Nancy Foster, First Lady of Long Beach, Shares Her Story.

By Nancy Foster, Special to the Press-Telegram

Image: Simplon Pass: Reading by John Singer Sargent
Reading by John Singer Sargent

Being married to the mayor offers a marvelous opportunity to be the voice for mental illness in Long Beach, the 5th biggest city in California! Our city has embraced my story since I came out in November of 2006.

One person can make a difference and others are sharing their stories as well and getting help. It’s important for people to realize that a public figure is being open…it made a huge difference in our city…amazing response and still people are thanking me today 2010.

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My Experience with Depression

“I Am Half-Sick of Shadows,” said the Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse

Let me tell you right away that I am uncomfortable recounting my experience with depression. Not because it’s painful to talk about (though it is), but because I created this web page about depression to help other people, not to go on and on about myself. However, I can’t forget how illuminating William Styron’s account of his depression in Darkness Visible was to me before I was diagnosed and treated for depression. It really was the book that made me recognize my illness and therefore led me to seek professional help. Since Styron is so much more eloquent than I could ever be, I urge you to read his book. If nothing else, it will help you explain your illness to other people, if you have it, or help you to understand a loved one’s pain if you are close to someone who suffers from the “black dog”, as Churchill called it. If you are interested in my story, read on. You may recognize yourself or someone else in it.

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Darren’s Letter

The Lament for Icarus by Herbert James Draper

Most of us who have accepted our mental illness have had those moments of profound irritation or anger when we hear the subject of mental illness and its treatment used as a source of comic relief. Prozac has been relentlessly marketed, and has become a household name, and therefore is tossed around in conversation by people who know nothing about depression or antidepressants. Most of us have heard someone say, “Oh, take a Prozac and lighten up,” or something to that effect. Darren Ross read an article by a writer who referred to Prozac twice in a completely ignorant manner, and decided to take the time to try to set the record straight by writing a letter to the editor. I’m sure he educated a good number of people, and since he addressed many myths and misconceptions about depression and mental illness so well, I asked him if I could include his letter on my web page. I would suggest that if you are trying to educate someone about mental illness, depression and its treatment, you print off this section and give it to them.

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Depression as a Medical Illness

Image: The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones
The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones

The following story describes, for anyone who’s never experienced it, what it’s like, and for anyone currently suffering a similar experience, the story offers hope, because this story has a happy ending. At least, it’s been happy for several years now.

The greatest fear I have ever felt, a fear on a par with the vastness of eternity, was when I feared there would be an after life.This was for me the deepest darkest fear imaginable. I was afraid of living forever because I did not like life. I had a good family, I had a few friends, I was a very good student in school, everything seemed to be going my way, but there was something wrong with my life — I was not happy. I wasn’t particularly unhappy on any given day, but there was a general mild unhappiness which I bore day after day. One day of this mild unhappiness was no problem, even a week was easy to bear. But the constant month after month, year after year of bearing it day after day began to take its toll.

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