We are delighted that Denise Welch has joined us as our newest Mind ambassador. Much-loved star of some of the UK’s TV favourites, she has learnt ways to deal with her depression so it doesn’t stop her living the life she wants. In the Summer 2013 issue of Mind Membership News Denise told us her story.
…on the start of it
Depression came out of the blue. Five days after my first child was born, I had a panic attack, which I’d never had before. I wasn’t anxious, the panic attack came out of nowhere. Suddenly I felt very weird, as if I was in this dream, looking in on my own life. And within hours of that I was in a black suicidal depression, and that was the beginning of my nightmare. Unfortunately for me, post-natal depression opened up a lifetime of depression.
“Snap out of it, pull yourself together”. People say it, or think it, a lot. It’s the most pointless comment, because if you could snap out of it you would, wouldn’t you? I was lucky, my family never doubted I had anything other than a serious illness, but it was hard for my husband. He’d go to the pub and his mates would say, “Bloody hell, how long is that going to go on, take her out and buy her a new dress.” Unless you’ve experienced it, it’s almost impossible to really understand mental illness. You can’t explain clinical depression to anybody.
I am a huge advocate of anti-depressants, prescribed properly. I get so angry if I see them described by the media as ‘happy pills’, because anyone who has been prescribed them correctly will know that they are absolutely not happy pills. They just enable you to cope until the chemicals in your brain right themselves again. They help you see the light at the end of the tunnel and they have certainly saved lives. I take, and will take, a low dose anti-depressant for the rest of my life, because I feel l need that to survive, to be normal.
…on the devil
When I feel depression coming on, I talk to it as if it’s a devil on my shoulder. I say, “Yes, I can just feel you stirring; I can just feel you starting to creep up on me. The thing is, you’ll come, you’ll waste two days of my life, and then you’ll go again. And I’m not going to let you stop me.” It’s a device that I’ve learnt to deal with the depression myself. It doesn’t always help, it’s not a magic cure, but it can get me through.
…on fighting the stigma
There have been huge advances as more and more people have spoken about mental health, but the stigma sadly still exists. There’s a lot of education needed, especially to improve the way the media portray those of us who are mentally ill. There’s a long, long way to go. Which is why I’m so thrilled to take on the mantle of being a Mind ambassador, so that I can get on my soapbox and shout about it at every available opportunity, whether you want me to or not!
Denise’s new autobiography, Starting Over is out now, and you can find out what she’s up to next on her website.
If you'd like Denise you'd like to help fight mental health stigma and discrimination why not start by pledging your supoprt to our Time To Change campaign.