Celebrity Meltdown - famous, important people who have suffered depression
Psychology Today Nov, 1999 by Art Buchwald
History shows that brilliance often goes hand in hand with mental illness. During the last millennium, thousands of our heroes endured ineffective therapies and dodged social stigma by keeping mental maladies--from manic depression to multiple personalities to schizophrenia--out of the public eye. But today's greats are swinging wide the closet door, and feel passionate that we all should too.
I had two depressions, one in 1963 and the other in 1987--the first clinical depression, the second manic depression. One of my major fears during my depression was that I would lose my sense of humor and wind up in advertising. I was hospitalized because I was suicidal, but I wouldn't have followed through anyway because I was afraid I wouldn't make the New York Times obituary page. I was fearful that Gen. De Gaulle would die on the same day, and no one would recognize my passing.
But I still thought about it constantly.
My wife knew I was in this state, and on a visit to my hospital bed, she surreptitiously placed a photograph of my three children on the nightstand. When I saw it, I realized I would be hurting them more than myself.
In the early '90s, I went on Larry King Live with Mike Wallace and Kay Jamison to discuss depression. I wasn't sure I should do it because I didn't want to become a poster boy for mental health. But I did. As it turned out, the show had the most viewer reaction of any Larry King show.
There were more depressed people in America than anyone guessed.
Celebrities can play a role in helping depressed people: When Bill Styron or Mike Wallace admit they struggled with depression, sufferers say, "If they can have one, then I guess so can I." Styron, for one, is a role model for me.
Mike, Bill and I suffered from depression at the same time; the only difference among the three of us being that Mike and I suffered--and Bill made a million dollars.
All kidding aside, the message is simple. You do get over depressions. More important, you are a better person for having had one. I seemed to wipe out many of my skeletons in a short period of time and discard many fears that had bugged me before. You become more sensitive and kind. In my case it was so.
I agreed to write this introduction because talking about depression seems to help me as much as the people I am talking to. I wouldn't want another depression in a million years but I have made peace with the two I have had.
Sigmund Freud is known ubiquitously as a scientist, genius, polemic, revolutionary, doctor and analyst--but not as a patient.
According to numerous biographers, Freud often obsessed about his sex life and money; he wrote 900 love letters to the woman of his affections; he suffered bouts of depression and despair; he frequently seethed with resentment at rivals; and, according to one biographer, he was "overly credulous" when it came to crackpot medical theories.
Freud's demons and quirks sparked his desire to learn more about human motivation and behavior.
Indeed, his early family life, marked by his resentment at having to share his mother's love and attention, led Freud to develop his theories of human development.
Freud has forever altered the world's view of the human mind with his radical concepts such as the Oedipus complex, free association, dream theory, and the division of the mind into the id, ego and superego; everyday lexicon is littered with Freudian terms such as "repressed," "narcissistic," "rationalization" and "projection."
But that doesn't preclude Freud from being susceptible to the same kinds of delusions and problems with which he diagnosed his patients.
Marilyn Monroe, the icon, actress, birthday serenader, model and immortal vixen, couldn't beat chronic depression--and ultimately paid for it with her life. At the end of her short, wild career, Monroe was under the constant care of a psychiatrist, and was prone to mixing prescription drugs with alcohol. While she received acclaim for her work in Some Like It Hot (1959), she became increasingly unreliable, was fired from the last film she worked on and was briefly hospitalized in a mental clinic. Three years later, at the age of 36, she was found dead, apparently having overdosed on barbiturates.
Turner tried lithium for a while to help him fight manic depression, but stopped relying on it before Turner Broadcasting merged with Time Warner in 1995. Turner, now 61, essentially responsible for the birth of cable television, possesses over $2 billion in company holdings, despite--or possibly due to--his illness.
Greg Louganis, the most successful diver in history, has recently gone public with the news that his mental health took its own plunge years ago.
Louganis, the winner of five Olympic medals, first experienced depression at age 12 when a doctor told him that because of knee damage, he would have to give up gymnastics and his dream of competing in the Olympics.
Louganis attempted suicide by downing aspirin and Ex-Lax, trying again twice before the age of 18. While counseling sessions accomplished little, Louganis found that diving--a sport less grueling for the knees--was a satisfying way to express his physical talents.
By 1971 he had qualified for the Junior Olympics. Five years later, at the age of 16, Louganis won a silver medal at the Montreal olympics in the 10-meter platform diving competition. He went on to win gold medals in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games.
But Louganis felt acute insecurities and inner conflicts about being gay. In a crushing blow, he found out in 1987 that he was HIV-positive.
For years, Louganis did not share the news of his illness for fear that it would cost him his diving career. He relied on the income from endorsements and appearances to pay his enormous medical expenses rather than submit the bills to his insurance company.
Louganis has since gone public with his illness, touring the country to give speeches about his life experiences and act as a positive role model.
While on tour to promote her platinum album, Jagged Little Pill, Morissette began to feel helpless. "Schedule-wise, my health and peace of mind weren't a priority," she told reporters. "There had been this dissonance in the midst of all the external success. Because on the one hand, I was expected to be overjoyed by it, and at the same time I was disillusioned by it." To combat her depression, Morissette traveled to India and Cuba, read, competed in triathlons and reconnected with friendships that she had let lapse. Feeling better within a year, she went on to produce a second hit album.
Lionel Aldridge thought winning three Super Bowls was a challenge. But at least he could trust and feel comfortable with his teammates.
A year after retiring as a defensive end for the world champion Green Bay Packers football team in 1973, Aldridge went to work as a sportscaster at WTMJ-TV, where he began to feel suspicious of his co-workers and hear incendiary voices in his head. He checked himself into the hospital, but after a period of drug treatment, felt "zombied out." Aldridge stopped taking the medicine so he could go back to work.
The voices continued, though, telling him he was a terrible husband, that he didn't deserve his job, that strangers were out to destroy him and that people in the TV set could see inside his soul. Soon his wife left him, and, in 1980, he quit his job.
The former sports hero spent the next two years traveling around, staying in homeless shelters. He returned to Milwaukee in 1983, moved into the Rescue Mission and got a menial job at the Milwaukee post office. With a toned-down dose of medication, Aldridge was able to lower the frequency of the voices and function at work.
Aldridge went on to become a board member of the Mental Health Association of Milwaukee County and a full-time speaker for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, traveling around the country to talk about mental health issues. He died of heart failure at the age of 57 in 1998.
Honest Abe kept some things in the closet.
He not only suffered from depression his entire life, but also had frequent anxiety attacks with burning eyes, headaches, indigestion and nausea. He was plagued by nightmares, visions and premonitions of his own death.
While some historians attribute Lincoln's illness to the death of his mother when he was 10, others say his "melancholy" came from a swift kick in the head by a horse when he was a boy.