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In this digital story Mary talks about growing up and dealing with depression.

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This story is available on the Rainbow Touchstones DVD. Please get in contact for more information.

This project was funded by a NZ Mental Health Media Grant and proudly supported by the Ministry of Health's Like Minds, Like Mine Programme and the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.


The recording titled "Blue - Rainbow Touchstones," featuring an interview with Mary O'Hagan conducted by Gareth Watkins in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand, provides a five-minute glimpse into O'Hagan's personal journey with their identity and mental health, particularly during the 1960s. Captured on the 3rd of August 2010, this digital story addresses the challenges and societal pressures faced while growing up, the struggle with depression, and the path to self-awareness and recovery.

The narrative begins with O'Hagan recounting the dissonance felt in childhood, where there was a marked departure from the gender norms expected of little girls at the time, such as wearing rose-bud dresses and playing with dolls. Instead, O'Hagan possessed a more active spirit, not fitting into the designated stereotype and instead identifying as a 'tomboy,' a term that led to a later self-questioning of their sexual orientation. During the 1970s, society held a stigmatized view of homosexuality, considering it an indicator of a 'screwed up' individual if not outgrown after a phase. This stigma played a significant role in O'Hagan's internal conflicts and mental health struggles that surfaced at the age of eighteen.

The recording continues with O'Hagan's account of their descent into depression, compounded by various stressors, including leaving home, the passing of their grandmother, and the inner turmoil arising from reconciling their sexual identity. This entanglement of life changes signaled the beginning of their mental health struggles. Seeking professional help, O'Hagan was diagnosed with depression by a psychiatrist. However, due to the fear of judgment and misdiagnosis, O'Hagan withheld discussing their sexual orientation, opting to talk about more comfortable topics instead.

Despite continued talk therapy sessions and medication, O'Hagan's condition led to hospitalization, which brought with it the indelible label of being a psychiatric patient, further entrenching the identity of 'madness.' The recording poignantly reflects on the depths of despair faced by O'Hagan, culminating in the death of their elder sibling, which catalyzed a dramatic shift in their perspective toward life. This event, coupled with a change in medication and a newfound resolve, initiated a change in O'Hagan's outlook, allowing them to become receptive to the prospect of life ahead.

The journey to recovery was also attributed to the change in societal attitudes and personal acceptance of their sexuality. Moving to Auckland marked a significant milestone in O'Hagan's life, where they came out as a lesbian. O'Hagan draws parallels between the liberation movements of lesbian feminism and the 'mad' movement, both calling for liberation from systemic subjugation—whether by heterosexual society or the mental health system. These movements reinforced each other and contributed to O'Hagan's understanding and acceptance of their identities.

O'Hagan's self-reflection poses questions about the potential connections between their mental health and other aspects of their identity, including confusion about personal abilities and life's meaning, feelings of isolation, and the quest for authenticity. They conclude that embracing one's true self is fundamental to recovery, reinforcing that the resolution of identity issues can provide stability. Accumulating positive experiences is also cited as crucial for individuals who have faced prolonged periods of instability, leading to a deficit in life's pleasures. For O'Hagan, embracing authenticity proved to be both stabilizing and a source of positive experiences, ultimately promoting a sense of success and well-being.

This summary is created using Generative AI. Although it is based on the recording's transcription, it may contain errors or omissions. Click here to learn more about how this summary was created.

Record date:3rd August 2010
Interviewer:Gareth Watkins
Location:Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand
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Archive:The master recording is archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (OHDL-004555).