Preferred name: Michelle
Age at Interview: 40
Age at diagnosis: 35
Background: Michelle is single, has one daughter, and lives in an outer metropolitan suburb. Michelle is working part-time in the mental health sector. She was born in Australia.
Michelle received a diagnosis of schizophrenia when she was 35. She has spent time in mental health units and tried a variety of medications. Michelle sees a psychologist and a psychiatrist, and is currently prescribed an antipsychotic medication.
More about Michelle
Michelle began experiencing symptoms of voice hearing and paranoia in her mid-30s. She said a separation from her long-term partner coinciding with being undermanaged for pain from a back injury 'triggered the illness.' Michelle described initially trying to hide her symptoms from her family and doctors, but said her 'behaviour was so outside of the norm' that her GP recommended she go to hospital. She was admitted to a private psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with psychotic depression. Michelle found this stay positive as 'everything [was] taken care of' and 'it was good to have the respite'.
Citing at least six hospitalisations of varying duration in both private and public settings, Michelle described divergent experiences, from positive through to 'quite traumatic.' In one instance, after refusing her medication, Michelle said several medical staff came to her room and were 'holding [her] down and injecting [her]' with medication. She described feeling a 'total lack of control' in hospital which led her to be 'basically non-compliant' regarding medication for most of her admissions.
During one more positive experience in hospital at age 35, Michelle was diagnosed with schizophrenia. This resulted from the 'very probing questions' of an 'insightful psychiatrist', which prompted her to 'let the cat out of the bag' about her symptoms. Explaining that she had been treated before being diagnosed, Michelle said receiving a diagnosis and being so 'sick of [her] experience and [her] world and everything that was going on and the trauma of it all' led her to decide to start complying with medication.
Michelle is currently taking an antipsychotic medication and said she takes just enough to keep her 'symptoms at bay' and that it does 'get rid of [her] voices'. Before starting her current antipsychotic medication, other medications Michelle tried previously had negative side effects, including extreme sedation which she found 'quite scary.' She said she was 'very fearful of psychiatric medication' because she didn't think it was a good idea to be 'playing around with something as delicate as the brain.' Michelle described how this attitude had also contributed to her past non-compliance with medication.
Michelle described experiencing many difficulties over the past five years, including multiple hospitalisations, housing difficulties, and a stressful relationship with her mother and daughter, but said she considers herself 'fairly functional' because she has 'stayed involved' in her treatment.
Recently Michelle has established positive relationships with a psychologist and a psychiatrist. She said she was finding it 'really good to be able to see someone regularly.' A previous psychologist had tried to limit what Michelle could bring up in sessions, and prevent her from discussing schizophrenia. This had 'rubbed [her] up the wrong way.'
Michelle feels her recovery has been 'successful' because she is 'so involved and still wanting to take control' instead of relying on other people. She also identified 'building up supports' in the form of family relationships, continuing medication, studying, and attending a support group as important to her recovery. Finding 'the future quite exciting,' she said it was an 'amazing milestone' for her to be working in the mental health sector.