Vanessa

Vanessa

Preferred name: Vanessa
Age at Interview: 65
Gender: Female
Age at diagnosis: 40

Background: Vanessa is a retired teacher who lives in a regional town. She is divorced and has two children, a daughter and a son, aged 39 and 36 respectively. She identifies as Anglo-European.

About Vanessa

After taking a year off work because of stress-related problems, Vanessa took another year of on the advice of her psychiatrist. She said that her psychiatrist eventually diagnosed her with major depression and prescribed an antidepressant. Last year, her GP advised her that her psychiatrist had recently diagnosed her with schizotypal personality disorder, which was a 'big shock'.

More about Vanessa

Vanessa feels that her experience of major depression has strengthened her ability to support both herself and others.

Vanessa described having an idyllic childhood growing up in the bush and living in different places. Always an 'avid reader,' she said that she went to university where she studied teaching. After marrying her husband, she moved to a rural area. Vanessa said that she taught all day and then came home to work on the farm. She described experiencing postnatal depression twice and depression after a bout of pneumonia.

Vanessa said that after years of living in a 'loveless marriage,' she moved to a regional city with her daughter and divorced. She described how she found the community there 'inhospitable' and related continuing problems with her ex-husband. She said that she 'couldn't sleep' and developed 'rashes.' Worried about her health, she visited her GP who took her blood pressure, which was 'sky high'. She said that she initially intended to take a month off work but her psychiatrist said that she could have the year off. Vanessa eventually resigned from her job after taking a second year off work. At that time, her psychiatrist diagnosed her with 'major depression'.

Vanessa recalled spending 'about a year crying'. She tried different medications including one that caused unpleasant side-effects including visual disturbance such as a perception that the footpath was 'coming up in front' of her while out walking. When she refused to continue taking that particular antipsychotic medication, Vanessa said that her psychiatrist insisted on it and threatened to admit her to a psychiatric unit. Following this, Vanessa said he told her he 'didn't want to see [her] any more' and she had to find a new psychiatrist.

Vanessa now sees a psychologist who helps her with anxiety, and she has a good relationship with her GP, whom she has been seeing for 25 years. She said that in her life, 'nobody stood up for me except my doctor'. She has continued this relationship despite some frustrations, such as having to negotiate being bulk billed, and having to request care plans. Additionally, one year ago, Vanessa was advised by her GP she had been diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder. She believes the diagnosis had actually been made by her psychiatrist a long time before she was told, and said this news came as 'a big shock'.

Vanessa described living off a pension as limiting because saving money took a long time and she cannot afford house repairs. She said 'there's nowhere to go when you've got no money'. She feels isolated and said she doesn't 'do well' when spending too much time alone. Despite this, Vanessa described gradually regaining her strengths through engagement with her community and through studying art and writing courses. She has also become involved with mental health support organisations and attends church events. Vanessa continues to pursue her interests including travelling, reading and socialising. She described herself as 'pretty well recovered' and said 'I'm quite happy with my life'.