Jean Duncan poses for a photo

Depression slowly invaded my life at age 57. I was at the top of my game in my career at the IRS, had 22 years of sobriety under my belt, and retirement was just around the corner. I was diagnosed in November but as early as five months before the diagnosis, I experienced troubling symptoms—weight loss, a churning stomach caused by anxiety, and an inability to manage issues I used to handle effortlessly—that suggested something was wrong.  

My doctor put me on an antidepressant that only increased my anxiety and disrupted my sleep. I white-knuckled it through Christmas, my birthday on December 29th, and New Year’s.   

In January, I decided to check myself into a hospital. I wasn’t sure what help I would find there but I hadn’t found the answers at home. I was placed into an intensive outpatient program that delivered exactly what I needed: education that I had an illness and tools I could use to manage my anxiety and depression.  

There was a flyer posted on the bulletin board about DBSA. Some of the people in my group attended the DBSA meeting and said it was good. I thought, “Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have helped me live with alcoholism, maybe DBSA could help me with depression.”   

I support the self-help philosophy of DBSA, because I have never liked receiving unsolicited advice. Everyone speaking from their own lived experience seemed to be the best way to give and receive support in a peer group. Then I took a Peer Support Specialist training and it made perfect sense. I am the expert on my recovery, just like everyone else in the meeting is the expert on their recovery. I have all the solutions to my problems inside me—I just need help finding them. Peers help me find the answers by asking good questions and offering to share what has helped them.   

I have learned so much in meetings about how to remain well and handle life’s big and small challenges. It’s comforting to know I can attend a meeting whether I’m happy or severely depressed and the group will meet me where I’m at.