“I hear the comments,” said KGBX Morning Host Liz Delany. “You know, 'She’s a little crazy. Oop, don’t make her mad, she’s on medication.' Or, 'Sometimes she’s a little imbalanced, she might be having one of those days.' I guess if I was a 'normal' person, if you will, I might say something like that,” Delany said.
On this edition of “Let’s Talk About It! Normalizing Mental Health Conversations,” from the ongoing series Making a Difference, we bring you a candid conversation with Liz Delany, who is eager to share her story as a person with Persistent Depressive Disorder.
“I remember coming home from school and literally falling on the floor, just crying,” said Delany. “I was a good student, a straight-A student. I was athletic and had a lot of friends. Frankly, I had no good reason to be crying on the floor every day when I came home from school,” she said.
“Even now, it sort of brings tears to my eyes, because I thought that was normal,” said Delany. “I thought every girl went home and cried, or worried about school, and couldn’t sleep at night. So I didn’t tell anybody about it. I didn’t talk about it,” she said.
In the early 1990’s when she worked for a Columbia, Missouri radio station, a chance encounter led Liz Delany to make a connection which would for her, be life changing.
“I made a friend who worked for a mental health hospital,” Said Delany. “You know, people are put into your lives at the weirdest times for the best reasons. And I started talking to her about my experiences growing up. She asked if I’d ever seen anyone about getting medicated. I was quick to say I don’t need medication; that everything was fine: I’m happy and I’m good,” said Delany.
But after a month of thinking about it, Delany called her friend and asked for the name of a doctor.
“My whole world changed when I began to be medicated,” said Delany. “But you know what? I couldn’t tell anybody, because I was still ashamed. I was still embarrassed. I still felt weak, and lesser than anyone else. Inside I had these chemical imbalances and struggling with thoughts and feelings, and they were awful thoughts, I’m going to be honest with you,” she said.
“This is hard to admit,” said Delany. “You think about…quieting your baby…and those thoughts are so frightening and so strong," she said.
Fortunately, her negative thoughts scared her enough to go pick up the phone and seek help.
In 1995, Liz Delany and her four-year-old son moved to Springfield, Missouri, where Delany would continue her radio career, and her regimen of mental health medication and counseling.
But the stigma of mental illness kept her from sharing her situation—even with family and friends—for 22 years.
“Again, it was me doing the old 'Fake It Till You Make It' routine. And I finally got to a point where I felt good, and I couldn’t tell anyone. It was awful,” said Delany.
“And the truth of the matter is, I didn’t come out until a few years ago. My best friend, my mother, my father, no one knew I was being medicated and treated for clinical depression,” she said.
Liz Delany’s family history was just one factor in her decision to go public with her depression.
“I’m adopted, and one of the first things I learned was my biological mother suffers from clinical depression,” says Delany.
“And I tell you, that was a huge relief to know it wasn’t something I did, that I didn’t cause it, that I was born with it. Just like some people are born with blue eyes, I was born with clinical depression, and this gene that can be triggered,” said Delany.
“And that’s another thing I want people to know: you didn’t do anything wrong,” said Delany. “It’s part of you, like diabetes or liver disease. It just happens. It’s part of your DNA,” she said.
Liz Delany’s local celebrity status has helped her help others find pathways to better mental health.
“You know, I’m fairly well known in the Springfield area, and have been on the air for 20-plus years,” Delany said. “I feel like I have shared a lot about my personal life over those years. I also feel a great responsibility to share my experiences, because I think they can be helpful and healing."
She first opened up about her depression after actor Robin Williams died by suicide.
“And the reason I feel so connected with him is we share the same birthday. And I recognized his signs. That’s when I finally came out," Delany said.
And when she did, she was inundated with emails, text messages and Facebook posts of people thanking her for telling her story.
Now, in a moment of reflection, Liz Delany is encouraging and reassuring to those who, like her, struggle with depression.
“So here I sit at almost 55 years old, and I’ve been through a lot of experiences. And going through my mental health issues, man has that been a great lesson,” said Delany.
“Not only did I learn about myself, but others. I learned a lot more empathy, for crying out loud. Now I’m living such a good life. I know that where I am, is where I should be. I know what I’m doing is what I should be doing,” Delany said.
“I go through depressing days just like everyone else,” said Delany. “And yes, the truth of the matter is some of mine get a lot darker than the average person. But as I have gotten older and practiced, practiced, practiced on how to deal with it, it gets so much easier."
“You’re not going to struggle so fiercely your whole life. You’re going to figure it out, if you keep on working. Don’t give up. You can live a good life if you’re medically treated. You can live like you’re supposed to be living. You don’t have to live in a dark spot as I did for so many years, but I feel so free now,” said Delany.
“I’m not ashamed anymore to tell anybody what I went through,”said Delany. “I’m not ashamed to tell anybody that, yes, I suffer from a mental illness, but I’m medicated, just like a diabetic is medicated, and we manage,” she said.
Liz Delany keeps well connected with area mental health services in her volunteer work with NAMI of Southwest Missouri—the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness—where she serves on the board.
“It thrills me now at this phase of my life to be able to come out on the other side, and reach in to grab those folks who haven’t made it through yet,” said Delany. “I want somebody out there to hear me today: Don’t give up. Just tell one person, and NAMI is a great place to start. We have a Warm Line that is up and running 24/7, and they can connect you with folks who know a lot more than me,” said Liz Delany.
You can reach the Warm Line at 417-864-3676 or toll free at 1-877-535-4357.
For more information on mental health services available in the area,