Sunday was international women’s day. I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate 6 successful women who have suffered with various mental health issues. We can take hope and inspiration from all these women who have been the voice for many of us, when we have needed it and couldn’t find it ourselves.
Ruby Wax – actress and comedienne
Ruby has been on and behind our TV screens since the 80s. Even though she’s American she has also been a part staple part of British comedy since then too. She had her own chat show in the 90s, was in in Absolutely Fabulous, The Comic Strip Presents, and (my personal favourite) Shock Treatment, among many other TV and radio work.
Ruby has had depression for most of her life. It’s something she has been through numerous therapies and medications for. In 2010 she decided to take a hold of it once and for all. Ruby did a stand up tour focusing on her experiences with clinical depression and in 2013 she gained a masters degree in mindfulness based cognitive behavioural therapy.
In 2015 Ruby received an OBE for her services in mental health and by today’s date has published 3 books on mental health self help.
By her own admission she knows it’s not cured and it can come back, but these techniques and studying has helped her tremendously. Her 2nd published book A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled, I found extremely helpful as well.
Note: there are no affiliated links in this post, but having borrowed ‘Frazzled’ from the library, I bought it for my friend, lent it to another friend and bought it for myself.
She is still a huge voice in the mental health community telling ‘Time to Change’ that “We need to take the stigma out of mental illness. People shouldn’t be ashamed of it”.
You can read (or watch) her interview with Time to Change on their website.
Lady Gaga – singer / song writer
I’m pretty sure Lady Gaga needs no introduction to who she is, even if you’re not a fan of her music (like myself), you can’t deny her the success she has made for herself and what she has overcome to get to where she is.
In 2014 Lady Gaga said when she was 19 she was raped multiple times and now suffers with PTSD, in part because of this incident and has attended therapy because of it.
In an interview with Oprah she said “I invented Lady Gaga. And it made me feel strong, it made me feel powerful. I’ve suffered from depression since I was a little girl, but oh my goodness, the superhero that flew out of me, it was like Clark Kent and Superman—it gave me wings to fly. And that’s also why I refused to change”.
Lady Gaga has inspired many people with her music and individuality and now with her mental health advocacy.
She is showing everyone that it is okay to ask for and seek help and no matter what you’ve gone through you can be a success still.
This is backed up in the Oprah interview when she says:
“I have PTSD. I have chronic pain. Neuropathic pain trauma response is a weekly part of my life. I’m on medication; I have several doctors. This is how I survive. But you know what, Oprah? I kept going, and that kid out there or even that adult out there who’s been through so much, I want them to know that they can keep going, and they can survive, and they can win their Oscar. I would also beckon to anyone to try, when they feel ready, to ask for help. And I would beckon to others that if they see someone suffering, to approach them and say, “Hey, I see you. I see that you’re suffering, and I’m here. Tell me your story.”“
P!nk – Singer / Song writer
There are many songs of P!nk’s you can hear that she has experienced a lot in her life “Family Portrait”, “So what?”, “Don’t let me get me” and “Beautiful Trauma” for example.
P!nk is someone who is open about her mental health experiences and therapy she has tried.
In an interview with Carson Daly in 2019 P!nk said she has anxiety and depression and had been in couples therapy with her husband for the whole of their 17 year relationship.
In the interview P!nk says that by talking about mental health she hopes that “the taboo of it is all going away because more and more people are talking about it”.
You may not think that the woman who gives off such a strong, independent, ‘not give a f**k’ attitude would have such vulnerabilities, but she has spoken about her depression and anxiety and how she overthinks everything. She surrounds her self with her family, love and positivity and also attends therapy.
Let’s not also forget her song writing, which is another form of therapy. She states in the interview “Writing songs for me, I’ve exorcised so many demons from just putting it to paper”.
P!nk’s latest album shows no signs of holding back on her life experiences calling it “Hurts 2B human” and as a life long fan of her music, I am very much enjoying my first listen through of it on Spotify.
Hayden Panettiere – Actress
Hayden struck big fame in the successful TV series Heroes (which I loved). 4 years after it ended she was settling down with a family and expecting her first child, born in 2014. Shortly after, Hayden confirmed that she had postpartum depression.
