Kathy Burke health: ‘I was in a really bad place’ – the star’s mental health struggle

Kathy Burke fumes at 'elite' government's single mum allowance

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The 57-year-old suffered horrifically with a number of illnesses. One of these was Clostridium difficile – a bacteria that can infect the bowel and cause diarrhea. She contracted the bug following an operation and as a result she said she had “three near-death experiences.”

Whilst having an operation to help an undisclosed stomach problem the surgery left her susceptible to a number of other things.

She added: “To be fair to the NHS, I did catch the bug because something else was seriously wrong with me that nobody knew about. My adrenal glands were packing in.

“Once they opened me up and operated on me, I was susceptible to lots of other things.”

As a result she was forced to take nearly a year off work as her energy levels were rock bottom.

Despite getting over these initial challenges Kathy was not out of the woods as her mental health really began to decline.

She continued saying: “After I got really sick, the toughest thing to deal with was what it did to my mental health.”

When her career was taking off, Kathy also struggled with her mental health, stating that when her fame increased the less control she felt she had.

Talking to The Guardian she said: “I remember that period in my life so strongly because I was in a really bad place.”

The star recounts this experience as a “breakdown” and in 2007 she was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy – a condition that causes temporary facial paralysis.

In amongst what seemed like endless health conditions, Kathy created comedy series Honest Amy which talks about post-traumetic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and having cancer.

Talking about the series Kathy felt like she could connect with the characters as she had been through similar things.

Her main takeaway from both experiences, she says, is that women need to stop criticising one another. “I’m not here to tell people what they should and shouldn’t be doing,” she says. “I’m no Ann Widdecombe. One of the main themes about the documentary is, ‘Let’s just stop having a go at each other. Let’s stop judging each other all the time.’”

Depression and PTSD are both serious mental health conditions and can impact individuals lives massively.

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest whereas PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

The National Institute of Mental Health lists the symptoms of depression as follows:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment.

Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks and may experience feelings of isolation and irritability and guilt.

Any situation that a person finds traumatic can cause PTSD.

These can include:

  • Serious road accidents
  • Violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery
  • Serious health problems
  • Childbirth experiences.

PTSD is estimated to affect about one in every three people who have a traumatic experience, but it’s not clear exactly why some people develop the condition and others do not.

Both mental health conditions can be treated through therapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) are two of the most common.

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