Preferred name: Lisa
Age at Interview: 24
Age at diagnosis: 19
Background: Lisa is in a relationship and living with her partner in a suburb of a metropolitan city. She was born in New Zealand.
Lisa received a diagnosis of bulimia nervosa at age 13 and bipolar II at age 19. She has spent time in a mental health unit and been on and off medication. Lisa has not seen her psychiatrist for over a year and is currently not taking medication.
Read excerpts from Lisa's interview
First becoming unwell - Lisa moved to London and isolated herself. She had 'bizarre' thoughts about how doing everyday things would have catastrophic consequences.
Searching for information - After her first hospitalisation, Lisa was motivated to change her university degree from law to psychology, which gave her a 'greater understanding of the mental health professions as a whole'.
Negotiating daily life - Lisa described how she was prone to 'excessive' behaviour when she was in a 'manic' phase.
Medication: Effectiveness and side effects - Lisa said she was not advised about what to expect from antidepressants. Side effects like putting on weight were particularly problematic, given her eating disorder.
Medication: Choice and non-compliance - Lisa didn't feel any better when she was taking mood stabilizers. She said at the time she was taking them she wasn't 'educated enough' to realise medicines aren't 'magic quick fixes'.
Medication: Choice and non-compliance - Lisa described taking her sedatives and anti-psychotics for their sedative effects, and said she might have been 'more compliant' with mood stabilisers had someone explained to her how they work.
Medication: Choice and non-compliance - Lisa doesn't take any medication now. She feels she is 'out of the woods' and has found other ways of coping.
Talking therapies - It was only after she left hospital that Lisa realised she had benefited from the group therapies she had there.
Talking therapies - Lisa was 14 when she saw a psychologist for help with bulimia. She said the psychotherapist asked a 'bizarre' question and felt she wasn't the 'right person to speak to' at the time.
How to increase participation in decision making - Lisa felt 'quite supported' in hospital and talked about the support given to her parents by hospital staff.
Experiences of work - Lisa said she felt in 'two minds' about her role which identified her as a person with 'lived experience' of mental health problems.
Discrimination and social responses to mental health problems - Lisa said she didn't generally speak to people about her illness because of the responses she had received.
More about Lisa
Lisa has described always feeling 'a little bit different' from other people, including other children when she was young. She related that she has experienced depressed and manic moods over her life, which have been especially prevalent during periods of considerable stress and transition including completing high school, transition to university, travel overseas, and exams. She also experienced significant challenges during adolescence, including the development of an eating disorder. She is currently living with her partner and enjoys her current role in the health sector.
Lisa described receiving a diagnosis of bulimia nervosa at age 13 and bipolar II at age 19. After a period overseas when she was 18 where she described becoming 'really sick' and feeling 'unsupported' and isolated, Lisa moved back to Australia. During her first year at university, Lisa experienced a worsening of symptoms and was admitted into a private psychiatric facility where she spent three months. She describes being 'largely supported' by the professionals there, but was uncertain about whether being 'constantly surrounded' by other young people helped her recovery. Lisa also found it 'bizarre' and challenging during this period that there was no indication or discussion of when she might be 'released'. She experienced manic and depressive periods after that time. Lisa felt her manic episodes were often seen as 'normal young adult behaviour' and that made it 'hard to seek help' during them.
Lisa has established a key relationship with a 'good' psychiatrist, with whom she would seek help from today should she need to. Lisa sees the continuous care she has received, from the age of 15 to a few years ago, as crucial to the trust and rapport she has established.
With the support of her psychiatrist, Lisa has decided to stop taking medication. She felt none of the antidepressants she was prescribed 'worked' for her and the impact of side-effects for a range of medications, including anti-psychotics and mood stabilisers, were very difficult. Lisa now feels empowered to make her own decisions and has 'found a better way' of dealing with her life, and sees growing older and learning from her experiences as key to this development.
Lisa has a positive outlook on her recovery and is keen not to be identified and defined solely by her lived experience of mental ill health but by a range of attributes and skills she brings to her workplace and social networks. She is looking forward to the future and feels she is 'out of the woods.'