Depression Treatment Makeover: Hemmis Edition



Paige Hemmis is a self-taught carpenter and a member of the design team on ABC’s Emmy Award-winning Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Although you’d never know it from the sunny personality she exhibits on the show, she has been diagnosed with (and treated for) major depression. In April 2009, Hemmis teamed up with Wyeth Pharmaceuticals on the Blueprint for Hope campaign, in the hopes that her story will help others learn more about depression, seek help, and create a “blueprint” for treating the condition.

When you watch the show, it’s hard to believe that at one point in my life I had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. I’m smiley—I have to put on a happy face because my job is improving lives and making other people feel good.

Depression is often seen as a mental issue. For me, the physical effects of the disease were what brought me to the doctor in the first place. I never had any symptoms until 2004, when I began to feel exhausted. I’d put on a happy face, but behind the scenes, my life was in turmoil. After gaining 25 pounds and spending six weeks sleeping no more than two to four hours a night, I finally went to a doctor. But I didn’t think it was depression. I thought something was physically wrong with my body.

It felt like I had mono; everything hurt and I had no energy. I went to the doctor and he asked me questions like “Is it hard to get up in the morning?” and “Are you withdrawing from friends?” The answer was “yes,” of course. When he diagnosed me with depression, I was surprised. He explained to me that you don’t have to be sad or suicidal to suffer from depression. I always assumed that it was a mental thing—if you’re sad, just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and you’ll be fine.

The diagnosis gave me a name for what was going on in my body, but I had to learn to treat it. Just like every blueprint for a house is different, every person diagnosed with depression will have a different “blueprint” for treatment. Both my mother and grandmother were diagnosed with depression. I saw more behavioral symptoms in them, but I knew they were taking medication and they seemed to have it under control.

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