Eve de Cas­tro-Robin­son

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In 1991 I was Com­poser in Res­i­dence with the Auck­land Phil­har­mo­nia, was the first per­son to grad­u­ate DMus in Com­po­si­tion from the Univer­sity of Auck­land, or­gan­ised a protest to save the He­len Young Stu­dio at Ra­dio New Zea­land, got preg­nant, had bad de­pres­sion and was di­ag­nosed bipo­lar.

De­pres­sion had hung over me for the whole year, so the di­ag­no­sis at the end of the year was al­most a re­lief be­cause it gave a name to this un­ex­plained black cloud.

It was like a grad­ual growth. I was very happy to be preg­nant — my hus­band Ken was 51 and I was 35. And I had the job with the APO and had just gained my DMus.

But I would come down­stairs in the morn­ings feel­ing a bit down and this pro­gressed un­til one morn­ing I burst into tears and said to Ken: “This is hap­pen­ing to me from the out­side.”

We tried all sorts of things, from acupunc­ture to coun­selling. A well-mean­ing cou­ple came around and sug­gested med­i­tat­ing and lis­ten­ing to mu­sic. It was way be­yond that. When you’re in the early stages, peo­ple have all sorts of di­ag­noses — be­cause you’re preg­nant; it’s a big change of life; once you’ve had the baby you’ll be fine; it’s pre­na­tal de­pres­sion.

It got so bad that it was de­cided I would see a psy­chi­a­trist. When I got to his rooms I was un­able to stop cry­ing. He asked a few key ques­tions and, be­cause they were pos­i­tive an­swers, said: “You’re bipo­lar and with ev­ery­thing you’ve told me I would pre­dict it would come on at this age.”

Those things in­cluded a grand­fa­ther’s sui­cide, fam­ily mem­bers with bad bipo­lar dis­or­der and my per­son­al­ity type: high achiever and per­fec­tion­ist.

I have high ex­pec­ta­tions of my­self. I coped with the APO job be­cause I tend to be able to de­liver. I was happy in that job and I wrote them a tripleclar­inet con­certo, which to me was a great suc­cess.

Once di­ag­nosed, the next bit was how to han­dle it. By then I was about seven months preg­nant. He pre­scribed med­i­ca­tion. I was mainly wor­ried that it would af­fect breast­feed­ing and there was a won­der­ful mo­ment when he said it wouldn’t.

Then it was a mat­ter of get­ting through to hav­ing the baby. By the time I reached full term it had got so bad. I once rang the psy­chi­a­trist on the week­end and said, “When will this drug work?” He said, “I prom­ise you it will be work­ing within three weeks,” and that is ex­actly what hap­pened.

We had the baby and it was a joy­ous oc­ca­sion. The won­der­ful Cyprian is now 26. I was still in the depths of this thing when he was born but the de­pres­sion lifted even­tu­ally and I’ve been hap­pily on med­i­ca­tion ever since. I think I come across as cool, calm and col­lected, but I have bat­tled, as have a lot of peo­ple par­tic­u­larly in the cre­ative arts. And I’m very pro-phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, be­cause I went through the gamut of al­ter­na­tives. As told to Paul Lit­tle.


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