Depression-hit David swaps pills for push-ups — (Northumberland Gazette)

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Northumberland Gazette

Thursday 10 November 2011

A BATTLE against the blues has led a Lesbury man to swap medication for membership of a local gym – with remarkable results, not only for his mental health, but also his weight.

David Hawkins has suffered from serious depression since the age of 18 but now, aged 50, he is getting his life back on track thanks to regular workouts at Village Farm Health Club and Spa in Shilbottle.

And in the process he’s shed an incredible nine stone, which has been a further massive boost to his confidence.

David, of Lealands, said his struggle to cope began towards the end of his teens.

“There was a history of depression in my family and both my father and grandfather suffered from it,” he said. “I don’t know why it happened to me to begin with, perhaps it is a genetic predisposition.

“I then went on to have a career in sales and worked in a very high-pressure environment, which didn’t help matters.

“You were only ever as good as your last sale and in the end I was made redundant. It was devastating.”

Like so many other people fighting depression, David went to his doctor and was prescribed medication.

But while it stabilised his emotions, he found it having an increasingly negative impact on his life as time wore on.

“After many years of taking many different kinds of anti-depressants for mood swings and anxiety, I was finding that the medication was making me feel like a zombie, that my personality was being drained away,” he said.

“My weight had also become a big problem and I had shot up to 23 stone.

“I felt trapped and very isolated. I had been to gyms before, but they felt like factories, way too commercial and not that interested in you as a person.”

In 2009, David first found the inner strength to launch himself into a fitness drive, but he admits he wasn’t able to sustain it at that point in his life.

“I managed to shift a lot of weight over the course of a year, but because of the ongoing depression, I stopped going to the gym and I put six stone of it back on again in just a few months,” he says. “I was desperate, but I knew I had to get back on top of things.

“The staff at Village Farm were a massive help in keeping me motivated, very helpful, incredibly supportive, friendly and caring – the whole place has a lovely, welcoming feel.

“They have also helped me to take a more balanced approach to weight-loss by making small, gradual changes to my lifestyle and so far I have kept the weight off.

“As a consequence, I feel much fitter and more stable. I have a general feeling of health and wellbeing.

“Looking back, it has proved to be a huge turning point for me and very gradually I have been able to stop taking all medication.

“My mood swings are now under control and my anxiety is manageable.”

David’s wife Carol has also noticed a transformation in his well-being.

“This has made a big difference to the way David is,” she said. “We went out for a drink for the first time in ages last week.

“He seems so much happier with himself. I only hope it continues.”

David added: “By going to the gym, the social contact has increased and my confidence and self-esteem has developed. I no longer feel socially isolated and depressed.

“I personally cannot recommend this alternative road to recovery too highly.

“I only hope my experience encourages others to take positive action.

“I’m extremely grateful to the staff at Village Farm and thankful to them all for their motivational support.”