Stress, anxiety and depression

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'Therapy changed my life'

Hina, 39, a British Asian, had periods of feeling sad and tired throughout her life, but until recently was too ashamed to talk about it.

"My family came to England from Uganda when I was four. I found leaving our home behind quite traumatic, and then a year after we arrived here, my father died. It was difficult, losing him on top of everything else.

"I was the only girl and I had to grow up quickly as pressure was put on me to help at home and take care of my brothers. As I grew up I often felt sad and I used to cry sometimes, and had times where I got tired and couldn't work.

'I had a very good rapport with my therapist. It was good for me to be referred to somebody of the same ethnic background because she could understand where I was coming from'

Hina

"In some Asian families, there are rigid rules about what can and can't be talked about and intimate things aren't mentioned, so I never spoke to anyone about how I felt or what it was like growing up. I just pushed the sadness down within myself. It's quite a strict culture and people are afraid of talking to someone from their own community in case private information gets back to your family. It can even affect your chances of getting married.

"Once I saw an older Asian GP and I found it uncomfortable. I felt I couldn't open up because in Asian culture you have to respect your elders.

"I got married to an English guy, but I still didn't talk about it. But, a bit like holding a ball underwater, there's only so long you can keep your feelings hidden, and by the summer of 2006, aged 38, I was suffering from what I now know was depression. I was very tired, sad and weepy, and I couldn't work.

"In the end I went to see my GP because I felt I needed to talk through what was going on. My GP was able to refer me to an Asian psychologist for cognitive behavioural therapy and psychodynamic therapy, which involved talking through my problems and finding ways to tackle them.

"When I saw the therapist I wasn't worried about confidentiality any more. I live in a different area from my family now and was assured that all our sessions would be completely confidential.

"At first I was anxious, wondering how therapy would go. But I had a very good rapport with my therapist. It was good for me to be referred to somebody of the same ethnic background because she could understand where I was coming from.

"There were lots of things, which she, as an Asian woman, could relate to. I didn't have to explain all the cultural stuff to her. For instance, she understood the Asian family structure and how common it is for young Asian women to have to look after everybody else, as I had to.

"I saw my therapist for 50 minutes every week or two, over 10 months, and she has helped me a lot. I've started building my own life and learned not to get so bogged down with the pressures of having to look after everybody else.

"I've been discharged now, but I still go for follow-up sessions to see how I'm doing. I know the service is there for me if I need it again: all I have to do is contact them if I have a crisis or need a session. It has been great to have support from someone I identify with.

"I've seen things change since I was younger and now there are services for people when they feel ready to get help." 

If you want help, see your GP. They may be able to refer you for confidential counselling or to a psychologist with a specialist understanding of cultural issues.

Page last reviewed: 11/04/2014

Next review due: 11/04/2016

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