San Diego News Anchor Shares Her Story of Recovery from Mental Illness

Carol LeBeau, former San Diego news anchor

Depression and anxiety can happen to anybody at any time and should not be taken lightly. One of the most difficult things about overcoming depression and anxiety can be the stigma associated with these types of mental illness.

Carol LeBeau, former San Diego news anchor, has toured with the Pope, jogged with the president and interviewed Oprah, but one of her greatest accomplishments has been overcoming the stigma associated with mental illness and speaking up about her depression.

She now openly shares her story of overcoming the hardships of depression and anxiety through help from doctors, medicine and supportive family and friends.

LeBeau first began struggling with mental health challenges during her senior year of high school in 1971. “

Since mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety, were hardly ever talked about back then, I tried to keep a lot of it to myself. But my mom, who had suffered from similar symptoms, realized I had a problem and took me to a doctor,” LeBeau said. “Because of the lack of knowledge about mental illnesses at the time, I was not diagnosed with proper therapy and medicine and tried to brush my problems aside.”

LeBeau’s signs of depression returned in the midst of her career at ABC 10News in San Diego. At the time LeBeau’s career was growing fast; she was assigned a high-profile segment on health and fitness and spoke at many community events. She had also recently fallen in love and got married.

“After marrying my husband, my life for the next three years became a blur. On the surface, everything looked great. But, during the summer of ’87 I started feeling sad, anxious and exhausted for no apparent reason,” LeBeau said. “I would cry at the drop of a hat. I had the symptoms that mimicked a heart attack. The heart pounding, throat constricting, hand sweating feeling that you have whenever you are anxious and I felt that way all the time.”

LeBeau then began fearing the stigma of having a mental illness.

“I didn’t even want to tell my husband. I didn’t even want him to know about what happened in high school. I didn’t want anyone to know about that,” LeBeau said. “That was embarrassing. Mental illness is that guy talking to the street lamp downtown. It’s not that nice Carol, who comes from a nice family, who lives on a nice street. You could have anything else, but you couldn’t have a mental problem.”

LeBeau’s depression and anxiety reached a point where she could no longer survive without seeking professional help. She took short-term medical leave from work and took her first step toward recovery by visiting a local psychiatrist.

“Unlike when I was a teenager and nobody knew what to do, this doctor knew exactly what to do,” LeBeau said. “I was diagnosed with a lowgrade chronic depression, prescribed anti-depressant medications and began seeing a counselor.”

After three weeks of taking her new medication, LeBeau returned to work with a new outlook on life.

“I remember walking out of my house, taking a deep breath and realizing how good it smelled outside,” LeBeau said. “The air was fresh. The leaves of the trees looked so green and the sky looked so intensely blue. I was finally getting back my ability to feel again. Especially the ability to feel joy.”

LeBeau credits much of her recovery to the continual support from her husband, boss and coworkers. 

“My prayers were answered through my support system. I had a husband who advocated on my behalf and made sure that I got adequate medical treatment,” LeBeau said. “I also had support from my boss and coworkers who made sure I had as much time as I needed to fully recover.”

LeBeau continues to take medication, which helps her enjoy life to the fullest. After more than 30 years as a TV anchor she retired and is now a spokesperson for Palomar Pomerado Health and an advocate for erasing the stigma of mental illness.

Recovery is possible. If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness such as depression and/or anxiety, please don’t ignore the signs and do seek the help you need.

For more information about local resources visit: www.Up2SD.org