Bev Callard: my battle with depression
Posted Thursday 29 July 2010
It was February 2009 and instead of pulling pints in the Rovers Return, I was curled up in a ball on my bed, barely able to speak. I was experiencing clinical depression so extreme that my mind was in deep, dark despair and my body had gone into almost total shutdown. I couldn’t imagine things ever getting better, or even imagine them getting worse. I couldn’t imagine any future at all. I didn’t wash, didn’t do my hair or watch television, it was a total and utter breakdown.
I still do not know what brought on my depression.
I was happy with my partner Jon and my job playing Liz McDonald on Coronation Street. We had experienced financial worries from the failure of our Manchester pub, but we had taken these in our stride and were moving on. I’ve always been a strong person and a fighter, but then I began to be overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness. I felt useless at my job, rubbish as a partner, worthless as a mum and daughter.
The pressure was mounting relentlessly and I eventually had a massive panic attack while driving to work at Granada. I nearly crashed my car on the M6 and thought I might be having a heart attack. I recall pulling over to the hard shoulder at 5.45am and sitting for 30 minutes until it went away. I then drove to work and completed a 12 hour day. After I finished my scenes one of the stage managers knew that I wasn’t well and sent for the nurse. She sent for a consultant to see me and together with my partner Jon they decided I should go to hospital and took the decision to take me to the Priory.
I remember very little of this, but Jon and others have told me that I spent days lying in bed unable to move or communicate. My condition was so serious that doctors decided the best course of treatment for me would be electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). ECT can have an affect on a patient’s memory, so with me being an actress and having to remember lots of lines, this was a worry and a concern for my doctors and Jon. I was so ill I didn’t care, they were concerned but I was beyond caring. I didn’t mind trying anything, nothing could have been worse than the black hole of torment I was in.
I wanted to die and contemplated suicide several times, but eventually following 12 sessions of ECT and medication the fog began to lift and I started to get my strength back. With the help of doctors, medication and the love and support of my friends and family I began to feel better.
It was four months to the day I returned to work, which was a remarkable recovery. It felt fantastic to be pulling on one of Liz’s miniskirts again! I still have talking therapy, but am back smiling again and getting ready to marry Jon later in the year.
Soon after I decided to write my book, so that I could share my experiences to raise awareness of mental health and so that I could support Mind in helping others. I had never written a book before, but soon after my autobiography ‘Unbroken’ was released it went to number 1 in the bestseller list. Depression is still sadly a misunderstood illness and I hope that by hearing my story people will realise that mental distress is not a sign of weakness, it can happen to anyone, but most importantly, that recovery is possible. I believe depression is the curse of the strong. You need to be strong enough to ask for help and to realise it is there if you ask for it. It is so important that we combat the stigma that makes life so difficult for the one in four people who experience mental health problems.
I thought that I would never smile again, but I’m now feeling so much better. Maybe not 100 per cent well but I’m getting there with the help of medication. I hope that by speaking out and supporting Mind we will be able to reach out to more people, changing attitudes and encouraging others to seek the help they need.Please join me and support Mind today
With your help we can make a real difference.