Hayden sought recovery in privacy and professional help. In a 2015 interview on US Chat show ‘Live with Kelly and Michael’ she said:
“It’s something that needs to be talked about. Women need to know that they’re not alone, and that it does heal” and also “It doesn’t make you a bad person, doesn’t make you a bad mother. It makes you a very strong, resilient woman. You’ve just got to let it make you stronger.”
Hayden had another child a couple of years later and again the Postpartum depression returned. In a public statement on Twitter, she said it had impacted every aspect of her life and was going to take some time off for herself and recovery.
Around the same time, Hayden’s character Juliette Barnes in Season 4 of Nashville also was dealing with postpartum depression.
Not much has been said in the media of recent years about her mental health, but I can only hope that the time she took helped her.
She is also a strong animal and ocean activist and has taken part in numerous campaigns to stop whale and shark fishing around the world.
Carrie Fisher – Actress
Carrie was an inspiration for many for her strong female lead role as Princess/General Leia in the Star Wars films.
The inspiration didn’t stop there though. Her stand for talking about mental health and squashing the stigma was loud and proud.
She was diagnosed with Bipolar in her mid 20s, but it took a few years to come to terms with and accept it. In fact, it took a number of years of drug abuse and a near fatal overdose resulting in rehab for her to be ready to accept it.
Carrie told ‘Vanity Fair’ in 2009 “If you claim something, you can own it. But if you have it as a shameful secret, you’re fucked”.
It has long been known that Carrie had Bipolar, she had been very open about it and did numerous interviews discussing it.
In her book Wishful Drinking, she says how she even went through Electrconvulsive Therapy (ECT) saying “Some of my memories will never return. They are lost – along with the crippling feeling of defeat and hopelessness. Not a tremendous price to pay”.
Carrie was a strong mental health advocate and also had an emotional support pet, a dog called Gary, which went with her everywhere. He was even by her side at her photo shoot when I met her in LFCC in 2014.
I found a quote from an I terviee Carrie did with Diane Sawyer back in 2000 and I love it
“I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.”
Simone Biles – Olympic Gymnast
Simone Biles’ name may not ring any bells unless you are in to you Olympics sports, but she has many incredible achievements.
At 22 years old she has 30 Olympic and World Championship medals, is the world’s third most decorated gymnast and is a gymnast with the most World medals and most World gold medals. She is the female gymnast with the most World all-around titles and is the sixth woman to win an individual all-around title at both the World Championships and the Olympics.
Simone has spoken in 2019 about her experience of being sexually abused by a Michigan state doctor Larry Nassar and her depression.
In a Youtube interview with Priyanka Chopra, Simone said of the time she was being abused “I was very depressed, I never left my room, I was sleeping all the time. I told one of my lawyers, ‘I sleep all the time because it’s the closest thing to death.”
Simone still attends therapy to work on this and surrounds herself with a positive support network. In the above mentioned interview, she also says “I feel like I’m a stronger woman today, and I feel like telling my story has helped younger girls”.
Simone designed and wore a teal leotard at the 2018 US National Championships that was to honour the survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse. Teal is used to raise awareness for sexual abuse.
To all women:
These 6 examples of successful women are inspirational in the telling of their stories and experiences through the art that they know so well. They are being a voice for so many other people so we can relate, we can understand we are not alone and we can have hope that there is a chance that we can be as successful as we want to be.
Having any mental illness does not make us weak, they do not make us unworthy, pathetic or unlovable. They are a constant reminder that we are stronger than we know, we have overcome so much already and we can overcome so much more.
As per my original introduction blog, this is something I have struggled with accepting within myself – but I am trying, just a like everyone else.
We can use our mental illnesses to make us successful women, use the negative experiences to build ourselves up for next time, use our art platforms to share with others, to let more people know they are not alone.
As women, we have conquered so much other adversity in our lives, with gender, wage, sexual orientation or race inequality, let’s not make our journey and worth any less because of our mental health.
Stay strong women of the world, be kind to each other, and be kind to yourself.
Love, Ray X
Image disclaimers: – I have taken all images from Google, please let me know if the images are yours and I’ll credit them immediately.