Concord Monitor reporter Annmarie Timmins told her colleagues and readers over the weekend about her long struggle with depression. (Her revelation was part of the Monitor’s mental health series, “In Crisis.”)
I have been hospitalized twice for “suicidal ideation,” most recently for eight days in 2009 with a diagnosis of “major depressive order and anxiety disorder,” according to my records. I take four medications a day and have my counselor’s name and number in my emergency contacts on my cell phone.
This will be news to most of the people who know me, family members included. That’s because with lots of help from my husband, a lot of exercise (one of my therapies) and medication, I’m able to keep my depression and breakdowns private.
Timmins says she survived college because she discovered in journalism classes that her reporter’s notebook “could be my shield against a world that distressed me” and that “the notebook allows me to be a version of myself that I like better.”
That’s why despite my mental illness, I’ve been able to take on difficult, challenging and stressful stories at the Monitor, from the Catholic Church abuse scandal to a death penalty trial, to reporting during the reign of former House speaker Bill O’Brien, who didn’t hide his disdain for my reporting or my paper.
UPDATE: I asked Timmins a few questions earlier this afternoon.
What are you hearing about your story?
The response has surprised and overwhelmed me. I would never ever have expected to hear from so many people. I’ve gotten over 100 emails from different parts of the country and an equal number of comments from Twitter and Facebook. We’ve gotten nearly 9,500 hits on our website since Sunday. This does not typically happen for us at the Monitor. All the feedback has been supportive, even from our online commentators, who tend to be critical. Many people, most of whom I don’t know, wrote to say they have struggled with the same experience. I would never have imagined my piece would resonate with so many folks.
How long have you been thinking about telling your story?
I told part of this story in 2010, when I was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. On Monday nights, the fellows had to give a “sounding” during which we talked about our career. It was a small, protective audience I knew well, and I explained how journalism had helped me overcome moments of incredible self-doubt, fear and depression. I also talked about my hospitalization, which was still fresh then. At the end of my presentation, a reporter from the BBC asked if I had considered writing this story. The thought had never occurred to me, mostly because I’m uncomfortable with person attention.
I didn’t consider writing this story until about two months ago, when a colleague and I began planning our In Crisis series about New Hampshire’s failing mental health system. I had initially planned to make this story one of the four stories in the series. But after a few weeks of reporting, I changed my mind because I really thought I would find “real people” who would be able to tell this story better than I could. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find anyone willing to be so public about their success in hiding their illness.
Still, I didn’t think about writing my story until we began getting feedback from readers of our series who were surprised that an estimated 26% of people in NH have a mental illness.
So, I sat down Tuesday of last week and wrote out a draft of the story that appeared on Sunday. I began to think more seriously about publishing it and sent it to my editor and husband for their thoughts. They were both encouraging but I still needed another couple of days to think about it. I finished it on Friday and told my editor she could run it. And yes, I wavered – right up until Sunday morning.