I seem to have had depression on and off for more than forty years. My cycle was a serious episode every five years.

The 'cure'? Medication. Initially in the form of sedatives, which I was told were not addictive, but found out otherwise when I decided one Saturday to ditch the meds and find out who I was. Flippin eck, wouldn't want to go through that again. My friend Angela said that I would come and see her and then sit saying nothing. It was if I were in a stupor. I realised that just about all the women living where I was, were also on meds. Mmmm.

Time went on. Marriage crumbled, jobs abandoned, my children, I thought, would be better off without me, and I left. The pain is still unbearable. Need to stop for a while and breathe.

So for years the cycle continued, lurching between high functioning for a few years and then a depression so bad I lived on the sofa for months on end. The beginning of the end of the years of despair came when I finally had counselling and then cognitive behavioural therapy. This was followed by self-management training where I learned techniques to help me both recognise and defeat my demons. I could question why I didn't have this help before, but there is no point. I am where I am.

That is not to say that everything is fabulous. My mood fluctuates, but I now know what I have to do when I begin to get lost in my grey, damp fog of despair. And here are some things that help me.

I am a strong woman, a feminist, an old school socialist, and it is to these I turn when I am in need of solace. I read or listen to my favourite poem, Still I Rise, by Maya Angelou; I make sure that I walk on a beach, living in South Wales helps; I make sure that I stay active and continue to learn; as often as possible I have a laugh, Susan Calman being my current favourite; I turn to my favourite book about depression, Sunbathing in The Rain by Gwyneth Lewis, inspiring; and I spend as much time as possible with my family.

And where I can, I try to encourage and empower others. Sharing good practice, listening, enabling others to take control of their lives. Many of the people I work with inspire and encourage me to go on.

Do I like my life? Yes. Would I get rid of the depression and anxiety if I could? Hell yes!


Jacqui helps support people to find their route to recovery from depression at Cardiff charity Journeys. She writes here in a personal capacity for Time to Change Wales on International Women's Day. It is often suggested that men find it difficult to talk about their mental health. Is this true of women too? Do some of these issues affect women in particular ways?

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