Melody Gutierrez and Carla Marinucci
Updated 10:41 pm, Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sacramento —

Secretary of State Debra Bowen says she is battling severe depression that has left her physically unable to go to work many days as she waits for the darkness to ease.

With just months before she is termed out of her statewide post, Bowen said she wants to put a spotlight on mental illness and the stigma that has so often kept her from publicly speaking about her bouts with depression and the medication that is helping her through it.

“It’s like someone drew a black curtain across the world and the things that normally give me joy don’t touch me,” Bowen said Saturday.

Working from home

As the state’s top elections official, Bowen said she understands that some people may question whether she is fit to continue in her role as the November general election nears. But with an Internet connection and e-mail, she said she is able to work from the rented mobile home in Sacramento where she is living.

She moved out of the home she shares with her husband, Mark Nechodom, while dealing with additional “personal issues” she did not wish to discuss. Bowen first disclosed her illness in a Los Angeles Times story that was posted online late Friday.

“I’ve lived with depression for a long time,” Bowen, 58, told The Chronicle. “It probably started in college. I know a couple people have suggested I step down. I’m perfectly capable of doing my job. I understand the concern.”

Bowen was elected secretary of state in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. Before that, she spent 14 years in the state Legislature, representing the Marina del Rey area of Los Angeles. While a lawmaker, Bowen was open about being a recovering alcoholic. She said Saturday that she has battled other health issues, including an eating disorder. But the debilitating nature of depression was something she had a hard time talking about, she said.

“I chose not to have biological children because I didn’t want to pass along this gene set to another human being,” she said.

Antidepressant medication and counseling have helped her, and with support, she’s working through this current bout, she said.

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