Rehana - Interview 18

Age at interview: 49
Age at diagnosis: 44
Brief Outline: Rehana, 49, describes herself as Pakistani and has lived in the UK for 27 years. She experiences severe depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Rehana feels ashamed of having depression and is worried that if people find out they might make fun of her.
Background: Housewife, married with two adult children. Ethnic background/nationality: Pakistani (born in Pakistan); in UK for 27 years.

More about me...

Rehana, 49, describes herself as Pakistani and has lived in the UK for 27 years. She experiences severe depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Rehana came to the UK to be married but she did not get on with her in-laws' her sister-in-law hit her in the stomach while she was pregnant, and her brother-in-law treated her like a slave. She felt lonely and insecure. Eventually, Rehana got on better with her mother-in-law who treated her like a daughter. Rehana looked after her and could talk to her about her illness. Rehana' says her depression began when her father became ill and died before she arrived in Pakistan. She says that an ongoing argument with her family about her mother-in-law's will is making her ill.

Rehana experiences panic attacks, palpitations, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, sweats and lack of energy. She sees zigzags, stars, funny faces and hears voices and noises that aren't there. She finds this very scary. She has been told she has severe migraines and tinnitus and Rehana believes this is caused by depression. Rehana has tried to commit suicide 5 times; she says she knows it's a sin in Islam and so she will not do it. 

Rehana describes how she lost count of how many times she went to the doctors telling them how she felt and that she wanted to kill herself. She says the doctor put it down to homesickness and a lack of support but didn't offer any help or give her any medicine. Now, Rehana's doctor often sees her at home and she has also seen a psychiatrist who listened to her and gave her counselling. Rehana now has to wait a long time to see her psychiatrist and feels neglected; she would like to see a specialist. Instead, she has counselling with a voluntary organisation, which she finds helpful. On the whole, she doesn't think her background is taken into account. 

Rehana takes medication (propranolol) at night and in the morning. Sometimes she takes diazepam depending how she feels - the doctor stopped her from taking it regularly. Her doctor wants to change her medication but she can't find someone to talk to about this and feels very confused. Rehana has tried group therapy with other people with anxiety to share experiences but felt she couldn't speak as well as the English people in the group. She goes to yoga and finds the breathing exercises help. Rehana prays 5 times a day, and asks Allah not to make anyone ill. She had somebody perform a dam (Islamic ritual to cure disease) on her. She finds religious teachings help her a lot, give her patience, will power, and knowledge. 

Rehana is worried about how her illness affects her two adult children, especially her son who experiences anxiety, so she keeps it from them. Rehana says she finds it difficult to make friends because she doesn't want to tell them about her depression. She says she feels ashamed and is worried that if people find out they might make fun of her. Only her husband and sister-in-law know. 

Rehana wants to fight her illness and although she feels helpless, she says she is strong and wants to enjoy her life and be able to help with her grandchildren.


Rehana says she was given lots of information leaflets and attended a support group, but found it...

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Rehana says she was given lots of information leaflets and attended a support group, but found it...

So when did you actually get this, when did somebody tell you you've got severe depression?

Oh, depression, anxiety.

When was this, how long ago?

About five years ago.

Five years, yeah. And did you get any information about what this means?

Yes, I got a lot of leaflets and they sent me a lot of places like a centre, a lot of, you know, knowledge, talk to someone who, you know, they used to send me people like anxiety people, go there. It's like a therapy, you know, a lot of similar group. I mean they were telling their experience, I was telling my experience, which is, I know my English is not very good like them. The English people speaks, some words I don't understand. It's new to me, you know, and'

What kind of words can you remember? What language you had to learn to

No, no it's still English.

Yeah, but I mean sometimes the words that are linked to depression like


Like earlier we were talking about prognosis and


medical words.

Medical words

What kind of new words did you learn?

Like palpitation, side effects, a lot of side effects, you know. Tinnitus.

Yes, so these are new words.

These are new to me now. And a lot of other things, you know, but then I used to take my mum-in-law to hospital as well and every day I'd learn new words. Even though I didn't know even my ABC when I came to England.

And the leaflets that you got, did you find them easy to understand or not?


They were OK?

Yeah, yeah

Did you look for any information yourself or did your children help you look for information on the internet or?

No, I did it myself. I do it myself.

Where did you get information from?

Wherever I go, you know, where I can, you know, you know the daily thing to the [name]. In there is a lot of leaflets about it as well. Stress and everything. So when I go to doctor, because I like reading. I like reading. If there's a word I don't understand I just underline it and I did a computer course as well for two years. It was before my anxiety attack. Now I can't even think about it yet. I'd love to go again because I've forgotten a bit of it. When I am on it, it's coming back slowly but if I don't. I don't know, I don't want to do it yet. I'd really love to it, yeah I did a beautician course for two years. I did a sewing course as well. That's my hobby to learn everything.

So what's stopping you now, what are you worried about?

I just get so confused. Even a leaflet, you know, this one I can read it just like that. It's like I understand every single word on it. It's just something is stopping me.


Rehana hasn't told many people because she feels ashamed.

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Rehana hasn't told many people because she feels ashamed.


I feel aged. Maybe I don't look it, I don't like, but I feel that. But inside I'm a broken, helpless and shame, and scared.

Why do you feel ashamed?

Because, you know, of the illness you know. I don't want to be poorly, you know. If I tell someone, you know, I'm ill with the depression and they might make fun of me. You know, that's why I'm ashamed and helpless.

