former TV personality Gail Porter today spoke of how hearing the harrowing stories of fellow patients in a rehab clinic made her realise how lucky she was.
The Edinburgh-born former Blue Peter presenter has just spent three months in a clinic in South Africa, trying to overcome her problems with depression and alcohol.
And she said the experiences of other people she met there had helped her put her own troubles in perspective.
She said: “I learned about how stupid I am and how selfish I’ve been in the past, thinking about myself more than other people. I realised that I had lost control of my life. My mum died of lung cancer aged 60 and I missed her terribly. And when I lost all my hair due to alopecia, I started asking myself questions like, ‘Did I do something terrible in a past life? Did I do something really awful?’
“Part of the problem was whenever I had white wine, I started crying and crying and in the end everyone got bored with me. Drinking did make my depression worse.
“But everything changed during my three months in South Africa where I was in rehab with drug addicts, people who had been through trauma and people who were also depressed.”
“Their stories were so harrowing, they put my life in perspective and made me realise how lucky I am.”
Ms Porter, 41, a former pupil at Portobello High School, first suffered with depression as a teenager and has since been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She said she had felt as if she was going into prison when she entered the rehab clinic.
“My room there, which I shared with two other girls, had bars on the window and for the first month I wasn’t allowed to use my computer, watch TV or talk to any of the men on the programme.
“I was banned from even looking at them, or saying ‘thank you’ if one of them held the door open for me.
“My day started at 6am and then there were chores and breakfast. Then we had lectures and classes and groups all day long. Everyone thought I was a bit odd because I didn’t bond with any of the others. But I didn’t want to get close to anyone in case I got hurt.
“And during trauma counselling, I kept silent. In the end, I was told that if I didn’t open up and talk, I would have to go back to England.
“I did say a little about my feelings, but it was difficult because I’m Scottish and we’re very private.”
She did spend some time writing a children’s story and a novel which she now hopes to get published,
She said she now felt she had regained her confidence
She added: “I can’t thank everyone enough for helping me through this horrible time. I shouldn’t have got myself into such a mess but I came out at the other end, and I’m grateful.”