Last week, I had a proud moment. After taking antidepressants for a year, I found myself sitting in my therapist's office. She leaned back, exhaled and said: "you know something? I actually think you don't need me at all anymore."
Well, I couldn't have been prouder of myself if I'd completed a PhD. I'd put the spadework in. After a year of antidepressants and therapy, I'd finally gone into remission with the condition they call 'cancer of the soul'.
A year previously, it was a much different story. Unable to get out of bed, unable to write… things were starting to spiral out of control again. I was high-functioning, still meeting friends and hitting deadlines, but I felt unnaturally tired. And no amount of sleep could shift the feeling.
My doctor suggested a return to medication. I baulked. It meant, for me, weight gain and a low libido, but it also meant that the thoughts and feelings that were razoring my mind to ribbons would, if not recede completely, at least soften around the edges.
People hear the word 'antidepressants' and think a number of things, just as I'd once done. They hear 'zombie'. 'Mental case'. Someone failing at keeping themselves on an even keel.
The truth is, a person on antidepressants is someone with enough clarity (or at least has someone around them with enough clarity) to ask for a helping hand with a condition, just as they might with diabetes or asthma. Like me, they just want to get better, and are often afraid of having a condition so powerful, consuming and possessive that it can prompt you to commit a murder. On yourself.
A significant number of people I know have been prescribed anti-depressant medication - 300,000 Irish people are, in fact. New data suggests that €50million was spent on antidepressants and mood stabilisers in the State in 2002, up €42 million since 1993. I'd wager this figure will be even higher for this decade.
Some professionals have been damning in their appraisal, saying that counselling services are inadequate (they are, not least for non-private patients). RTE's 'Prime Time' this week looked at whether Irish doctors were prescribing antidepressants too readily and whether they did so at the behest of drug companies, which regularly pay for them to attend conferences abroad.
This may sound like we're a nation of casual pill-poppers. Well, if doctors really are over-prescribing, I for one am glad. Anti-depressants have probably saved my life.
Life's hard in Ireland. Things are expensive here. We've a Government who moves significant funding away from mental health expenditure without looking back. Don't think this doesn't affect people's state of mind. Hate the game, not the player.
The very first time I was prescribed medication, my doctor asked me a seemingly innocuous list of questions. Turned out that, unbeknownst even to me, I was at a sky-high risk of self-harm. This scared the life out of me: to feel that I didn't have control over my mind, supposedly, my most private and safe place.
I told my doctor I was 'against' medication. "It would be irresponsible of me and at worst, negligent of me to allow you out of here without a prescription," my doctor said. A half-hour later, I was in Boots, shamed, embarrassed, awaiting judgement from behind the counter.
Four weeks later, I was getting worse: I rang my doctor and we switched brands. Just like the other pill, it can sometimes be a case of trial and error.
A few weeks later, I was finally on my way to recovery. Add counselling, walking and other lifestyle tweaks to the mix and things evened out. It was like a full-time job, schlepping to therapy and walking about, but it was better than the alternative: sitting in bed and having my mind spiral out of control like Charlie Sheen: The #winning Years.
For now, things are great; work is steady, I'm in a happy relationship after years of singledom, I'm out of bed early without too much griping. I'm planning holidays, picnics and parties. It may not last forever, but it'll do for now. A year ago, I genuinely thought these moments would never again be for me.
Antidepressants aren't for everyone. My doctor suggests counselling, meditation or plain exercise to others, with nary a pill in sight, because the condition varies in all of us. That's why keeping in touch with a good, understanding GP is paramount.
Depression can manifest in countless guises, and there are no hard and fast rules. Medication isn't the quick fix. The only solution, really, is to acknowledge the condition for what it is. Only then can you start to look for your right way forward.
January is well and truly under way and for lots of us our New Year's resolutions are just a distant memory. But good intentions are hard to put into practice especially if you were aiming to make loads of radical changes - the way people often do after the blow out of Christmas.
Actress Mary McEvoy (61) was born in Co Westmeath as the late Catherine and Larry's only child. After working at the Department of Agriculture, she began acting and combined it with being a farmer. She is best-known for playing Biddy in Glenroe for 16 years. Mary lives with her partner, musician Garvan Gallagher, and has written two books, Ordinary Beauty and How the Light Gets in.
Health & Wellbeing
In 2000, there was a big fuss when St John's Wort, the popular herbal remedy for depression, was removed from over-the-counter sales in health-food shops. People asked, what is the problem with a natural remedy? Surely something so harmless, but so good, should continue to be available. It is widely assumed that naturally occurring remedies are entirely safe and free from any risks.
'There are a lot of wounded warriors out there." These words, spoken by a sports commentator during an international championship, perfectly describe the world of bobsleigh - and skeleton, a less familiar, but similar, sliding sport. It's a world that is very close to Brendan Doyle's heart; he loves the thrills and spills, as he rockets headfirst through the twists and turns of the ice tunnels at 145kmh.
I came late to self-help books. While backpacking in my early 20s (the 90s, since you ask), when people told me I "had" to read M Scott Peck's bestseller The Road Less Travelled because it would change my life, I would think, "Pass me a glass of sauvignon blanc."
Author Donna Kennedy contends that if you encounter difficulties in life, the key to success is taking power back rather than succumbing to your circumstances. The glamorous and strong 35-year-old from Westport knows all about transcending difficult experiences, as she has turned her own personal experience of sexual abuse, an eating disorder and wrongful hospitalisation into a force for good, and now works wonders at motivating and encouraging others to succeed.
Jim Breen truly knew the charity he founded was hitting home for people when he encountered a man named Padraig on his travels. His Cycle Against Suicide group had come to town and Breen was preaching a fundamental message that is central to the charity's world view - it's okay not to feel okay - when Padraig stood up and said he had something to say to the room.
Health & Wellbeing
How much sex are we having? It depends who you ask. Last year, research by Relate on adults over 16 showed half had not had sex in the past month, but add middle age to the equation and it seems the older we are, the healthier our sex lives are becoming.