Judy Bellamy's world was as gray as a New England winter day.until she found the long-needed help that changed her life.
"I didn't get up in the morning, I didn't go anywhere, I seldom got dressed. I would wake up and start crying because I was still alive."
Judy Bellamy speaks clearly, without hesitation, of the person she was little more than a year ago. After a series of failed jobs and marriages, Bellamy was working as a quality control inspector when her life hit rock bottom.
"I was physically thrown off the property. My boss told me at three o'clock to pack up and leave." For the next three months, Bellamy withdrew completely, unable to concentrate on any project she started, unable to even muster the energy to dress.
Bellamy suffers from chronic depression. An estimated 15 million Americans will experience depression this year but only one in three will seek treatment. For years, Bellamy was among 10 million suffering in silence. "I didn't want to admit that something was wrong," she says.
Instead, Bellamy ran full tilt at life, trying to escape her depression. She was a pilot, managed a golf course, operated a strip mine and worked as an airline mechanic, one of only two licensed female mechanics in Rhode Island. Her personal life was filled with marriage, children, and two divorces. No matter what she did, life offered no excitement, no joy-only shades of gray. "Nothing fulfilled me."
Depression is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety or irritability, and a lack of interest in activities. Though well-meaning family and friends may advise sufferers to "snap out of it," depression is more than a case of the blues. Unlike a short-term reaction to life's setbacks, depression may last for months, years or decades and may resolve on its own only to return again, sometimes years later. "The average duration for acute depression is four to eight months, while chronic depression lasts two years or more," says Gabor Keitner, MD, associate psychiatrist-in-chief at Rhode Island Hospital and director of the hospital's mood disorders program. Untreated, it can lead to total emotional and physical withdrawal from the world, poor recovery from illnesses such as heart disease and thoughts of suicide.
Paula Bessette, project coordinator of the mood disorders program, believes that Bellamy's depression was lifelong. "She had always been a mild depressive," Bessette says, "but being laid off from her job triggered a major episode. She was lethargic and had a tough time motivating herself."
What brought the color into Bellamy's world was a Providence Journal ad for a study being conducted by the mood disorders program. The ad was recruiting people with chronic depression to determine whether a new antidepressant was more effective if the patient also received psychotherapy. Bellamy called the next day and began treatment in October 1996.
Out of the darkness