THE YEAR THAT
Eve de Castro-Robinson
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.
EVE DE CASTRO-ROBINSON’S CD, THE GRISTLE OF KNUCKLES, IS OUT NOW.