Preferred name: Tanai
Age at Interview: 22
Age at diagnosis: 17
Background: Tanai lives with her partner in a small rural town and is a housewife. She was born in Australia and identifies as being of Anglo-Saxon background.
Tanai described receiving multiple diagnoses between 17 and 19, including borderline personality disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, and eating disorder NOS (not otherwise specified). She spent time in mental health units on two occasions, and has tried a variety of medications. Tanai recently started dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) and is currently prescribed an antidepressant.
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More about Tanai
From the time she was a child, Tanai remembered experiencing symptoms of depression, paranoia, and anxiety. She explained how she first felt depressed when she was six years old, and began dieting and skipping meals when she was 12. Tanai said she attempted suicide at 14 after breaking up with a boyfriend and deciding 'yep, that's enough'. This was the first time her family 'kind of knew something was up' and she couldn't disguise her symptoms from them anymore, despite being 'very, very good at hiding things'.
When Tanai was 17, she described 'ending up in a drug-induced psychotic episode' due to 'a problem' with prescription and illegal drugs. She described having 'no trust in reality' and, at this time, said she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Having 'never gotten along' with other people who had this diagnosis, Tanai said the diagnosis made her 'quite upset'. She described trying to suppress the 'loudness and huge emotions' she saw as the 'hallmarks' of borderline personality disorder, including through 'restrictive eating behaviours'. Tanai said she was not hospitalised at this time, but instead 'medicated really heavily because [she] was paranoid'.
Tanai has been admitted to hospital twice. She explained that although the staff were 'kind' and didn't let her 'manipulate' them (which she appreciated), she will 'never allow' herself to be hospitalised again. She said hospital 'kept [her] safe', but made her feel 'caged' and was 'not a great environment' as some of the other patients were 'messed up'.
Tanai is currently taking an antidepressant, which she was first prescribed at 17. She described this as a 'miracle drug' and said she doesn't 'have depressive episodes anymore'. She described the side effects of an antipsychotic medication as being 'horrible' because she was 'zombified all the time' and felt like she'd 'lost [her] body'. Tanai said she believed 'taking pills breeds taking more pills' and described how when she was first began taking medication she felt 'like a lab rat' while the health professionals she was seeing experimented with different medications and doses to find the right one.
Recently Tanai started dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). Despite being 'pretty sceptical' about non-pharmacological therapies and 'working on feelings', she said she is willing to try it as she feels she 'can't keep just being cynical'.
Tanai also expressed reservations about the concept of recovery, stating that for some people it 'becomes their whole identity'. In her experience, staying well involved trying to maintain a sense of 'equilibrium' and was a daily challenge. Tanai said she was 'insanely lucky' to be 'managed' by the time she was 22 years old and credits this to support from her family who 'never gave up' on her, and 'patient' doctors. She feels that the future is 'still scary, but doesn't seem impossible' as it had before. One of Tanai's future goals is to go to university to study psychology and open a clinic for people who have been diagnosed with an eating disorder.