Depression Hits When You Least Need It

Lee Woodruff discusses how she overcame her battle with situational depression.

ByABC News via GMA logo
February 18, 2009, 2:19 PM

Nov. 1, 2007 — -- When Lee Woodruff's husband, ABC's Bob Woodruff, was seriously injured while working in Iraq, she was overcome with a range of emotions, including a situational depression that made it difficult to provide as much support as she would normally have been able to give.

During Bob's road to recovery, Woodruff faced her own battle to support Bob and their family while dealing with her own health issue.

"When the midnight panic attacks started, I knew I was in uncharted waters. The elephant in the room was that I was too sick to with something called 'situational depression,'" Woodruff said.

She says that much of her recovery involved overcoming the stigma of taking medication to help her through this difficult period.

"Even though it's a common problem, there's still a real fear about being labeled, and about medication," she said on "Good Morning America" today. "That's what we're trying to get out there that this is a problem that you can manage. That you're not alone."

Doctors wrote more than 100 million prescriptions for antidepressants in 2005, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making the choices for patients plentiful.

One of the problems Woodruff faced when considering antidepressants was that there was a lot of conflicting information about the various choices. Friends of hers had heard differing things about the risks and side effects involved with various medications.

"What's the likelihood I'm going to gain 10 pounds? Am I going to lose my sex drive?" she said. "Everyone I've talked to says the first thing to try is talk therapy. Sometimes that's not enough, and that's when you might want to consider a pill. But even then, stick with the therapy. It's a critical part of the process."

Woodruff sat down with sister Nancy McLoughlin and friend Becky Kaplan to talk about situational depression the kind of depression that comes just when you need it least.

McLoughlin suffered depression after her oldest son left for college, and Kaplan faced postpartum depression after the birth of her son.

The following is a transcript of their frank, often difficult discussion about overcoming situational depression. For Woodruff and McLoughlin, recovery included overcoming some of their own misgivings about diagnosing their problems and taking antidepressants.

Woodruff: We have this, sort of, big pillowy dog bed thing in my office. And I would lay on that thing, like a dog, and just be sobbing, and just say, "What is going to happen to our little family?" And I was racing. My mind was 2,000 miles ahead of the day.

McLoughlin: We call that "the dog bed time."

Woodruff: The dog bed was grim. And I had you, Nancy, my sister, saying to me, "You really ought to consider an antidepressant, even for a short period of time." Didn't want to take pills, not a medication person.

McLoughlin: I actually was the big proponent for you to try the antidepressant. And I never expected I would need something for myself. Maybe less than a year later, when Colin went off to college my oldest son went off to college a lot of my friends had said, "Oh, you it's hard when they go away. You cry." This wasn't that. This was really depression. It was new thoughts in my head that hadn't been there before.