Preferred name: Cindy
Age at Interview: 49
Age at diagnosis: 41
Background: Cindy is separated from her husband and has two children, aged 20 and 22. She lives with her son and a housemate in a regional city. Cindy works as a casual peer support worker. She identifies as Anglo-Australian.
Cindy was seeking help for a skin condition when she went to an acute psychiatric unit for help because she was unable to find help and felt 'worn out.' She was told that she was 'delusional' and diagnosed with schizophrenia. Cindy does not believe that she was delusional but has made the decision to take her medication so doctors take her 'seriously.'
Read excerpts from Cindy's interview
> Physical health and mental wellbeing - Cindy encountered difficulty in accessing help for a physical health problem due to doctors' attitudes towards her mental health condition.
> Community Treatment Orders - Cindy had a CTO 'slapped' on her when she refused her 'horrible' medication.
> Medication: Effectiveness and side effects - Cindy said she had tried many different medications over the years and finding the right one had been a case of 'trial and error'. She now has one that suits her.
> Experiences of work - Cindy felt 'empowered' by her work for a mental health organisation.
> Finances and housing - Cindy linked her diagnosis of depression and hospitalisation to her 'awful' experience of 'couch surfing' with her daughter.
> People with lived experience of severe mental health problems - For Cindy, researching available treatments and services was important.
More about Cindy
Reflecting on her experience of receiving a diagnosis of schizophrenia, Cindy said she still finds it 'bizarre' that some mental health professionals perceive her to be 'delusional.'
Cindy is 49 and lives with one of her sons and a housemate in a regional city. When Cindy was about 39, she was told by a specialist that she went to see about a skin condition, that she needed antidepressants. She said that he had a terrible attitude and described how she felt judged by him. Cindy consulted 'over 20' doctors about her condition, which she said left her feeling so 'worn out' that she admitted herself to an acute psychiatric unit where she was diagnosed, aged 41, with schizophrenia. She said that, in retrospect, she was 'probably showing signs' of 'mental illness' but feels that she was not 'that bad.'
Cindy said that while she was in the psychiatric unit, she initially had some choice about treatment because of her voluntary status. When she later refused to take a 'horrible' medication, she was placed on a Community Treatment Order (CTO) and thereafter received mandatory antipsychotic injections. Cindy said the injections' side effects were terrible and she described how she felt too embarrassed to leave the house because she 'looked awful.' Since her first hospitalisation, Cindy stayed voluntarily in an acute psychiatric unit a second time. She explained that this was because she needed a 'break from the world' because of her experience of homelessness. When she was homeless, Cindy said she felt unsupported by the 'system,' and that she had 'nobody' to support her. She was subsequently able to find a home through a friend.
Cindy said she has had little involvement in decisions about her own treatment until recently when a registrar informed her about a new antipsychotic and gave her the option of switching to it. She said that being given a choice was 'rare,' and left her feeling 'more empowered.' Cindy described how she made the decision to take her medication because she wants to be 'taken more seriously' by doctors. She said that although she feels accustomed to talking to 'professionals' because she grew up as a ward of the state, she finds that negotiating the clinician-patient relationship can be challenging. She once walked out of a session with a psychiatrist because he 'wouldn't listen' to her, and she described how she felt that another psychiatrist did not want to 'understand' that she had 'very confusing thoughts' nor recognise that she had a 'huge story to tell.' Cindy feels that mental health professionals should listen to people because they know 'best' what is happening to them.
Cindy said she feels 'well' now, and attributed this in part to having recently found a casual job as a peer support worker with a mental health non-government organisation (NGO). Participating in mental health courses run by a mental health NGO has also aided her recovery, along with writing about how she feels about her experiences, which she finds 'therapeutic.'