11/01/2011 01:40 EDT | Updated 01/01/2012 05:12 EST

Bob Rae Opens Up About Battle With Depression And Anxiety, Given Mental-Health Award

OTTAWA - Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae says he was saddled with debilitating anxiety and depression for the better part of a year when he was 24, but he wants other victims of mental illness to know he found a way out of his predicament.

And he says with the right help, they can, too.

Now 63, Rae is being given the Canadian Mental Health Association's Mental Health Public Service Award tonight in Toronto.

In the text of a speech to be delivered by wife Arlene, Rae says there were times he could "scarcely get moving through the day" and he found conversation difficult.

He says he was "paralyzed" by self-doubt and cold sweats, and no reassurances from friends or family could convince him he had much self-worth or hope for the future.

Rae says he took what he calls the "talking cure", and slowly began making decisions which allowed him to get back on his feet.

Those included taking a job at a housing and legal-aid centre, where he was forced to confront his anxiety directly by engaging with other people.

"I can remember helping a distraught mother of two whose life had fallen apart and realizing that I could show normal compassion and help make a difference in someone's life," he says.

He also attended "as many funny movies and shows as I possibly could."

"Even today," he says, "my family are embarrassed by how quickly I am moved to tears, and how much I love to laugh, and laugh so hard I start to cry."

Politics, Rae says, allow him to "help people in practical ways, do the thinking I have to do, and provide whatever leadership and inspiration I can."

"My life is very full. ... I have been a very lucky man."