You have to give life a try says woman who suffers from depression

Published 18/06/2016 | 00:00

Anne Foley with some of her medical history files.
Anne Foley with some of her medical history files.
Anne Foley with one of her paintings
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'You have to give life a try'

t was the worst year of Anne Foley's life. In 1999, children were taken away from her and her mother died.

The events of that year culminated in her requiring years of psychiatric treatment.

Anne said: 'I was first diagnosed with depression in 1999 by a consultant doctor at St Senan's. My own psychologist said I didn't have depression but he kept me in the hospital for three months. I had just lost my Mom and broke up the relationship. I was diagnosed with extremely unstable personality disorder. I would be depressed, anxious and self harming.

'I presented to hospitals several times for overdoses. I have a form of personality disorder with bouts of depression which could last a few days or for a month and then it feels like there is no end in sight.'

Anne was known as The Zombie to family members because she was practically catatonic on medication when they came to visit her.

'When my family said: "I think we better go and see Anne in St Senan's" they would come in and I would talk to them for two minutes and I wouldn't say any more. I wasn't showing any emotion and I just sat there. The meds turned me into a zombie. Every time I went in I wasn't sleeping and I felt people were out to get me and people were talking about me.'

Anne said when she was discharged from St Senan's she became paranoid as people were saying she had been in a loonie bin.

'That made my paranoia worse. I felt I couldn't talk to anyone about it and that nobody understood. That was 15 years ago. It turned me in on myself. The longest I was in St Senan's was for three months and any stay after that was for a week at minimum. I would be there four or five times a year over the first five years I was diagnosed. They began closing St Senan's down in 2004 and Maryville opened in 2007 and Waterford opened in 2012. My last admission to St Senan's was in around 2008.'

Anne said she was prescribed far too much medication.

'I was on 16 tablets a day. Often I was on two versions of the same tablet at the same time. I was in St Senan's hospital and it took around a year for them to reduce my meds so I wouldn't have side effects. Then I went off my medication for six months and I attended Maryville. I am on three different anti-depressants now and they make me able to function.'

Today Anne, from New Ross, is an advocate for better mental health services, having recovered from her depression.

Anne said: 'It is only in the last seven years that I have come out of it thanks to Maryville psychiatric services in New Ross and Dr Donald McDonald, who was there for me at the time.

'The past is the past and yes I went through bad times and yes it was horrible for me and for my family.

'For anyone who goes through what I went through it's scary and it's terrifying, but you can come out the other side of it and you can lead a highly functioning life. If you do the opposite of what you are advised to do you will not get well.'

She said anyone suffering from depression needs to take charge of their life by getting up in the morning and having a shower and getting dressed if they feel up to it: 'After breakfast go out and go to the shop and meet people. Also get involved in something, be it painting or going to the cinema. There are many classes that are free or where only a small charge applies.'

Anne found Maryville to be a great support: 'I had someone who would listen to what I was saying in Maryville and this person realised that I did not need as much medication as I was on.

'My last admission was to An Tearman Respite Centre in Enniscorthy last year. Prior to that it was 2013 after I had a heart operation. That was my lowest point when I took an overdose and ended up in Wexford in coronary care and then I was transferred to the Department of Psychiatry in Waterford, which is a 30-bed unit with ten acute beds in a locked ward.'

Anne praised the staff at the facility, saying the only issue was that they were so busy.

She said people were kept in St Senan's for too long, adding that the community-based mental health care model is working.

'It's working for me and my team at Maryville are excellent. They'd know when I'm sick before I do from the way I was talking. They would say: "Anne, I think you might need to take a time out" and I would to go a respite centre for a few days. The Tearman centre is lovely and there are nurses on duty and they are only there to ensure that you are fed.

'You give them your medication when you arrive and they watch you take it at night. An Tearman is a first class place, it's bright and airy and welcoming. It's a circular building so you can't get lost and there is a lovely, homely feel to it.

'You have an art room and a TV room and a dining room and every room has an ensuite.'

She said people are free to come and go as they please into Enniscorthy town.

'It's a home away from home. It's a place you can go to look after yourself. You don't just sit and vegetate. I was there last year but if I needed to go in the morning I'd be welcomed back and that is a comfort for me. The staff are great and most of them worked in St Senan's.'

She said long-term help is needed to battle depression and there is no quick fix.

'Once you are in the services you are in (long term) and once you accept the help you will get better.'

She said men often find it difficult to express their pain. 'You have to give life a try. Try art, try music. It's all good for you. I learned how to do glass painting where you transfer a drawing onto a mirror. It's so therapeutic. For years I was 'Oh Anne Foley, she has depression' but now it's 'Oh there's Anne Foley, she's a mental health advocate. She works with the HSE and she is on telly and on the radio. She has come out the other side and she is there if people need help."'

She said people need people to look out for young people.

'I know of one young man from New Ross who went in to a shop to buy paracetamol. When he was asked what he wanted it for he said he wanted to swallow all the tablets to overdose on them.

'The woman in the shop dealt with him as best she could. He was being bullied and his arms were in bits from cutting himself. His school was contacted. The problem is they feel they had nobody to talk to. When you are depressed you have to be open to talking to people.

'You have to make it real. There is no point saying you are feeling terrible when you haven't picked up the phone to talk to someone.'

Anne is encouraged by the way mental health has become more of a talking point in the Dáil, but said more funding needs to be provided.

'We are moving on slowly now in the right direction. There are so many advocates now; people who fought depression who are now highlighting it. There is still a lot of stigma about it and a long way to go.'

ABOVE: One of Anne's art works.

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