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Go ‘Beyond the Blues’ during mental health week
Tara Wolff had a lot going for her at the age of 29. She was working as a convention manager at the Pan Pacific Hotel and she was married to a wonderful man. She had friends and a good family.
But it can be that one change that can turn a person’s world inside out.
For Wolff it was a serious physical illness that took her from working. During her recovery, she sunk into a severe depression, she said.
“At first I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I had a sense of hopelessness, a prevailing brain fog and fatigue,” said Wolff.
Wolff is now working for the Fraser Health Authority in a newly-created position called family support worker for mental health and substance abuse.
FHA has invested in her experience with depression and working through the system in hopes she can bring compassion and understanding with consumers, she said.
She is speaking out about her own experience with depression to raise awareness about a mental health awareness event happening in Langley on Thursday, Oct. 10 at Stepping Stone club house from 3 to 7 p.m.
Called “Beyond the Blues,” the event will offer adults and young adults the opportunity to be screened for depression, anxiety or risky drinking.
It will also be a resource day for family members to come and find out “how do I navigate this if my family member isn’t well,” she said. Langley mom and mental health advocate Renee Poley will be there to offer advice and to speak. There will be clinicians there too and educational DVD playing.
Wolff herself found out she suffered with chronic depression through a screening test done at her doctor’s office. She went to her doctor for other reasons, but ended up telling her GP about her brain fog and fatigue.
“She really listened to my story and she did a depression screening test on me,” she said. “I was lucky to have a good GP.”
It turned out Wolff was going through depression.
“I thought depression was feeling really sad all the time but it is many different things to different people.”
Her road back to feeling well and knowing how to manage her depression hasn’t been an easy one, but she stresses that there is hope and happiness there for people in her same position.
“Finding the right medication is difficult. The side effects I felt from some of the meds, like being extra tired and having brain fog, were almost worse than the depression itself,” she said. Her doctor referred her to the local mental health centre. The one in Langley is located in the 20400 block of Fraser Highway (beside the Mocha Room cafe). There she found cognitive behaviour therapy which helps her reorganize how she thinks, understanding that her first thoughts will often be negative.
She said there is a lot of stigma attached to having a mental illness both from the person experiencing it and from society.
“There was a point in my journey where I would rather die than anyone know what was going on with me. It was very isolating,” she said.
“Once I recognized the burden of not disclosing my depression was making me sick, I decided to tell people my truth.”
The experience has been liberating and many people share their own stories with her. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, around eight per cent of all Canadians will go through major depression at some point in their lives.
Anxiety disorder affects five per cent of the population.
Beyond the Blues is Thursday, Oct. 10 from 3 to 7 p.m. at Stepping Stone, 20101 Michaud Cres.