Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Depression Happens to Successful People

Rhonda and dad.jpeg
One of the myths surrounding mental illness is that it escapes successful people … that the poor, weak, and ambition-free folks are the ones waiting for their prescriptions at Rite-Aid.

I know better. Because I’ve seen so many of my successful friends fall into the Black Hole unable to surface to light on their own. I’ve read the biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Art Buchwald, Jane Pauley and William Styron, and I know there was never anything weak about them.


I try to highlight the stories of successful depressives whenever I find them because I know that we need that boost of confidence … to be reminded that our illness has nothing to do with our skills in the workplace, or our desire to accomplish great things. We just have some interesting brain wiring that takes some time and energy to figure out.

Rhonda Rowland, former medical correspondent for CNN, writes a great blog post about depression and successful people on the very cool website that she and co-founder Diana Keough launched this month called Medical Mommas. She describes the first moment her dad came to terms with his depression. Writes Rowland:


I remember the moment well. My phone rang at 9 a.m. sharp on a Saturday morning in 2002, as if my dad had been watching the clock, waiting to call.

The first words out of his mouth were: “Your mother told me about a story you’re working on about some executives.” He and my mom lived in Florida. At that time, my dad owned his own luxury home building business in the southwest part of the state but was beginning to phase himself out of it, in preparation for retirement. When he called, I lived in Atlanta and worked at CNN.

Yes, I was working on a story about my boss, Tom Johnson, former CEO and president of CNN. Tom and another prominent Atlanta businessman, J.B. Fuqua had recently gone public with a secret they shared: both battled severe depression.
In the story, I described their secret lives – important meetings cancelled at the last minute, lights out in their offices so they could sleep or hide, cowering in the corner and crying like a baby. These men, who appeared to hold the world in their hands, were enveloped in a deep darkness that stole their self-esteem and self worth.


“I think I might have that,” my dad said, matter of fact.

I could hardly breathe. What?! My dad is always happy. He has everything together. He’s our family’s patriarch. He’s the go-to guy when any of us have a problem. He always listens and always has a solution. I was incredulous! How could I have missed this in my own father?

A moment later, my dad started speaking, letting his secret spill out. He told me he was in a very, very dark place and didn’t know how to find his way out. I could hear the fear in his voice. Until this moment he hadn’t told anyone and I could almost feel his relief as he talked. He spoke as if he was talking about someone else. A stranger.
What I did next, was what I tended to do when I was reporting stories: I tried to put my feelings in a box. It was too painful to think this was happening to my dad. He needed help and needed it fast.


You need to visit Rhonda’s blog to read the rest, but what a great service she and Diana do to reach out to other successful depressives and tell them that they are not alone.

To read more Beyond Blue, go to, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.

To subscribe to “Beyond Blue” click here.


  • Your Name

    Beautiful post. Thank you.

  • undefined

    I doubt there is a family on the planet that doesn’t somewhere on the
    “tree” have a depressive “branch” filled with un-healthy leaves; the alcoholic uncle, the maiden aunt or the stellar cousin could all be the ones who are “motivated by their depression genes..self-medicating, living in reclusion or striving for all the brass rings.
    We know them well, we love them and in some families they may be living sub-rosa all our/their lives but you can bet the farm we all have them…we may even share with them this affliction. But when examined closely all families seem to have its share of depressives. When you think about it, what was it about Cain’s anger that caused him to murder his brother? Or for that matter what was it about Eve that she had to grab the apple? Maybe depression goes that far back. If depression was’t the cause for their behaviour they certainly had to have serious emotional pain as a consequence of their behaviors. Not that all depression is caused by guilt..far from it…but there does seem in most cases a connection. But my point is that it is a very common illness/affliction and one that hopefully has now been recognized as being wide-spread and should be treated openly and without the shame associated with it in times past. So the more forth-coming on the part of those considered “success-stories” the sooner may we find and seek the help for those afflicted. Good for those who are trying to shed the light of compassion on this common but debilitating disease and talk about its complications publically.

