Corrie star Beverley Callard reveals how her latest bout of depression was brought on by a change in her HRT medication.
Beverley was feeling so low that the very thought of playing extrovert barmaid Liz McDonald in the soap filled her with horror.
“At first no one knew I was struggling,” says Beverley, 59. “I wanted to keep it a secret. “But I was getting worse and worse each day. I was getting ready in my dressing room and I couldn’t take it any more. Liz had to be dressed up for a certain scene – she had to wear a PVC outfit.
“Fear took over and I started to cry. I thought, ‘I’m not confident enough to put this on. I can’t do it’.”
Beverley – who has in the past fought depression and even attempted suicide – reveals how, in the end, she was able to pull herself together and film the scene.
But she says that deep down she knew she was sinking deeper and deeper.
“A few days later, I was behind the bar in the Rovers when depression swamped me like a big blanket,” she says. “I thought, ‘I’m not brave enough to do this today’.
“I was crying and one of the make-up girls said, ‘You’re not well, are you, darling?’ ‘No’, I said. ‘I’m really not’. Bosses then sent me home.”
That was two weeks ago and, today, Beverley, speaks about her torment for the first time in the Mirror, in an interview given to help other sufferers of clinical depression.
The Corrie star – who has played the iconic barmaid in the ITV soap for 27 years – reveals how her latest bout of depression was brought on by a change in her HRT medication.
She tells how she was in such a bad place she couldn’t get out of bed for four days and feared that suicidal thoughts would creep in once again.
But she also reveals how the support of her husband Jon McEwan and the Corrie cast has helped her to get through this latest difficult episode – the first she has suffered in five years.
“Fortunately – or unfortunately for some – I will be in those PVC miniskirts very soon,” she jokes.
'I'll soon be back in Liz's mini skirts,' Beverley promises
“From what I’m told, Liz will be back with a bang. I can’t wait.”
Behind the scenes, Beverley’s long battle with severe depression – which saw her take a break from the soap in 2009 – is well-documented. She tried to kill herself several times and even underwent electric shock treatment.
“There is so much stigma around mental illness, and that’s the reason you have to talk about it,” she says.
“Everything in my life is amazing and wonderful right now and you think, ‘How can this happen to me again? Why?’ I’ve got a wonderful husband, a fantastic family and a great job. I’ve got nothing to moan about whatsoever.
“But once you start to slide into that black hole you can’t ever imagine being well again.”
Beverley, who lives in Salford, Greater Manchester, has been healthy for the last five years thanks to a combination of medication – two HRT drugs and two types of anti-depressant.
But 10 weeks ago she was unable to get a repeat prescription of one of her HRT drugs, Restandol. It was then that her world began to crumble.
“The chemist said they didn’t have it in stock and, initially, I wasn’t worried,” she says.
“But when I’d gone without it for eight weeks, I knew I was sinking. It’s the weirdest feeling to describe.”
On the day she was sent home from filming, she drove straight to her GP.
“I was still in costume, Liz’s false eyelashes were flapping and I had black tears running down my face,” she says.
“I didn’t care who saw me – all I could think was, I can’t slide any further.”
She was signed off from work, but struggled to function. “At my lowest point, I was in bed for four days – no phone calls, no nothing. I didn’t even speak to my children or stepchildren. They were worried sick.
“I hid away under the duvet, crying silently and my thoughts became blacker and blacker.
“I have had terrible suicidal thoughts in the past and you start thinking, ‘Oh my God, I can’t put my husband through all that again’.”
But she says that thankfully she is now on the up.
Beverley is trying a gel substitute for the Restandol.
“The hormonal gel is just a trial because there are risks,” she says. “One is that your hair can fall out.”
But if that happens, she knows she can rely on her Corrie co-workers for support.
“Sue Cleaver (Eileen Grimshaw) is fantastic, she’s a dear, dear friend,” says Beverley. “She’s brilliant and has a knack of saying the right thing.
Anne, who played Deirdre Barlow for 42 years until her death from cancer last year aged 60, was Beverley’s best friend.
Beverley speaking the memorial service for her Corrie co-star and friend Anne Kirkbride
“I miss Annie,” says Beverley. “David has been sending me messages. He’s been a really good friend.”
The soap star also reveals how she gave up smoking seven months ago, saying: “I think maybe I stopped because Annie and I used to sit in the smoking shelter outside work and talk about the meaning of life.
“I smoked a packet a day for 40 years, and I just thought, ‘I’m going to stop’. Liz smokes as well, so now she vapes – she has a bright pink and silver e-cigarette.”
If all goes to plan, she will return to work in May. “The bosses have been fantastic, they’ve told me to take my time,” she says. “They want me well and firing on all cylinders.”
She adds: “I want to say to people like me, ‘You will get better – the only thing is, you’ve got to be strong enough to ask for help.
“The stigma surrounding mental health is not as bad as it used to be, but we have a long way to go – and we’ve got to keep on fighting.
“If I can do it, anyone can.”
Coronation Street, ITV.
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