25 Famous Women Talk Anxiety + Depression Management
While we've made progress in society when it comes to talking about anxiety and depression, it can still feel like you've unleashed a pretty big elephant in the room when you bring it up in social settings. There is a stigma attached to mental-health issues, and because of that, countless individuals suffer in silence. Personally, I've found that going public and choosing to speak candidly about these topics is often the first step toward healing.
Anxiety was something I never understood until a few years ago. While I wanted to have empathy for those in my life who were struggling, it was really hard to relate because I had no personal experience with the feelings and emotions they were battling on an ongoing basis. It wasn't until I started personally struggling with anxiety, due to losing a friend to suicide and ending a long-term relationship (at what felt like the same time), that I realized how crippling it can be.
One thing I've learned is that anxiety and depression don't discriminate - we are all vulnerable - regardless of who we are, what we do, where we come, how much money we make or any other variable. The hope in this is that you aren't alone in any feelings you may be experience now or have in the past. These feelings and symptoms are so much more common than you think. By speaking out and sharing our stories, those who have been struggling in silence can feel less alone and ultimately seek help.
I've rounded up wise words and advice from famous women who have lived through dark moments and aren’t afraid to talk about it. Read on to hear from Anna Wintour, Miley, Cyrus, Kristen Bell, J.K. Rowling, Kerry Washington, and others on the ways they’ve managed their illnesses, the messages they would give their struggling younger selves, and the necessity of breaking down the silence that surrounds anxiety and depression.
“I think mental health is an area where people are embarrassed … They don’t want to talk about it because somehow they feel they’re a failure as a parent or, you know, they’re embarrassed for their child or they want to protect their child, lots of very good reasons, but mental health I feel is something that you have to talk about. That time from 15 to 16 to your mid- to late 20s — you look grown-up, people think you’re grown-up, but you’re still a kid.” —New York Magazine, May 2015
“I’ve basically been an anxious person all my life. I have suffered from anxiety, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I’ve dealt with depression. I’ve been dealing with it for a very long time, for most of my life. I was an anxious kid and I’m still kind of an anxious adult. I wish somebody had told me that it’s okay to be anxious, that you don’t have to fight it. That, in fact, fighting it is the thing that makes it worse. That pushing it away is really what it is — it’s the fear of fear. And that, you know, it’s okay to be depressed. And also … that it’s not a romantic thing. You don’t have to be depressed. You don’t have to suffer with it. You can get help. You can reach out. Also, sort of on the flip side of that, being anxious and fighting that anxiety is actually just going to make it worse. I wish that I had fought my depression and not fought my anxiety as much. When you face anxiety, when you realize what it is, when you understand that it’s just this false alarm in your body, then you can work with it. Then you can overcome it.” —Project UROK, April 2015
“For me, depression was like a Gremlin sitting here [on my shoulder] like the creature from a low-budget horror movie. I’m fine now. We’ll see when I get back. ‘You thought it was all right. Not so fast, mate!’” —The Telegraph, May 2013
“I think I had tendencies toward depression from quite young. It became really acute when I was sort of twenty-five to twenty-eight was a dark time. It’s that absence of feeling — and it’s even the absence of hope that you can feel better. And it’s so difficult to describe to someone who’s never been there because it’s not sadness. Sadness is — I know sadness — sadness is not a bad thing. You know? To cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling — that really hollowed-out feeling. That’s what the Dementors are. And it was because of my daughter that I went and got help.” —The Oprah Winfrey Show, October 2010
“I myself cried when I got angry, then became unable to explain why I was angry in the first place. Later I would discover this was endemic among female human beings. Anger is supposed to be ‘unfeminine’ so we suppress it — until it overflows. I could see that not speaking up made my mother feel worse. This was my first hint of the truism that depression is anger turned inward; thus women are twice as likely to be depressed.” —My Life on the Road, October 2015
“I would say depression is one of those things that sublets space in your head, so no matter how far away you get away from it, it exists as a somewhat permanent houseguest. So while it can significantly impede my productivity and mood, it also very much contributes to my point-of-view and sense of humor. … One of the unexpected positives of depression for a lifelong perfectionist is you worry less about failure, in that showing up or engaging, regardless of quality, can be an accomplishment in and of itself.” —Splitsider, March 2016
“What do I say to you girls — you beautiful girls? You girls who are having the Bad Year — the Bad Year where you cannot remember why you were happy aged 12, and cannot imagine being happy at 21? … That panic and anxiety will lie to you — they are gonzo, malign commentators on the events of your life. Their counsel is wrong. You are as high, wired and badly advised by adrenaline as you would be by cocaine. Panic and anxiety are mad, drugged fools. Do not listen to their grinding-toothed, sweaty bullshit … And the most important thing? To know that you were not born like this. You were not born scared and self-loathing and overwhelmed. Things have been done — which means things can be undone. It is hard work. But you are not scared of hard work, compared with everything else you have dealt with.” —Stylist UK, March 2016
“Whatever it is that causes it, I think it’s just always going to be there. Part of it is having had a suicidal mother and maybe the things that have happened in my life … Like a lot of people, I had a resistance [to taking antidepressants], thinking that emotional or mental problems are things that you can deal with other than through medication. I also didn’t want anything to affect me mentally. But what a difference! And I thought, ‘Boy, what a different childhood I might have had had my mother taken antidepressants.’” —Time, March 2001
“I was unwell with post-natal depression, which no one ever discusses … and that in itself was a bit of a difficult time. You’d wake up in the morning feeling you didn’t want to get out of bed, you felt misunderstood, and just very, very low in yourself … Maybe I was the first person ever to be in this family who ever had depression or was ever openly tearful. And obviously that was daunting, because if you’ve never seen it before how do you support it? … It gave everybody a wonderful new label — Diana’s unstable and Diana’s mentally unbalanced. And unfortunately that seems to have stuck on and off over the years.
