Charlie sees a GP, and is currently prescribed an antipsychotic medication.
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More about Charlie
Charlie described experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety throughout her life, which became more acute in her late teens when she experienced 'anxiety attacks in the classroom'. She hid this from her family and teachers, but said she 'just stopped going' to school as a result. Related to these symptoms, Charlie described experiencing significant challenges, including homelessness, addiction, and time in prison, but said she reached a turning point or 'do or die' moment about 12 years ago. She said this was the beginning of her recovery.
When she was 20 and working as an animal attendant, Charlie received a diagnosis of schizophrenia and was hospitalised for the first time. She said she found this 'very scary' because other family members had the 'same or similar diagnosis' so Charlie knew the challenges that people diagnosed with schizophrenia could encounter.
After her first hospitalisation, Charlie said she was 'in and out of hospital like a revolving door' for 20 years, which she felt had left her 'traumatised' rather than feeling better. She described this as one of the 'side effects' of hospital. Another set of difficult experiences for Charlie stemmed from the time she spent in prison. She believes the police 'don't really understand' the needs of people diagnosed with a metal health issues and said she found herself in situations without support. In one instance, Charlie described how, after being released from prison, the police dropped her at a beach. As she was 'pretty unwell' at the time and she felt this put her in a situation of 'personal danger'.
Charlie is currently taking antipsychotic medication. She described this one as 'the magic one' that 'changed [her] life'. Charlie explained that she had experienced side effects with other medicines in the past, including weight gain and sun sensitivity. When she was in her 30s, she did not feel she could discuss medication side effects with mental health professionals in the same way she can now. She said she thought this was because the system now was 'totally different' and mental health workers are now 'very approachable.'
Charlie also described being on a community treatment order (CTO) for 'two or three years'. She described it as a good experience because she said she was able to work with the 'small little bits of choice' provided by the Mental Health Review Board* until she felt in a 'reasonable state' in terms of her mental health.
Over the last several years, Charlie has established an ongoing relationship with a GP. She said this was 'better than wandering in and out of mental health services.' Charlie feels she can ask her GP for a referral to a psychiatrist if needed, but said that psychiatrists make her feel like 'they have the power, not [her].' She has strong community networks, relationships and routines, including church networks, and friendship networks. She also goes to the gym and eats well. Charlie said recovery was 'nice' and that she measured it in terms of being able to make her own decisions. Charlie has several goals for the future, including travel.
* Now called the Mental Health Tribunal.