Delta Burke Opens Up About Her Depression

The actress entered a psychiatric hospital in January to get treament.

February 28, 2008, 7:29 AM

Feb. 28, 2008 — -- Actress Delta Burke is one of the nearly 15 million Americans who suffer from depression and last month her pain became so bad it forced her to enter a psychiatric hospital.

The 1974 beauty queen star called her struggle with depression "lifelong" and said even as a teen she had trouble. The former "Designing Women" star has opened up in order to help others and remove the stigma associated with the condition.

During her struggle, Burke's depression occasionally manifested itself as panic attacks that sometimes occurred on set.

"They would come during — at rehearsal. And my whole body would spasm. It would be very physical, very out of control, jerking," Burke said. "Then there would be this sound of someone wailing, animal-like. And I'm thinking, 'What is that?' And then — to realize it was me — and [co-star] Meshach Taylor would be holding me and carry me back to my room."

Burke worried her secret pain would unveil itself in public.

"I was terrified it would happen in front of an audience," she said. But, the cast was supportive.

"Dixie [Carter] would get in the bed and lay beside me and pet me. And they would say how they loved me," Burke said.

Her problems were compounded by the massive tabloid press play she received. As one of the hottest stars on the small tube, who was known for her good looks and shapely figure, Burke began getting even more attention for her increasing waistline. She became a tabloid staple.

"I never thought I was good enough anyway. It took everything in me to play a character that thought she was so hot to start with," Burke said.

Burke became so desperate that at the height of the show's success she went into the hills with a gun and a bottle of Xanax and contemplated suicide.

"I wanted very much to live," Burke said. "I wanted the pain in my soul to stop. I just wanted the pain to stop."

After that incident, Burke was diagnosed with depression and put on antidepressants, which she said saved her life. But Burke said the medication began to lose its effectiveness and she began having depression cycles where she periodically felt sucked down again into a paralyzing sadness. It forced her family to take her to a psychiatric hospital in January.

"I was on five medications," Burke said. "I hadn't gotten out of bed for two weeks. So we knew things weren't working."

Burke said getting the treatment helped her immensely.

"I got a lot more out of it than I expected," Burke said of her treatment. "The medications were working. My frame of mind was in the right place."

"I don't hate myself. I know I have to work on it. I know that I feel very alive."

Her treatment also helped her deal with another problem — hoarding, which she began discussing during her treatment.

"[I] got into the hoarding issue, which I'd always been way too ashamed to get into. But thought, 'I just gotta deal with this,'" Burke said.

Burke hoarded everything from magazines, clothes and even dinner rolls. She had 27 storage areas at one point.

"We are down to 16 now. It has taken years," Burke said. "They're getting better. The stacks are getting better. There's not as many stacks. We've worked on it. But there would be little pathways."

Burke, who sees her hoarding as a separate issue from her depression, plans to have a sale to get rid of all the items she's collected.

"There's a lot of things I'm going to get rid of now. I'm going to have a bang-up sale, a hoarder's sale — celebrity hoarder's sale. Yeah, that'll be good. A lot of people would come and then — you know, probably an eBay sale, too."

During her most difficult of times, Burke said husband Gerald McRaney has supported her.

"We're both kind of weird. So it works out OK," Burke said. "Sure he gets weary because I'm never dull. But, he loves me so much and I never expected to be so loved."

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