We may also feel alone in battling the illness and lack support or inspiration from others.
Sometimes this may cause us to give up hope and feel like there’s no end to how low we’re feeling; after all, if there’s nothing we can do and nobody we can turn to for help, there’s no point in trying to get better.
Celebrities Can’t Get Depressed, Can They?
After all, only ordinary people like you can suffer from depression. High-flying celebrities are immune, right?
In recent years, numerous prominent figures from politics, sports and entertainment have ‘spoken out’ about their own battles with depression, bipolar and the stigma surrounding mental illness.
In fact, the pressures and expectations of public life often make dealing with mental illness harder. Denial and the need to fulfill high-profile duties can be compounded by the fear of stigma and intense scrutiny. There may be consequences that come with admitting that something’s not right and seeking help.
We can draw plenty of reassurance and inspiration from these candid accounts of grappling with the black dog in spite of – or sometimes due to – a very public life in the limelight.
We can also learn plenty of lessons from how others have fared in coping and living with depression, bipolar or postpartum depression and apply them to our own situation.
Here’s what three prominent figures from the worlds of sports and politics — interviewed in my book Back From The Brink –can teach you about coping with depression.
A successful tennis star in the 1960s and 1970s with over 500 tournaments under his belt, Cliff Richey was the original “bad boy” of tennis, well before the likes of John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase.
But the decline of his tennis prowess precipitated a slide into depression, though he didn’t realize it at the time.
Richey now shares his story and gives presentations on how to stand up to depression. He calls depression a liar and likens the illness to a schoolyard bully, and teaches others how to stand up to it. For Richey, the gratitude offered by those who attend his presentations is very powerful and fulfilling.
Cliff Richey’s lesson: Get help as soon as you suspect something is wrong.
At the height of his career, Richey realized something was up and toyed with getting help, but didn’t go through with it. Now, he wishes he’d got help when he first had the chance. Even when housebound with depression, he self-medicated, not seeking help until 1996. In his own words:
“I needed help before I got it. I think it has to dawn on you that you do, in fact, have something wrong… I want to encourage people that there is help, that there is reason to hope, and that recovery is possible.”
Before a high-powered role in UK politics as Tony Blair’s chief adviser and communications director, Campbell was a successful but stressed journalist. After a breakdown brought on by overworking, undersleeping and heavy drinking, he became more aware of his own vulnerability and took action to get back on track.
But despite resisting a diagnosis of depression and being in denial, Campbell thrived on a heavy yet fulfilling political role for many years. It was only after stepping back from politics that he crashed and finally got the help he needed.
Alastair Campbell’s lesson: Fulfilling work is one of the crucial foundations for staying well. Campbell now spends a lot of time campaigning to help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness:
“Of all the things I do, it’s probably the one that makes the least money, but it gives me the most satisfaction.”
While his political career divided opinion and he wasn’t always happy doing the work, Campbell was happy that he did the job itself; a driving sense of purpose was important to him.
Greg Montgomery enjoyed a career in the National Football League. But the pressure and demands of professional sports took its toll; doctors later told him that the stress and concussions from the game may have been responsible for the onset of bipolar disorder.
For Montgomery, the highs were high — wild, drug-fueled parties and dropping $50,000 in a single shopping spree.
But the lows were equally extreme, sudden, frightening and intense. Combine bipolar, a stressful career and the effects of trying different treatments, and for a time things were, in Montgomery’s words, “chaos – a year from hell.”
Montgomery has reassessed his direction in life, found the help and support he needs and is now committed to fulfilling work that helps others.
Greg Montgomery’s lesson: Avoid self-medicating with alcohol and drugs, even if you feel like they’re helping.
“[alcohol and drugs] work until they don’t.”
Overvaluing the external things in life and finding pleasure or solace in them will not satisfy us. Instead, Montgomery has learned to “look within in order to find a peace of mind and happiness. It’s always there for us if we stay present.”
The Rules for Dealing with Depression Apply to Everyone
What works for these three men is equally valid for you too. They all go into more detail in ‘Back From The Brink’ as to the other factors which help them cope with and recover from an episode of depression or bipolar and manage the illness. They are:
- Access to experts
- Revitalizing work
Find out how to seek or cultivate these essential components in Back From The Brink.
Graeme Cowan’s book Back From The Brink brings you true stories from well-known and everyday people, and practical help for overcoming depression and bipolar disorder.
Touching, moving and often surprising, the stories in Back From The Brink are living proof that you too can overcome depression, using the tools and resources provided in the book.
Cowan survived the worst depression his psychiatrist had ever treated.