THERE’S A REASON why songs like REM’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ stand the test of time – indeed we all get down sometimes, and it helps us to be reminded that we’re not alone. Even the most successful and perfect amongst us are likely to have ongoing battles with depression and anxiety.
We chose mental illness as a subject for this blog after Amanda Seyfried spoke so candidly about her battles with obsessive-compulsive disorder. In Hollywood, there is still a lot of stigma attached to often misunderstood and seemingly fashionable practices like psychiatric medication. The old cliche is that everyone in LA has a therapist they visit at some point or another. Whether you’d dismiss this as a product of self-conscious narcissism, or an innate reaction to a ruthless, hyper-exploitative environment, it’s worth listening to the strong women on the A-list front lines. To do so is to realise that mental difficulties are commonplace and nobody – that’s right nobody – is perfect.
In an interview with Allure magazine, Seyfried admitted to being dependent on Lexapro, having taken the drug for almost eleven years:
“I’m on the lowest dose,” she said, “And I don’t see the point of getting off of it. Whether it’s placebo or not, I don’t want to risk it.”
The actress then continued to open up, addressing the common misconception that ‘using a tool’ is somehow cheating, as opposed to a cure for an illness. She also expressed her concern that mental illnesses are sometimes dismissed and starved of the status of severity belonging to other diseases. In addition to her OCD, she admitted to suffering from health anxiety and harbouring some unusual mental symptoms, which led her to hospital, where she received an MRI scan.
“I thought I had a tumour in my brain… I had an MRI, and the neurologist referred me to a psychiatrist,” she said.
“Knowing that a lot of my fears are not reality-based really helps.”
Emma Stone is another leading actress known for her witty charm and sunny disposition, which is why it might surprise you to hear that she also admits to suffering from severe panic attacks.
“The first time I had a panic attack,” Stone confessed, in a recent interview, “I was sitting in my friend’s house and I thought the house was burning down. I called my mom and she brought me home, and for the next three years it just wouldn’t stop.”
Beloved author and creator of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling, is one of the most successful writers of all time. Yet even she has felt the bitter emptiness of depression – the lack of feeling – whilst also conveying deep stores of empathy and wonder through her writing.
“It’s difficult to describe depression,” said Rowling, “To someone who’s never been there because it’s not sadness. I know sadness. Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling – that really hollowed-out feeling.”
Jennifer Lawrence is another Hollywood powerhouse – the highest paid actress in the world – who has often battled with anxiety in her journey to the top.
“I just try to acknowledge that the scrutiny is stressful,” said Lawrence, cutting a cool, confident figure, “And that anyone would find it stressful. So I’ve got to try to let it go, try to be myself, and focus on important things.”
Beyoncé is known for her fearless performances and unshakable character. It’s interesting to hear how she’s battled doubt in the past and striven to overcome the slings and arrows of fame:
“Now that I was famous,” said Beyoncé, “I was afraid I would never find somebody again to love me for me. I was afraid of making new friends. Then one day my mom said: ‘Why do you think a person wouldn’t love you? Don’t you know how smart and sweet and beautiful you are?’ That’s when I decided I only have two choices: I can give up, or I can go on.”
Finally, we’ve come to the last star we’re going to mention, which is the grounded, beautiful and powerful singer, Adele. Of course, we wouldn’t have gotten to this point if she too hadn’t suffered from similar bouts of depression.
“I have anxiety attacks,” she said, “Constant panicking on stage. My heart feels like it’s going to explode because I never feel like I’m going to deliver, ever.”
We hope that this serves as clarification that the human experience is a shared one, rather than a gratuitous list of stars who suffer. Perhaps we can end with one final quote – this one is by the great American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald:
“That is part of the beauty of all [art]. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”