So who is it that knows you've got depression at the moment?


Who knows that you've got depression at the moment and who doesn't know?

Only me, my husband knows and my sister-in-laws knows. And my mother-in-law used to know a little bit but after that, after her death it got worse really. When I had first attack she was living but, and she really got upset. But then she knows I'm the one who look after her. I used to take her everywhere that she wanted to go, and she was very safe with me, and when I had an attack and she was very upset. Not just a little she was very upset about it…

You said you had a best friend. Does she help at all?

Yeah, I mean though I don't tell her everything. You can't. Some things are secret. No, she don't know about my severe depression. Only she knows I'm suffering with a migraine.

And you don't feel like you can speak to her?

No, no. I don't have energy to talk about it to her. No, I don't want to.

What do you think will happen if you tell her?

Maybe she will tell around, which I don't want. Because she knows my husband's family and they are very close to her as well, so I don't want her to tell them I'm a poorly. I just want them to know I'm fit, healthy, happy, you know.

If they know that you're poorly, what do you think they would do?

They might make fun. I'm just scared. They might not. I'm not saying they will. They might not but…

You can't trust them?

No. No, I can't trust them.


Rehana says her problems began when she came to the UK and was separated from her family; her...

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Rehana says her problems began when she came to the UK and was separated from her family; her...


Well from the beginning, I came to England, I came with fiancé to England to get married to him, and then 1979, and we got married, you know. And after I got married, you know, it's a disaster in my life, you know, because my brother came with me as well to get married and they didn't get on well and he went back. He got married with my husband's sister so it was a give and take so from that, you know, and that's my married life. My life, you know, a lot, and I have to take the blame for a lot of things, you know, which me and my husband never done, or my brother didn't do anything like that. And when he went back and same week my father-in-law died with a heart attack and I was expecting my daughter same time, it was only a few weeks and I was very ill, you know. I don't have a family here, I don't know where to go to, go for help, yeah. And I was all alone here and I didn't speak English at that time. I didn't know even ABC. I couldn't spell my name, at that time. And I was like a handicap, couldn't do anything, can't get help, what I need.

Anyway, and my sister-in-law, my mother-in-law's, everybody, you know, upsetting me a lot, even though my sister-in-law used to hit me, who got married with my brother. And I have to go out when she's coming to see her mother and then she used to hit me in my stomach, you know, to kill my baby, and which then my husband phoned the police because this baby [inside there?] because she want to kill the baby, you know, and so I survived. I survived, and my daughter was born 1981 and I've been suffering a lot like family problems and after four years my son was born. And when he was born, after two years, he was only two, we went to see my dad. He was ill in Pakistan, and when we got there he was, he had died. So I didn't see my dad. That was shock. That's from, my depression start from that. Since, yeah.

And I came back and having the same problem here with the in-laws. My brother-in-law take advantage of us. He thought I was slave, and I used to look after his children. [Coughs, takes a drink] He's got a wife and that they used to take advantage of me, you know, cooking and cleaning, look after their children and accusing, abusing, you know, for no reason because there's a, you know, they thought I'm from Pakistan and I'm not a human, you know, I'm just a slave. I've just come to do their things they need, you know, then after that there was symptoms coming like a blackout and I used to faint a lot and I used to feel like, you know, kill myself. I mean about five times, you know, I tried to kill myself, you know.


Rehana described her symptoms to her doctor so many times she lost count, and was eventually...

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Rehana described her symptoms to her doctor so many times she lost count, and was eventually...

So how many times did you have to go back before he gave you the help you wanted?

A lot of times. I lost count.

And what did you actually want him to do for you?

It was a her actually.

Her, sorry

It was a lady doctor. Yeah, a lot of times, yeah. Then that time when I had an attack, I had an attack, emergency doctor, he gave me the pink medicine, he said, 'You've got a severe anxiety attack' and so my husband asked him, 'Is it serious?' He said, 'Yeah kind of.' And so he told me to have a straight away the medicine, two every four hours.

This was in hospital?

No, emergency doctor.

Oh, emergency doctor at home, right.

Doctor, yeah

What medicine did he give you, do you remember?


Twice a day?

Yeah, no, every four hours.

Every four hours, yeah.

Then after one week, twice a day. Two in the morning, two in the evening.

Did that help?

 Yes, oh yes. Straight away. Straight away. In two hours I can tell I'm feeling better,


She also has tinnitus and migraines; she describes similar symptoms for these and her mental...

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She also has tinnitus and migraines; she describes similar symptoms for these and her mental...

I see things which is not there, I hear things which is nobody speaking and they scanned my brain. They said it's a part of my illness and I suffer with a severe migraine. Migraine, yeah, and tinnitus. That is illness as well. So my doctor said to me if they are not getting better, so she is going to refer me to a specialist.

Do you understand what tinnitus is?


What is it exactly?

People are hearing things, buzzing ears and hearing noises, you know, funny noises, funny voices.

And what causes tinnitus, do you know?

Yeah, depression, illness.

Is that what you've been told?

Yeah, yeah. I've got the leaflets you know, they say that some people having it when they have a severe infection in their ears but I didn't have that. I had it about 14 years ago and my ears were blocked, but at that time I didn't have that problem at all, so I don't think it was that, so only thing it can be is my illness, they say it's my illness because two years, about two years being [sighs] very upset, I've never been in my life that upset.

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