Kathryn is a pharmacist, avid cyclist, baker and fundraiser from Cardiff. She’s also an NCMH Research Champion, helping to spread the word about our research. This is her story:
I’m a pharmacist working in the clinical trials unit at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. I’ve worked in a number of hospitals across the UK, and also spent three years working as a clinical lecturer at University of Otago in New Zealand.
It was during my time in New Zealand that I experienced what I now know was my first episode of depression. I was just about to start a PhD, but started to feel unwell. At the time, I put it down to homesickness and moved back to the UK.
I love to sing, so I kept myself really busy with different choirs and productions. After a particularly stressful period at work, I was due to perform at a concert with one of my choirs but I just couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, so I made an appointment to see my GP. I came out with a prescription for antidepressants, but very little other support. Luckily, I had a great circle of friends from my choirs, and they really picked me up.
Over the last 10 years I’ve experienced a number of other depressive episodes – some I’ve tried to work through, others I’ve had to take time off work. But I’ve also had some great times too. I got married in 2012, become a step-mum and had the holiday of a lifetime in New England.
When I’m depressed I hardly function. I feel emotionless, lethargic and tend to withdraw from people. It’s a horrible place to be and it takes time to get out of it. It’s like walking up a sand dune; sometimes you fall back a little. That’s depression recovery.
At the moment I’m feeling well. I’m still on antidepressants, and I’m also undergoing cognitive behavioural therapy and seeing a psychiatrist. I’ve practiced mindfulness, which I found helpful, and I’ve recently started running.
I love being able to just plug in my headphones and get outdoors, it’s been very therapeutic. I’m doing the Couch to 5k, and I’ve signed up for the Cardiff Half Marathon where I’m raising money for the Cardiff and Vale NHS charity.
I’ve also raised over £1,000 for Pharmacist Support by baking cakes, which I post around the UK, and doing a sponsored sky dive.
I heard about NCMH on Twitter, and was interested in helping with the research. I completed the online survey on my phone, which was really straight forward. I was later invited to take part in a face-to-face interview and give a blood sample. The researchers were very friendly, great listeners and very sympathetic.
There’s a history of mental illness in my family, so I’m particularly interested in the genetic aspect of this research. I know taking part is unlikely to help me, but if it can help others in the future then that can only be a good thing.
We need better treatments, and research has a big role to play. I hope this study can contribute to developing more personalised medicines, particularly antidepressants.
I hope by sharing my story I can help tackle the stigma around mental illness. I want to show that you can be a professional and achieve whatever you want in life, even if you happen to have a mental health problem.
Follow Kathryn on Twitter – @kmmurray97