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Brighton and Hove politician speaks out about depression battle
A city political heavyweight has spoken out about her battle with depression following the revelation that Stephen Fry attempted suicide last year.
Caroline Penn, pictured, who is the chairman of the Brighton and Hove Labour Party, blogged about her experience on Thursday and urged others in the same position to seek help.
Since then she has received thousands of hits on her site and has been contacted with messages of support from political friends and foes from across the city.
She said: “I was worried about exposing my private life but I think it is important to be open and talk about depression.
“If it encourages others to seek help then that can only be a good thing.”
She explained that she suffered a series of personal tragedies three years ago including the death of her grandmother and a miscarriage following IVF treatment.
At the time she “shrugged it off” with a “stiff upper lip”.
However, having never really dealt with the issues, she descended into a crippling depression at the start of this year.
She said: “I was unable to sleep. Every night my brain refused to switch off. I’d lay awake, dark thoughts going round and round. During the day I felt utterly drained and struggled to function.
“I tweeted, checked my emails, Facebook anything to keepmyrestless mind from sinking lower and lower. My work suffered as I constantly looked for a distraction from my thoughts.”
The staunch Labour activist had planned to put hernameforward to contest the Kemptown constituency, but had to pull out.
She began arguing with friends and family and said she felt like she “couldn’t relate to anyone”.
It was at this point that her loved ones intervened and told her to seek help.
She visited her GP and was prescribed the antidepressant drug citalopram.
She added: “That was about three to four weeks ago. It has been really difficult, the drugs don’t start working straight away and they made me feel quite ill.
“I was signed off work and struggled with a series of panic attacks.
“But I’m feeling better.”
The outspoken Labour activist, who is known for her stinging attacks and fierce debates on Twitter, admitted she was concerned about the political reaction.
She said: “I was worried that people would see it as more than an illness and think that it in some way impacts on my judgement. This hasn’t been the case.
“There should be no stigma attached to depression. It is an illness and one that can be treated.”
She added: “I’m not completely better. I still have dark days andmy confidence hasn’t entirely returned.
“But I know two things which give me hope: I will get better and that I have some of the most amazing friends and family.”
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