Reluctant writer joyfully shares her journey through depression

WINNIPEG, MB—Dolores Ayotte's eyes sparkle as she relates benefits of retirement, especially that she and her husband Fred live in Winnipeg, close to their daughters. But life has not always been delightful.

Dolores was a primary school teacher in her early 30s when she was blind-sided by a bout of major depression. She hid away, not knowing how or where to find help; dismayed that losing her "teaching voice" ended her career.

Now, she reflects on possible ways of preventing the devastation she endured.

"I think maybe recognizing symptoms, and the severity of the situation; taking yourself seriously when you know you can't cope." Keeping silent can be either helpful or harmful. Recognizing triggers can help. Some people have a genetic pre-disposition to depression.

Dolores healed gradually, but has not forgotten her anguish. She began to think of writing about her experience, keeping notes and inspirational clippings. She felt compelled to share her story, hoping it might help someone else avoid similar pain.

The prospect of writing was daunting. Thanks in part to a daughter's encouragement, a renewed determination to write, and the advantages of using a computer, Dolores' resolve strengthened. Twenty-five years after her first considerations, she put together I'm not perfect and it's OK, followed by her second book, Growing Up and Liking It.

"My need to write far outweighed my literary expertise," she writes in the latter.

Eventually Dolores returned to the workforce, starting a new career in finance. Family joys—the couple has three daughters with growing families—learning to paint, and overcoming her computer illiteracy to create a blog are all part of the growth process God orchestrated. She is adamant, "If I hadn't had faith, I wouldn't have had anything."

Fred's constant support was invaluable. "After all these years, we love each other, we want to be together, and I'm just so grateful for every day."

Since Fred (a chartered accountant) and Dolores retired, they made one major change, joining other Manitoban "snow birds" wintering in Arizona. Spending a lot of time with other retirees, Dolores observes inevitable changes that may contribute to depression in older people. Declining health, diminished abilities, a need to relocate, and the death of a spouse or significant family member may be devastating. Some older people become isolated.

Dolores shares her thoughts in books and blog, "because I care…I am looking for compassion for all those who suffer in silence. I am also seeking for compassion for those who live with a depressed person, and last, but not least, for those who have added to the crippling effect…by their ignorance or their innocence," she writes in I'm not perfect and it's OK.

There is still stigma associated with mental illness and depression. By speaking out, Dolores hopes to encourage more understanding, and to foster the kind of compassion extended to those with cancer or any other debilitating health condition.

She has found the concept of daily visiting the "four rooms (spiritual, mental, emotional and physical) of one's being" helps her maintain balance. "Every day I love to spend time with the One who gave me life and who created me in His image." She stretches herself mentally, reading, doing crosswords, cryptograms and Sudoku puzzles.

And while she enjoys much laughter, she refuses to avoid the tears triggered by sadness. Cycling, line dancing, gardening, and daily walking enhance physical health. Dolores also likes knitting.

She believes, "It's a gift to face that we're growing older" and expresses her aim at the beginning of her second book. "… I want to…enter this final stage of life with as much grace and wisdom as humanly possible."

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About the author


ChristianWeek Columnist

Pat Gerbrandt is a Manitoba writer who delights to learn how God is working in and through His children, and enjoys sharing these accounts. Do you know a senior with an amazing story? Let us know! E-mail krempel@christianweek.org or call 1-800-263-6695.