“When no one listens to you, or you feel no one’s listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen. For instance you have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it’s the wrong help you’re asking for. People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you’re in the media all the time you’ve got enough attention, inverted commas. But I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, princess of Wales. So yes, I did inflict upon myself. I didn’t like myself, I was ashamed because I couldn’t cope with the pressures.” —BBC1 Panorama Interview, 1995
“When I was 18, [my mom] said, ‘If you start to feel like you are twisting things around you, and you start to feel like there is no sunlight around you, and you are paralyzed with fear, this is what it is and here’s how you can help yourself.’ And I’ve always had a really open and honest dialogue about that, especially with my mom, which I’m so grateful for. Because you have to be able to cope with it. I mean, I present that very cheery bubbly person, but I also do a lot of work, I do a lot of introspective work and I check in with myself when I need to exercise and I got on a prescription when I was really young to help with my anxiety and depression and I still take it today. And I have no shame in that because my mom had said if you start to feel this way, talk to your doctor, talk to a psychologist and see how you want to help yourself. And if you do decide to go on a prescription to help yourself, understand that the world wants to shame you for that, but in the medical community, you would never deny a diabetic his insulin. Ever. But for some reason, when someone needs a serotonin inhibitor, they’re immediately crazy or something. And I don’t know, it’s a very interesting double standard that I often don’t have the ability to talk about but I certainly feel no shame about.” —Off Camera With Sam Jones, April 2016
“When you’re lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realize that you are lost. For the longest time, you can convince yourself that you’ve just wandered off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and it’s time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don’t even know from which direction the sun rises anymore. … I took on my depression like it was the fight of my life, which, of course, it was. … I tried so hard to fight the endless sobbing. I remember asking myself one night, while I was curled up in the same old corner of my same old couch in tears yet again over the same old repetition of sorrowful thoughts, ‘Is there anything about this scene you can change, Liz?’ And all I could think to do was stand up, while still sobbing, and try to balance on one foot in the middle of the living room. Just to prove that — while I couldn’t stop the tears or change my dismal interior dialogue — I was not yet totally out of control: at least I could cry hysterically while balanced on one foot.” —Eat, Pray, Love, February 2006
“Depression is melancholy minus its charms — the animation, the fits.” —Illness As Metaphor, 1978
“[Depression]’s more of an issue than people really want to talk about. Because people don’t know how to talk about being depressed — that it’s totally okay to feel sad. I went through a time where I was really depressed. Like, I locked myself in my room and my dad had to break my door down. It was a lot to do with, like, I had really bad skin, and I felt really bullied because of that. But I never was depressed because of the way someone else made me feel, I just was depressed. And every person can benefit from talking to somebody. I’m the most antimedication person, but some people need medicine, and there was a time where I needed some too. So many people look at [my depression] as me being ungrateful, but that is not it — I can’t help it. There’s not much that I’m closed off about, and the universe gave me all that so I could help people feel like they don’t have to be something they’re not or feel like they have to fake happy. There’s nothing worse than being fake happy.” —Elle, April 2014
“That’s the thing I want to make clear about depression: It’s got nothing at all to do with life. In the course of life, there is sadness and pain and sorrow, all of which, in their right time and season, are normal — unpleasant, but normal. Depression is an altogether different zone because it involves a complete absence: absence of affect, absence of feeling, absence of response, absence of interest. The pain you feel in the course of a major clinical depression is an attempt on nature’s part (nature, after all, abhors a vacuum) to fill up the empty space. But for all intents and purposes, the deeply depressed are just the walking, waking dead.” —Prozac Nation, 1994
“I feel like there’s this glamour, when you look at like a Tennessee Williams play, where the woman who has a psychological illness is in a fur, laid out on a chaise. Whereas in reality, a woman with mental illness or a woman struggling with her psychological wellbeing is often in sweats and in a T-shirt that used to belong to her dad and is covered in food bits. … I’ve always been anxious, but I haven’t been the kind of anxious that makes you run ten miles a day and make a lot of calls on your Blackberry. I’m the kind of anxious that makes you be like, ‘I’m not going to be able to come out tonight, tomorrow night or maybe for the next 67 nights.’” —Refinery29’s RIOT series, May 2016
