When Beck Eleven, a columnist for The Press in Christchurch, wrote a frank, honest blog about depression, Fighting the black dog in April 2015, she was unprepared for the response.

“The feedback I got was immense, the number of emails and Twitter messages from friends and strangers, those with depression, those with a partner with depression,” she says.

“It’s not the first time I’ve written about it, but not as frank as this piece.”

Beck’s personal experience of depression gave her the inside scoop on this common condition, which kicked started her desire to write about it.

“Depression really sneaks up on you and then you realise you are crying everyday… As much as the stigma has been chipped away, you still can’t ring up work and say, ‘I can’t get myself out of bed’.”

It was a day like that which prompted her to write a column about depression. She says her boss was so understanding and told her to take her time getting back to work.

Panic, pins and needles

Thinking back, Beck recalls her symptoms of depression and anxiety first appeared while she was working in London. One day she had a panic attack, everything went two-dimensional and she got pins and needles.

On returning to New Zealand, she studied journalism, then worked at The Press, but symptoms persisted.

“I would wake up at 4am no matter what time I had gone to sleep. My flat mate used to find me outside, shaking and smoking.”

Yet at work, she was functioning and well.

Asking the question

It wasn’t until a conversation with a friend in the UK, who asked: do you think you might be depressed, that Beck saw a GP and took medication to relieve her symptoms. Following another bad patch and a change of doctor, Beck was living in a great neighbourhood and doing well until the Canterbury earthquakes turned everything upside down. Beck lost her home, and then her mum and sister were hospitalised – both live with bipolar disorder.

“Everything was different for me and that was really tough.”

Making things count

Despite it all, in sharing her story, Beck has found what she writes about can help others, she can chip away more of the mental health stigma and has truly made her column count. Beck also recently scored a gig as a guest panellist on Jim Mora’s Afternoons programme on Radio New Zealand.

Speaking of counting, and in case you were wondering about her unusual surname, Beck was actually born Rebecca Lee Duncan, but changed it while she was a student, 20 years ago. She thought it would be great to have a number for a last name. So she paid her $30 to change it by deed poll and has never looked back!

The Mental Health Foundation’s Information Service has a wealth of information on mental health topics including depression and bipolar disorder.  We rely on your donations to support the information service to provide free information for those who are concerned about themselves or someone they love.