From the first day of the luxury Caribbean trip with her husband, artist Lincoln Townley, 45, the warning signs were apparent.
“This beautiful resort was everything I wanted in a holiday and I had my wonderful husband with me for two weeks. But I felt unsettled,” she explains.
“I geed myself up but my appetite was fading and I didn’t want to go to dinner, so Lincoln went to the restaurant alone. I’d booked yoga every day for us but I stayed in bed.
“I didn’t want to do anything. Depression is a nothingness, a flatness and when it happens to me, I sense the atmosphere changing.
“I can be having the best time and feel depression coming or be in a stressful situation and feel it coming. It’s there whether my circumstances are good or bad. I can’t do anything to fight it.”
I didn’t want to talk, see anybody or be around anybody. I just wanted to sleep
The former Coronation Street star first experienced depression 29 years ago, a week after the birth of Matt, the elder of her two sons with ex-husband Tim Healy, who starred in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.
She was later diagnosed with being on the verge of postpartum psychosis which affects one in every 1,000 women in the days following childbirth and is characterised by hallucinations and delusional thinking.
Over the years, in a bid to cope with ongoing clinical depression and in addition to taking antidepressants, Denise self-medicated using alcohol and non-prescription drugs.
Becoming sober six years ago, shortly after meeting Lincoln has, she says, made the “biggest difference” in lessening the severity of her depressive episodes.
Hormone replacement therapy, which she began in 2007 after discovering her depression was rooted in a chronic oestrogen deficiency, has also helped.
TV presenter Denise Welch opens up about her worst bout of depression in ten years
On returning home from holiday to the UK she began to experience feelings of anxiety as well.
“It reminded me of the anxiety I used to have. When I was filming Down To Earth with Ricky Tomlinson in the late-Nineties, my anxiety was like an ongoing panic attack.”
She adds: “Imagine that you almost have a car accident. Your heart pounds out of your chest then after you pull over and sit still for 10 minutes, eventually you calm down.
“Anxiety is like that but constant. I used to be on beta-blockers to control it until one day, a decade ago, the anxiety stopped without explanation.”
At the time, Denise believed that her prescribed antidepressant called duloxetine was no longer working so she stopped taking it. But a week later she was so poorly that she was unable to leave her sofa and was “terrified of everything”.
“When my cleaner told me she couldn’t come my heart began racing,” recalls Denise. “I panicked about Louis [her 17-year-old son] needing clothes that weren’t clean.
Denise Welch and her husband Lincoln Townley
“When Lincoln told me he had to go to the studio, I feared he was going to have a car accident and I worried that something was going to happen to my dad. My mind was spiralling out of control and the anxiety got worse and worse.”
At a GP appointment a few days later, Denise was told she was in the middle of a nervous breakdown. “My doctor asked if I wanted to go to hospital but I declined. I knew I had everything I needed at home to get better,” she explains.
On the recommendation of her doctor, she began taking a different antidepressant. “After taking that medication, I was the worst I’ve been in 10 years,” she recalls.
“I didn’t want to talk, see anybody or be around anybody. I just wanted to sleep.”
When it finally lifted two days later, Denise sought help from a nutritionist to find out which foods and supplements might help.
Denise has found different methods to cope with her depression
“I’m aware that I have to fight the fight by at least keeping my physical health up. I now take a daily turmeric tablet which has been shown to help alleviate depression and I was advised to take zinc which is also very good for mental health. I try to have three Brazil nuts and a handful of pumpkin seeds a day.”
When Denise first quit smoking and drinking, she quickly gained 2st after making the wrong food choices. She then lost the weight by following the LighterLife programme and still uses the CBT techniques she learned during her weight loss to eat mindfully and prevent binge eating.
Now a healthy size 12, Denise’s weight loss has had medical benefits too. The osteoarthritis in her left knee has “improved by 90 per cent” and she no longer has symptoms of late onset asthma which started last summer when she was starring in The Wind In The Willows at The London Palladium.
“It was a very physical show and at the end we had to do a dance routine,” says Denise. “Although I’d previously been able to do it and only be a little out of breath, suddenly I was nearly collapsing.”
She has since altered her diet after noticing that her symptoms worsened after consuming white flour, bread and pasta. “I haven’t had to use an inhaler at all this year because I’m eating the right food – lots of fruit and vegetables, a little meat and LighterLife food packs two days a week.
“I still eat fish and chips and pies but I make an informed choice when to have them. I don’t eat them every day of the week or because I’m emotionally down.”
Denise, who is starring in the new Calendar Girls: The Musical, stays fit by walking for an hour a day and, on the advice of her osteopath, practises yoga every morning.
“As an actress I live all over the place so I can’t always depend on a good mattress but what I can do is simple yoga stretching to get my back moving. I don’t drink or smoke, I eat well and do exercise.
“I’m not in charge of my depression, it has a life of its own. What I’m responsible for is managing it as best I can so I try to be as physically healthy as possible to deal with the episodes better.”
The Mother’s Bond by Denise Welch is published by Sphere, priced £7.99.