Preferred name: Jenny
Age at Interview: 57
Age at diagnosis: 35
Background: Jenny lives with her dog in the suburbs of a large city. She works part-time as a consumer consultant and volunteers with her charity, Household Relief Fund. Jenny was born in Australia to Australian parents. She is currently prescribed an antipsychotic medication.
Jenny heard voices as a child after experiencing abandonment, trauma and abuse. She felt that she has learned a lot from having a supportive GP and psychiatrist. She has been recovering for 30 years, and says 'it's an individual journey requiring perseverance and resilience'.
More about Jenny
Although Jenny has been hearing voices for 'most of [her] life really', she said her symptoms worsened in her late 20s and began 'driving [her] mad'. She attributed her voice-hearing and mental health problems to a number of traumatic incidents that occurred in her childhood, including staying with a family for three months and having them play 'mental tricks with [her] mind', and abuse her physically and emotionally as well.
Initially, Jenny hid her symptoms from her family and in a 'classic example of someone who is mentally ill', distanced herself from her support network and isolated herself. However, once her family found out about her mental health issues in her late 20s, Jenny said they were supportive.
Jenny explained that she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when she was 35, and said she found being 'labelled' with schizophrenia 'scary'. Before she was diagnosed, Jenny recalled being 'really, really paranoid' about the possibility she might be experiencing schizophrenia. Jenny explained this was because she had met her uncle who had schizophrenia and he 'could hardly speak' because of side effects of medication. Jenny described how her father had 'rejected' her uncle and said she had 'worried [her] father would reject [her]'.
Jenny identified a number of poor relationships with psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers throughout her periods of being unwell, which affected her negatively.Â She felt she did not receive much support from professionals in terms of medication or counselling, either before or after her diagnosis. As an example, Jenny said before she was diagnosed she told a social worker about hearing voices but felt that this information was ignored.
Although Jenny has visited hospital twice, she was not admitted either time. She said her first visit to hospital followed an attempted suicide in her 20s. She was not admitted because her mother 'took custody' of her and instead she was given 'medication for a couple of days'. On her second visit, she was 'really distressed', however the staff 'refused' to admit her and had her talk to a social worker instead.
Jenny is currently prescribed an antipsychotic medication. In comparison to medications she has taken in the past, she finds it 'really good' and that it doesn't 'have any real side effects'. However, as with past medications, Jenny said it hasn't 'stopped the voices'. She has also found it has 'a bit of an upper in it' and so has 'cut right back' her dosage. Jenny had planned to discontinue her medication altogether, yet felt that her psychiatrist was 'dictating' to her that she stay on it because she was looking for a new job and trying a new form of trauma therapy.
Jenny has now established an important relationship with a psychiatrist who has provided psychoanalysis, which she believes has greatly helped her to improve her mental functioning and to understand what happened to her as a child and the emotions she felt at the time. She also helped Jenny to identify the various voices she was hearing, some of them real and some of them aberrations of past realities, and to divorce from them. In doing so, Jenny feels she can become authentic in her own body, mind and soul. Jenny has a positive relationship with her GP, who she has being seeing for 20 years. She feels she is 'pretty recovered' and is active in a number of community groups. Jenny has a varied social life and enjoys art, cooking and dinner parties with family and friends, films, and walking with her dog, all of which she considers important in her recovery.