Age at interview: 58
Age at diagnosis: 44
Background: Helen has three adult daughters, is divorced, and lives on her own in an outer suburb of a metropolitan city. She was born in Australia of Maltese heritage.
Helen has experienced episodes of depression for a number of years. She received a diagnosis of manic depression or bipolar disorder at age 44, has spent time in mental health units, and has been on and off medication. Currently, she is seeing a psychologist and she is prescribed a mood stabiliser and an antipsychotic medication.
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More about Helen
Helen has experienced ongoing periods of 'severe depression' and 'hyper' periods to varying degrees over a number of years. She described her marriage as a difficult relationship in which she felt she received no support. Helen and her ex-husband divorced several years ago. She is currently living alone and enjoys the independence that this affords, including visiting family and friends when she chooses.
Helen described receiving a diagnosis of manic depression (now known as bipolar disorder) at age 44. She spent time in mental health units on two occasions after suicide attempts where she 'just behaved' herself, so she would be released. Helen said that she 'never really gained anything out of it.' She explained that she often tried to hide her health issues from family and friends to avoid burdening them.
Helen's long-term bouts of 'severe depression' started in her early 30s while caring for a young family. Her health problems were exacerbated after 'pressure' during that period from her ex-husband to move to Malta to live with his family. Helen reluctantly agreed to move but found it led to further isolation and loneliness. She described how important key friends were for her during this time.
When she was in her early 50s, Helen moved back to Australia with the encouragement and support of her adult daughters. Helen has experienced periods of feeling well and happy with the help of medication, including a mood stabiliser which 'really balanced' her moods, as well as other factors, including stable employment and supportive relationships. She is also taking an antipsychotic medication. In the past when Helen discontinued her medication she experienced relapses. She has committed to continuing her medications to maintain and stop the 'spiral' downwards.
Helen has recently come out of a long period of experiencing depression. After a visit to her family interstate and an interaction with her granddaughter, she realised that she wanted to 'leave a better impression' on her grandchildren, and 'to be here for' her family and grandchildren and 'to see them grow up'. This was her motivation for seeking help when she returned to Australia and for going back on medication.
Helen is currently seeing a GP, with whom she has a strong relationship, and a psychologist. She is currently in a good place, and has 'set goals' for herself. She has plans to travel and to undertake volunteer work upon her return until she feels ready for a part-time office job.