Denise Welch has spoken out about her battle with mental illness in her new book and discussed the treatment which helped her get her life back on track.
In THE UNWELCOME VISITOR, Depression and how I survive it, (Hodder & Stoughton) Denise explains how she suffered from postnatal depression after the birth of her son Matthew.
"Post-natal depression is the cruellest, most unforgiving and isolating condition, because not only are you submerged in a pitch-black nightmare of mental illness, but you also have a totally dependent child who can't survive without you,” she recalls.
The link between postnatal depression and menopause symptoms
Unfortunately for Denise, the depression returned years later when she went through the menopause. She was working on the TV show, Waterloo Road. She says: “I found I was losing the battle with my illness. The bad times were taking over and I was trying to work through my depression but was mentally and physically worn out.”
At times the depression was so severe it made her unable to get out of bed. Denise even attempted to jump out of a window and a moving taxi. Antidepressants seemed powerless against this debilitating illness.
Denise had always been told by doctors that her depression was nothing to do with hormones, something she had always suspected. She comments: “People had always said that if you suffered from post-natal depression then the menopause would be a time it could trigger it again, because your body is going through the same hormonal chaos."
Coping with zero oestrogen
Denise says after listening to her medical history and taking blood tests, the professor discovered that her oestrogen levels were almost at zero. He told her: ‘You are so deficient in oestrogen, I don't know how you survive.’ He also concluded she was progesterone intolerant, and took out her Mirena coil immediately.
“I asked him why has it taken me 20 years for someone to say that the origin of my torture has been hormonal,” recalls Denise. “I think historically women's health wasn't prioritised in the same way men’s health was. Of course, postnatal depression only happened to women.”
Denise acknowledges that even some women – including those in the medical profession, don’t always grasp the severity of reproductive depression – the umbrella term for PMS, postnatal and menopause-related depression. “Even my London GP said, ‘I had five children and I just didn't have time to get depressed,’" she says.
However, Professor Studd’s ground-breaking and campaigning work around the menopause and PMS, meant that he understood exactly what Denise was going through.
The breakthrough for Denise's symptoms
Soon, Denise had started on Professor Studd's HRT regime: “The professor started treating me with hormone replacement therapy – lots of oestrogen and a little progesterone and some testosterone to boost my sex drive. I felt better within about a week. It made an incredible difference. It was like a miracle.”
Although HRT didn’t completely cure Denise, she says it enabled her to feel normal: “It helped me enormously in my day-to-day survival and I'll be forever grateful. I wasn't skipping through the tulips unless something happened to inspire me to skip the tulips, but I felt able to approach my working day as any other actress would.”
Professor Studd continues to spearhead a team of UK’s leading gynaecologists and health care professionals at The London PMS and Menopause Clinic, helping women like Denise suffering from debilitating menopause symptoms.
Find out more about The London PMS and Menopause Clinic here
The time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle, and her periods ceaseFull medical glossary