For most of my life I aspired to do just one thing: write and publish my memoir.
I had spent more than 15 years networking among editors and literary agents to make this happen. I invested more than a few hours designing a publicity campaign comprised of the media connections that I had virtually stalked over the years. I tried to climb aboard the speaking circuit.
And yet despite all of my hopes and expectations, a few months after hardcopies hit the bookshelves, I felt the familiar pangs of depression. What was going on?
My writer friends call it PPD — post-publishing depression. The same type of disorder happens to athletes, celebrities, even brides after the big event, be it the Olympics, a film debut, or a wedding. The natural letdown after walking away from the limelight can easily morph into major depression disorder.
Everyday Health’s Madeline Vann just wrote a great piece about the depression that can arrive on the heels of 15 minutes of fame. She mentions the case of Robert O’Donnell, the paramedic who saved young Jessica McClure, who had fallen into a well.
He relished the praise and became so addicted to the attention that when it stopped he became clinically depressed. Nearly eight years after the event he shot himself.
Vann draws from the wisdom of David Giles, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Winchester, in the U.K., and author of Illusions of Immortality: The Psychology of Fame and Celebrity:
“Principally seeking fame is a way of validating the unique self, which is why some people seem to be desperate for fame,” Giles explains. “Obviously, most people seem to be able to validate the unique self in some other way, through peer approval or professional accomplishments, or even just through reproducing and having a network of close friends.”
As Giles suggests, the trick is learning how to validate our unique self in a way that won’t peter out once the curtains are drawn. I think the two options he mentions — peer approval and professional accomplishments — are somewhat dangerous in that professional accomplishments come and go, and we have little control over peer approval.
A New York Times bestselling author can publish a real dud as a sequel. A team of colleagues may reject a professor when he doesn’t make tenure.
What is needed is a perennial source of self-esteem. If we base our worth on the opinions of other people, we will crash with each rejection.
However, if there is some way that we can look into the mirror and convince ourselves that we are good enough, and smart enough, and, well, who cares if people like us, then we will stay strong when our moment of acclaim and popularity and attention is gone.
Originally posted on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.