Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Ruby Wax, depression, mindfulness

Anyone see Ruby Wax on depression and mental illness last night?

Not everyone liked it, not everyone likes her style, I guess. 


I am in awe of this woman. She is a fireball, and a deeply compassionate person. Don't let her wonderfully tasteless and non-PC jokes kid you.

The documentary filled me right up more than once. The bit where a glamorous successful young business woman with OCD who must continually clean her hands and avoid contamination (we saw her opening a door at work with her foot) said that she was abused as a child, and Ms Wax said "and ever since you can never get clean enough...." 

The bit where a successful chef stormed out of one of those fatuous, harsh TV talent shows when he got a cruelly low score, and then blamed himself entirely and told us he  had thought of suicide, and went on blaming himself for those thoughts, too....

The bit where a successful designer, with work in the Design Museum, explained to a gathering of friends and colleagues that he had been suffering from depression...

And the bit where, in front of his statue, she reminded us that Churchill, national hero, suffered so badly from depression that he had to be careful, at times, not to stand too close to the track as a train came into the station. 

All very moving, and very heartening, because this woman is on the attack. She won't let us see mental illness as shameful, embarrassing, or different from a "physical" illness, because of course that's what it is, whether it's treated with drugs or talking therapies. It's a physical illness because the brain is a physical entity, all part of the same organism. 

And doubly heartening, because she is into mindfulness meditation - to be specific, MBCT, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. We saw her at the Priory (above) but also at Oxford University, where she studying for an MA in this stuff. And in a session with Prof Mark Williams, one of the leading figures in the development of MBCT in this country (or anywhere else, actually.)

There is someone I know well who is suffering from depression - thankfully not as badly as some of the people on the documentary - and she had the courage and good sense to talk to her friends about it, and seek help, via her excellent GP, so she is in line for some  Cognitive Therapy. There may very well be someone close to you who needs some help, and needs to talk about this illness. Help them out. It's a nasty illness, and it (or its reported incidence) is getting more common. It won't get better if you ignore it. And if you hear someone say "He should just pull himself together," smack 'em one from me. (Er, verbally, of course.) How often do we need to distinguish clinically-diagnosed depression from being temporarily a bit glum and self-indulgent, before it sinks in?

Mindfulness (MBCT) works, for depression. It's as simple as that. 

Ruby, I kiss your shoes.

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