“I first experienced depression when I was 13. I was walking off a bus from a school camping trip. The trip had been miserable: I was, sadly, a bed wetter, and I had Pampers hidden in my sleeping bag — a gigantic and shameful secret to carry. … You know how you can be fine one moment, and the next it’s, ‘Oh my God, I f—king have the flu!’? It was like that. Only this flu lasted for three years. My whole perspective changed. I went from being the class clown to not being able to see life in that casual way anymore. I couldn’t deal with being with my friends, I didn’t go to school for months, and I started having panic attacks. People use ‘panic attack’ very casually out here in Los Angeles, but I don’t think most of them really know what it is. Every breath is labored. You are dying. You are going to die. It’s terrifying. And then when the attack is over, the depression is still there. Once, my stepdad asked me, ‘What does it feel like?’ And I said, ‘It feels like I’m desperately homesick, but I’m home.’” —Glamour, October 2015
On seeing a therapist
“I say that publicly because I think it’s really important to take the stigma away from mental health. … My brain and my heart are really important to me. I don’t know why I wouldn’t seek help to have those things be as healthy as my teeth. I go to the dentist. So why wouldn’t I go to a shrink?” —Glamour, April 2015
“Between ages 15 and 20, it was really intense. I was constantly anxious. I was kind of a control freak. If I didn’t know how something was going to turn out, I would make myself ill, or just be locked up or inhibited in a way that was really debilitating … At one point, you just let go and give yourself to your life. I have finally managed that and I get so much more out of life. I’ve lived hard for such a young person, and I’ve done that to myself — but I’ve come out the other end not hardened but strong. I have an ability to persevere that I didn’t have before. It’s like when you fall on your face so hard and the next time, you’re like, Yeah, so? I’ve fallen on my face before.” —Marie Claire, August 2015
“This is something I haven’t been open about, but it’s a huge part of who I am. All of a sudden I was hit with a massive wave of depression and anxiety and self-hatred, where the feelings were so painful that I would slam my head against a tree to try to knock myself out. I never cut, but I’d scratch myself to the point of bleeding. I just wanted to dematerialize and have someone sweep me away … I thought that if I wanted to act, I’d need to finish school, but I got so I couldn’t wake up in the morning. The worst thing was that I knew I was a lucky girl, and the fact that you would rather be dead … you just feel so guilty for those feelings, and it’s this vicious circle. Like, how dare I feel that way? So you just attack yourself some more.” —Vogue, July 2015
“Isolation and loneliness are central causes of depression and despair. Yet they are the outcome of life in a culture where things matter more than people. Materialism creates a world of narcissism in which the focus of life is solely on acquisition and consumption. A culture of narcissism is not a place where love can flourish.” —All About Love: New Visions, January 2001
“Sometimes I feel like it’s a lifelong struggle. I have started to meditate. I exercise, but not at a gym. I get out. I’ve been reading a lot. I’ve been trying to immerse myself in the narratives of other people. I try to not isolate myself as much. It is really hard. People that are sensitive, you just feel too porous sometimes. There’s this inertia that sets in and it’s hard to get out of bed. I think knowing that other people go through it is really reassuring. Some of my most motivated, brilliant friends, when they tell me that they’re sad, it’s like, I’m sad for them, and then I’m relieved for the world. I’m like: ‘See: we all feel like this.’” —Pitchfork, October 2015
“I had a nervous breakdown when I was 17 or 18, when I had to go and work with Marky Mark and Herb Ritts. It didn’t feel like me at all. I felt really bad about straddling this buff guy. I didn’t like it. I couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks. I thought I was going to die. I went to the doctor, and he said, ‘I’ll give you some Valium,’ and Francesca Sorrenti, thank God, said, ‘You’re not taking that.’ It was just anxiety. Nobody takes care of you mentally. There’s a massive pressure to do what you have to do. I was really little, and I was going to work with Steven Meisel. It was just really weird — a stretch limo coming to pick you up from work. I didn’t like it. But it was work, and I had to do it.” —Vanity Fair, October 2012
“There are a lot of different kinds of sadness, but the two broadest categories are the kind that can be beautiful and cathartic and you’re crying and listening to music and it feels kind of good actually, and the kind where it just sucks and you don’t want to get out of bed and you feel completely trapped. And my methods for both are different. For the beautiful one I just try to see it for what it is, and use it to get out a good cry and enjoy an album or whatever, or spoon with a friend. And with the other kind … the good thing is that these days, nothing feels like the end of the world anymore, whereas in the earlier years of high school, and throughout middle school — and elementary school, actually — that stuff was really hard.” —Rookie, January 2014
“If you think you might be suffering from any kind of postpartum mood disorder , or are aware of some preexisting condition in your life that could lead to it, DO NOT WASTE TIME! Get help right away … Don’t be ashamed and don’t disregard what you are feeling. It is better to be proactive. Postpartum depression is extremely treatable, and there are many ways to cope with and get through it. It is important to get educated and talk about how you are feeling. It rarely passes alone or without causing damage … And remember: postpartum depression is beyond your control.” —Down Came the Rain, May 2005
“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.” —Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar, July 2012