When a famous actor/actress, politician, or prominent figure of any kind risks ridicule to discuss their mood disorder, the world listens, and for as long as his/her face graces the cover of a glossy magazine or the TV interview runs, folks seem to appreciate the sweat and suffering that those with depression and bipolar disorder endure as part of their illness. I certainly listen to their stories, empathize with them, and take away lessons that I can use in my own recovery from depression and anxiety. Here are just six of those celebrities that inspire me.
1. Rosie O’Donnell
What’s not to love about a celebrity who hangs herself upside down for 15-to-30 minutes a day to jumpstart her neurotransmitters (along with yoga and antidepressants) using inversion therapy? Seeing Rosie demonstrate it on “The View,” reading a teleprompter from a swing, made me laugh out loud at all the ways–some quite creative–we depressives use to treat our mood disorders.
2. Art Buchwald
Art Buchwald was unsure if he should go on Larry King Live in the early ’90s to discuss depression; the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist didn’t want to become a poster boy for mental health. But he did it because the author William Styron had been a role model for him, and because he realized celebrities can play a role in helping depressed people. After that show (which received the most viewer reaction of any Larry King episode ever), Buchwald decided to speak about his depression whenever he received an invitation because it helped him as much as it did the millions of people listening to him.
3. Zach Braff
Actor and director Zach Braff loves it when people tell him that they relate to Andrew Largeman, the depressed character he played in the 2004 movie “Garden State” (which Braff wrote and directed), because in that role, he didn’t have to do much acting. Like his character—an actor confronting his demons when he heads home after his mother dies—Braff doesn’t hide under any celebrity image and isn’t afraid to be himself, he says, even if that self is very emotional and wears sweatpants all day.
4. Marie Osmond
Marie Osmond is one of the most sympathetic entertainers to speak about mental illness. “All I know is that anybody who goes through [depression], I have such incredible empathy,” the actress and singer said on “Larry King Live” in 2003. “I’m telling you that depression is…a very scary, dark place…you see no light.”
5. Brooke Shields
Brooke Shields had just released her book “Down Came the Rain” when I plunged into my most severe depression almost two years ago. My agent sent the book to me as a gift, wrapped in a ribbon. I read the title and wept. I read the back cover and cried some more, feeling as though this actress-model was giving me permission to bawl my eyes out. “Sitting on my bed, I let out a deep, slow, guttural wail,” she writes. “I wasn’t simply emotional or weepy…. This was something quite different. This was sadness of a shockingly different magnitude. It felt as if it would never go away.”
6. Kay Redfield Jamison
As a healer and a patient, Kay Redfield Jamison understands depression and bipolar disorder from every possible angle. Compassionate, wise, and articulate, she speaks from someone who has experienced the sheer terror and heartbreak of a mood disorder first hand and as a knowledgeable clinical psychologist. My two favorite lines about depression come from her classic book, “An Unquiet Mind”: “tumultuousness, if coupled with discipline and a cool mind, is not such a bad sort of thing. That unless one wants to live a stunningly boring life, one ought to be on good terms with one’s darker side and one’s darker energies.”
Published originally on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.