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Famous people and depression

There’s been a lot of press lately about celebrities (mostly men) and their sex addictions.  Psych Central discussed it in an article here: http://blogs.psychcentral.com/celebrity/2010/06/new-research-sheds-light-on-sex-addiction/.  These kinds of articles always make me think about my own struggles and how I would hate to have them blasted all over the TV and other media. 

As I come to terms with my memory loss and cognitive decline I have been reluctant to admit that I “suffer” from depression.  Memory loss is often mistaken for dementia but in my case was called pseudodementia, which means false dementia.  Despite the negative connotation of false dementia (as if I’m faking) all it really means is that the memory loss is due to depression. And mimics the symptoms of dementia. In the beginning I didn’t want to admit that I was “depressed”. Then later, after numerous doctor’s visits I learned that not only was I depressed, but that I had ptsd and anxiety. The three all seem to mesh together nicely to turn me into the quirky person I’ve come to appreciate (I guess I’m not so evolved as to say love).  In a book about Abraham Lincoln by Joshua Wolf Shenk, depression is said to involve “biological predisposition and environmental influences”  (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4976127). I’ve hinted at this theory before and have studied it enough to be true:

Some people are more susceptible to depression simply by virtue of being born. Depression and other mood disorders run in families, not only because of what happens in those families, but because of the genetic material families share. A person who has one parent or sibling with major depression is one and a half to three times more likely than the general population to experience it. (NPR) 

So my growth is a process. During these past few months I’ve done a lot of research about these issues, trying to understand them in depth and trying to figure out how they fit into my life.  I blog about many of these issues because it helps me.  While I’m just a regular person trying to get by, I often wonder what it must be like for a “famous” person to suffer from a mental illness.  Do they have reactions to medications? Have they always known they had an issue? Are they on medication? Which one? Do they like it?  how does it affect their ability to work? Why did they decide to “come out”?  I could go on with questions but you probably get the idea.

My research on celebrities with mental illnesses led me to discover several names that were not surprising. Others were. Probably the most well known famous person was Abraham Lincoln.  Abe suffered from depression and anxiety his whole life.  Shenk’s biography cites multiple family deaths in young Lincoln’s life that could certainly cause someone to develop depression. I was surprised to learn that Mike Wallace, the famous news person, also suffers from depression.  According to Psychology Today (http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199911/celebrity-meltdown?page=2) Wallace doesn’t handle criticism well and has been suffering with depression since the 1980s. He is said to currently be on Zoloft (which is the cocktail that I’m on now).  The famous and often controversial comedienne Roseanne is said to have suffered from multiple personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, and agoraphobia.  She is said to have been on Prozac (which I was on and is what I think began to contribute to my memory issues). I think everyone also knows that Marilyn Monroe tragically suffered from mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder.  There are many many more celebrities who have had or are currently suffering from a mental illness.  The following is a brief list: Amy Tan, Anne Rice, Ashley Judd, Brook Shields & Marie Osmond (post partum depression), Drew Carey, Emma Thompson, Owen Wilson (he is not “out”), Virginia Woolf, Axl Rose, Sting, Carrie Fisher, Ben Stiller, DMX (rapper), Patty Duke, and Phil Specter (music producer).

That’s quite a list, isn’t it? This list is not even comprehensive. And there are so many more.  So my question is, if so many people are suffering from a mental illness and so many who suffer are rich, famous, and often, beautiful, why is there such a stigma attached to mental illness?  I don’t know. For an interesting cross reference you might want to see my blog post “depression is not a gift of the muse” found at http://www.iyampam.com/2010/03/depression-is-not-a-gift-of-the-muse/.

Regarding Queen of Everything

Her highness is still queen of planet blortnick and also a MODEL.

8 comments to Famous people and depression

  • I don’t know why there is such a stigma either. I grew up with a bi-polar parent and suffered from depression, ptsd and social anxiety myself. Even knowing what I knew I still found it hard to talk about when it came to myself.
    It’s hard to admit that you don’t live inside the realm of normal. It’s hard to reconcile the thoughts in your head with what society says they should or shouldn’t be.
    So many people deal with mental health problems everyday. The more people talk about it the more acceptable it will become. hopefully.
    sarah´s last blog post ..100 Things About Me

  • I’ve just recently realized that I go through bouts of depression and it’s got to be hormones. Menopause sucks big time. Plus I’m not that happy living here in PA and the way my life is going. It’s not all the time, but it seems to come and go about every three weeks (I’m keeping a close eye on it).

    It’s nice to know that the celebrities aren’t immune to these illnesses. You always just assume that since they’re celebs, they’re perfect and nothing can touch them. What? So and So suffers from depression? NO! They can’t. They’re a Hollywood star!!

    They’re human, too.

    Great blog Pam!
    Irene (Reener)´s last blog post ..Your Necklace Looks Like Garbage!

  • it always seems that writers are a part of that lot. i suppose i found the right profession…

    enjoyed this post especially since it hit close to home!
    ericka @ alabaster cow´s last blog post ..HAPPY 1ST ANNIVERSARY ALABASTER COW!

  • ive talked about this to my 17 yr old before: it seems the creative types are plagued with this issue.

  • i dont know how celebs do it. i couldnt stand to have all my business out there. esp if i’m having a crappy day and everyone knew about it!

  • hi and thanks for visiting! you are right about it being difficult to admit. i’m convinced that almost everyone has some sort of mental health issue, its just undiagnosed.

  • I have suffered from depression for most of my life. I know it contributes to the deterioration of so many other aspects of life. This probably will sound lame, but I tend to think it is kind of like those cartoons where the gray, rainy looming clouds follow a certain character all over, everywhere, even inside and they cannot get rid of it….

    No matter what you do there is that damn cloud! And it makes it hard to concentrate, to remember, to be happy, to not be self critical, to get out of bed, to not snap at others, to do anything because all the time you are getting rained on!

    To me that is what depression feels like. So then, it is not hard to imagine why a lot of other things become so much harder to accomplish. Just my 2 cents.

  • youre right. everything is screened through the depression glasses. but like i told the doc: im depressed cuz i’m sick not the other way around. but either way i guess i’m depressed, huh?