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Max

Age at interview: 35
Age at diagnosis: 25
Brief Outline: Max said he was ‘in denial’ about his depression until he was in his mid-20’s when his mother insisted he went to see the GP as she had noticed ‘things weren’t right’ . He was diagnosed with clinical depression and spent several weeks in hospital. He has taken antidepressants for around 10 years, but recently stopped them.
Background: Max lives with his partner, and works in the film industry. Ethnic background: Jewish.

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Max first sought help for depression when he was in his mid-20’s. Although he knew things weren’t right, he didn’t address the issue until his mother noticed he was struggling.
 
‘I obviously wasn’t myself for whatever reason..... obvious to my mother.....and I was living on my own and one car journey I think she just said something along the lines of ‘This isn’t on,’ or something to that effect and she railroaded me to the GP. I think I was probably a bit withdrawn, a bit in despair perhaps from her point of view, I think I got, I think I lost a lot of weight as well. and I definitely wasn’t teary or anything like that but I think there just might have been a great deal of blackness perhaps in my life that maybe, maybe I was able to, maybe she noticed’.
 
His GP suggested that as he had access to private medical care through his job that the quickest way to access help would be to be assessed at a private hospital, which he did. The psychiatrist admitted him as a day patient. At the private hospital he had group and individual therapy, but can’t recall being put on antidepressants at that time, although his memory of the events around that period is hazy.
 
After three weeks he was discharged and went back to work and he was convinced that ‘there wasn’t a problem’. However, soon after this he had what he describes as a complete breakdown and was admitted back into the private hospital, this time as an in-patient. Initially he remembers taking part in a variety of different groups and therapies, but after having been assessed over a few days his psychiatrist diagnosed him with clinical depression. Although antidepressants were suggested as a possible treatment, he was resistant to taking drugs because he was worried about the idea of becoming dependent on medication. However, he was prescribed fluoxetine, and an antipsychotic - to calm him down. At first he remembers the medication made him feel ‘strung out’ and ‘woozy’ but these effects lessened after the first few weeks. However over the time he has taken antidepressants he has experienced a number of side effects, including itchy eyes, sweating, sexual dysfunction, and mood swings although he feels it can be difficult to tell whether the dips in mood are caused by the drugs or a symptom of the depression.
 
He has remained on antidepressants for around 10 years in total, and has largely felt well, but there have been times when his mood has dipped again and he has returned to see the GP or psychiatrist. Sometimes his antidepressant medication has been changed, and sometimes the dose has been altered. Over this period of time Max has also accessed psychotherapy.
 
Generally Max feels it can be difficult to know whether antidepressants are effective or not. Max decided to stop taking the medication a few months before his interview.
 
‘I can only describe my experience with the drugs is that I don’t know that they’re not working as opposed... I don’t know that, I can’t say they are working as I don’t know whether it’s my inner additional efforts of just going to see the counsellor once a week or see them once a month or whatever. I think I was feeling better a lot of the time but was it the drugs? I don’t know. I took a hedge strimmer to my finger a couple of weeks ago and it’s, you know, day on day you can see it heal, you can see it wind back together and get solid but you can’t see that with a broken mind.’
 

Max was a day patient at a private hospital for a few weeks...

Max was a day patient at a private hospital for a few weeks...

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So I’m not entirely sure when I first felt that I needed help exactly but I first received help in 2002 and I would have been 25, yes I would have been 25, bit of maths there. So I would have been 25 and the way I got help really was I obviously wasn’t myself for whatever reason... obvious to my mother... and I was living on my own and one car journey I think she just said something along the lines of ‘This isn’t on,’ or something to that effect and she railroaded me to the GP. And the GP, I don’t know, I don’t know whether he was really interested or not interested but he immediately said ‘Well you’ve got private health care so why don’t you just go to the clinic?’ So I went to [clinic name] met a psychiatrist there and did a test and he said ‘Yes you need to be off work right away.’ and I was then admitted as a day patient there. That very day the topic of antidepressants did come up funnily enough and I was then a day patient at [clinic name], wasn’t taking any antidepressants and was going through CBT and a host of other courses as well, probably was there for.
 
I could have the accuracy wrong but it might have been three weeks, it might have been four weeks I had a bit of extra time off then I returned to work. All through that time I didn’t really believe I had a problem so I was at work for a little bit thereafter and then completely had a breakdown thereafter and was admitted into [clinic name] as a full time, an overnight patient and I believe that might be when I was out on some drugs, a variety of different drugs, I could be wrong though, I could have been out, I might have been put on drugs beforehand. I definitely kind of regard the second [name of private hospital] session as the one that made a difference that I might have reconciled myself to the fact that I did have a bit of a problem and needed, needed some help. And then yes that was, so I was in [clinic name] for a second time, so it went from being a full time patient to just a day patient to then, you know, I suppose being ‘recovered’ for want of a better expression, to be back in society or as I like to refer to it as being a ‘functioning depressive’. 
 

Max wanted to stop taking his antidepressant because he...

Max wanted to stop taking his antidepressant because he...

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What’s prompted you to stop taking them now?
 
I’ve wanted to a lot of the time.
 
So you still have that thing in your head about not wanting to be on drugs?
 
Oh yes totally. I don’t know I just kind of feel, I feel okay and I don’t know what I’m putting in my body.
 
Have you ever looked up, you know, done any research on what you’re taking, do you know, did you look up any information?
 
I look at the side effects, and my God like a lot of the time they can say, you know, it can damage your kidney and this that and the other and also I think like it’s not good what I’m putting in and I’m only doing a small bit but I’m doing it every day, like what am I doing?
 
So you’ve had it in mind that you’d like to stop?
 
I think I’ve had it in my mind before I even started.
 
Before you even started yes.
 
And the fact that it doesn’t ever stop you from dropping off the cliff which has happened a few times or, you know, getting into that really dark place whatever you want to call it.
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