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Garry McDonald
Australian Actor

Garry McDonald is best known for his character Norman Gunston and as Arthur Beare in the ABC series, "Mother and Son".  In July this year, Garry was made an inaugural board member of the National Depression Initiative.  Here Garry shares something of his own experience with us.

My wife had to get my mother to try and get me out of bed or at any rate off it.

I was lying naked in the foetal position and refusing to go to work. There was obviously something wrong, why didn't we all see that? Everyone kept expecting reason to snap me out of what was now obviously something very serious.

I couldn't put two thoughts together, I had no energy and my self-esteem was absolutely shot. I'd been experiencing what I had thought of as stage fright for quite a while now but when a work colleague walked out of my come back show a week before we went live to air, the anxiety increased and eventually developed into this horror.

Trying to rehearse song and dance routines was impossible, I just couldn't concentrate. I would come good everyday at about 6pm and manage to give some sort of a performance and then at about 10pm I'd drop my bundle again. Sleeping was very difficult.

I remember sitting in the gutter outside my G.P's waiting for him to see me. He immediately sent me to a shrink who diagnosed depression and put me on medication.

My recovery was up and down but he was really marvelous. Always only a phone call away. That sounds strange but he didn't live in Sydney, my home, but, and don't worry the irony of this didn't escape me, he lived in Wollongong! Norman obviously believed in shopping locally.

I was on medication for 15 months. I also found that exercise helped. One thing I did do was to get straight out of bed and go for a brisk half hour walk.

I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I had had this for over twenty years and eventually it had tipped over into depression.

I went to the St. Vincent's anxiety clinic and 8 weeks later was well on my way to long-term recovery.

I'd got my life back.

My treatment was cognitive behavioural therapy. I call it the western version of mindfulness, the eastern practice of watching the thoughts but not getting caught up in them. I practice it to this day. It is truly liberating.

    - Garry McDonald
    October 2000

Garry McDonald is now patron of the Anxiety Disorders Foundation in New South Wales, and will be representing Australian depression sufferers on the National Depression Initiative Board.

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