Depression After the Spotlight


eular.orgFor most of my life I aspired to do 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, a few months after hardcopies hit the bookshelves, I felt the familiar pangs of depression. 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.”

Like 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.

Published originally on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.


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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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5 Responses
  1. Mrs B

    Our daughter-in-law went from the sweetest person over night into Bridezilla instead of the bride. She estranged more than half of her wedding party & broke contact with both families. She created a storm when her twins were born… we called that the baby blues and stayed away. Her parents were not allowed to see her babies. The truth is she can not cope with extreme emotions and goes ballistic into a panic mode internally with very few aware. All her friends are chosen NEW & kept currant, each has a purpose …. that’s when she is at her best with them. What is not needed is discarded with out any emotion. She showing no mercy, ridicules & lied about them. Our son is understanding and sweet. Her parents have passed away broken hearted.

    Is this depression an excuse for bad behavior or does it cause bad behavior?

  2. Riley

    It sounds like your daughter-in-law has some type of personality disorder. (Maybe she is also depressed, but that doesn’t sound like the main problem). People with personality disorders are often manipulative, unpredictable, and explosively angry. It’s common for people with certain personality disorders (e.g., borderline) to run “hot and cold” toward others – treating someone as a close friend one day and an enemy the next. The “bad behavior” you are describing does not sound like it comes from depression at all.

    People with personality disorders do behave badly toward others, but it is hard for them to change. I don’t know whether a personality disorder can or should be considered an “excuse” for treating others badly. I do know that it can be very painful to live with someone who has a personality disorder, especially for children. I hope your grandchildren have other loving and stable sources of support.

    1. Mrs B

      Unfortunately the Grandkids had us once. We love them all very much but now her lies are so baseless & falce. The 10 year olds & have complained to us putting us in an ode position. I have asked them to speak to Dad when they are alone. They have told me they are allowed to meet there best friends because mummy fought with the parents or mummy hates there teachers. Mummy hates there neighbors. She is the type who will falcy accuse her parents had warned us. The kids have been prevented to meet her siblings.

  3. I have noticed this myself often. I think most people don’t realize how depression often sneaks up after a period of accomplishment. Thanks for bringing to everyone’s attention.