IN 2010, Tralee woman Joanne Barry was busy running the successful In Step dance and performance school in Tralee. While the recession was beginning to bite and her business, like so many others was feeling the pinch, Joanne was in positive mood.
Then, as Joanne described to The Kerryman, she was hit with a crippling bout of depression that struck her "out of the blue and like a tonne of bricks."
Her depression was so sudden and severe that the popular, well known and outgoing Tralee woman was forced to abandon her dance teaching career and effectively retire from her life in Tralee.
Now, two years later and having received help to conquer her depression, Joanne is back in action. This week she's her dance school gets back up and running with weekly classes in Tralee's Abbeygate Hotel and also in Kilarney and Listowel. Fittingly her return to the world of dance and performance co-incides with the 20th anniversary of when she first opened her own school in Tralee.
She's also planning to hold a big reunion party for all her former students, many of whom are now enjoying successful performance careers overseas, in Tralee in December.
Ahead of her return to business Joanne described her battle with depression and explained how important it is for people to discuss their problems, before they become overwhelming.
"Two years ago I was working away happily. I was incredibly busy and things were going well. Then suddenly out of the blue and like a tonne of bricks I was hit with crippling depression that completely knocked me out," she said.
"I suppose that maybe it happened because I was so busy and had so much going on in my head. I'd been very busy with work and when that slowed down a bit with the recession I found myself with to much time on my hands to think. Maybe I started over thinking things and I let them build up until it all became too much for me," said Joanne.
"Basically I needed to take a long break and for about two years hardly anyone saw me. No one in town really knew where I was or what happened. When I started going out and about in town again recently I actually had one person come up to me and say welcome home, she thought I'd been in America!" Joanne said.
"Thankfully I'm feeling much better now and I'm ready to get back to work. While I want to let people know I'm back I also want to let people know how important it is to talk about how they are feeling," said Joanne.
"There is so much depression among people in Tralee it's frightening. There have also been so many suicides, which is heartbreaking. Depression needs to be talked about and people need to know that if they're feeling down they can talk to their friends and family," she said.
"I think it's important for people who have come through depression to talk about it. People who are suffering from it need to know that they're not alone, that many other people feel like them and that there's help out there for them," said Joanne.
"I was very outgoing and people probably wouldn't have suspected there was anything wrong with me. That was because I was good at putting up a screen and hiding how I felt. Lots of young people all over Kerry know me and would be surprised, because of my personality, that I'd been suffering from depression."
"With my dance school up and running again I'll be dealing with a lot of young people, including many of my former students who are coming back, and I want them to know that I and others are there for them to talk to if they're feeling down or depressed," she said.
Joanne's dance and performance school, catering for the over 21s as well as children and teens, is back from this week in the Abbeygate Hotel and in venues in Listowel and Tralee.
Anyone interested in joining the school can log on to Joanne's dancetodes-tiny page on Facebook or get in touch with her directly on 086-6662999.