National Edition

LaDonna Gatlin: The day she tried to quit life and her journey back

Published: Monday, Jan. 27 2014 10:30 a.m. MST

She stayed in the hospital for five days. When she got out, she began seeing a different psychiatrist and taking tentative steps toward recovery. Almost immediately, she said, she started speaking again publicly, going out, meeting others. It was not a quick journey; it took months of consistent therapy and some of her medications had to be tweaked. Proper diet and exercise also helped bring her back to good mental health. But she was learning to laugh again, to open up and bloom, to see things in a brighter perspective. The colors were coming back into her life.

Herself again

These days, Gatlin is doing very well but continues to do her part to stay healthy. She sees her psychiatrist regularly, she said.

“I’m assuming this is going to be lifelong because I don’t ever want to go to that place again,” she said, adding that she feels fine but schedules mental health checkups. If she starts feeling anxious again, she plans to seek help immediately.

She talks about a lot of subjects as a public speaker, and mental illness is sometimes one of them. She’s addressed it in churches, at a women’s conference, even during a televised interview with Marie Osmond. Church is a particularly important venue because “mental illness seems to be better understood in the secular world than in the church world. We seem to think, ‘if I pray a little harder, read the Bible a little more, pull myself up by my bootstraps, fill in the blank, it will go away.’ We would never say that to someone who is dealing with breast cancer. It has taken church a while to embrace this, but I am seeing signs of change coming with that. I think there’s good news on the horizon where that’s concerned,” Gatlin said.

She also wrote a book about her life — of which that episode is one part. The book, “The Song in You: Finding Your Voice, Redefining Your Life,” doesn’t sugarcoat it.

The road back to mental health varies, she added, with recovery taking place as part of a multi-faceted journey.

“This was my own personal experience. It could be different for everyone.” Her recovery relied on medication, psychiatrist visits, therapy, diet, exercise, sleep and getting out there again, she noted. “Once you’ve gone through depression, it’s tempting to become a hermit, but you have to put yourself out there, go back into social settings and things you run away from. It’s not one pill or cure, but many different things.”

Asked what she wants others to know, she doesn’t miss a beat. “There is hope, health and healing after depression,” she said.

EMAIL: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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