  • Leeann

    Thanks for a great moment in mental illness. It does effect all kinds of walk of life. The weird thing is most that are successful have the ability to hide it better than others, I should know I have experienced it and no one I worked with had a clue until one day my husband called my work place and told them I had been admitted to a hospital. I hope your dad gets help and realizes that depression and all the illnesses of mental health can effect anyone!!!!
    God Bless

  • mary margaret

    to me a “successful depressive” is any one of us who has depression and is alive.
    screw myths!! if a mind believes some thing to be true, it most certainly is to that mind, at that moment.
    having given up the need to convince others that my depression is real, my days of hiding in closets, hiding the steak knives from myself, and buying into the opinion of fools that it’s all in my head, I can say that I don’t know where you get the idea that it is a common myth that only unsuccessful people are inflicted with depression…that’s bull!!
    it certainly is no comfort to me that CEOs, etc, also suffer from the black hole of the mind’s tricks..

  • Your Name

    Being bipolar, I’ve had my bouts with the “Black dog.” I have always considered myself to be a “successful person” even with this diagnosis. Like the above post, I’m “successful” just to be alive! But I digress. I worked in the U.S. Senate, climbing my way to my “dream job” since the age of 12. I was hired by a world-renowned law firm after my hospitalization for mania. I was even a Realtor at one point. No, you don’t have to be homeless to be a sufferer of depression. In fact, I think the more successful you are, the more prone you are to an anxiety disorder. I just found out my 83 yr old mother has bipolar! So – I come by it honestly!!

  • SuzanneWA

    I was the one who left the above post! Sorry for not putting my name on it; I get confused when the Chapta shows up!

  • ana

    i suffer from Eating desorder ( form of depression) for over 17 th years. I truly belive that once i stoped being bulimic my seratonin level couldn reach higher but feeling desperat,empty, sad and anxaety icluding social phobia etc was horable. @ years ago i lost apt. no job and heartbroken..No familly memebers and closest friends were not in NYC any longer( all moved back to europe)
    You see noone didn t know my secret and struglle to fight Bulimia and depresion..when i reached out for help and opened up myself to some people i thought they are my friends i was rejected evan worst ocused..Was horable time of my life of lonilenes and not being understood.
    I want to tell all people who feel depression in any form that that s true and serious think and to saty away from people they will ocused them and telling that all is in our heads to snap out of it.
    Susicidal think is not an answer but to try to seek profesional help and try to get to the group where we all can get suport and feel that we belong
    Thank you and all best

  • ilibertyi

    Whenever I share with someone who’s working with a family member with depression that I’m bipolar, they always say, “yeah, but you’re functioning”. I’ve held down a teaching job for 17 years. I haven’t always functioned well, but yes, I’m functioning. That could be the definition of a “successful depressive” – one who’s “functioning”. funny, I always thought words like “functioning” and “sufficient” weren’t enough, but now I’ve learned that good enough sometimes is just good enough.

  • Your Name

    I’m not for sure when I became depressed, it was always there, as far back as I can remember. It’s like a shadow, present all the time. I have worked on myself all of my life. If… if only I could be this way or that, always trying to fix it, what ever “it” may be on any certain day. I love “ilibertyy” remark, “functioning,” Oh, yes and no one knows. No one knows tht all I want is it to be my turn to go to heaven and not hurt anyone else with my pain or feel the pain anymore. This must be the devils work. God wouldn’t do this to His childern

  • BJ

    I am currently in the midst of my 5th or 6th or 7th (I can’t recall) major depressive episode. I am not bipolar but was just diagnosed with serious major depression. First time hospitalized. “Functioning”? Yes, I guess I used to be. Other things become less important when you are fighting for your life. That’s something I don’t think most people believe or understand: that you truly are fighting for your life.

  • Butark

    I want to tell all people who feel depression in any form that that s true and serious think and to saty away from people they will ocused them and telling that all is in our heads to snap out of it.

Previous Posts

Seven Ways to Get Over an Infatuation
“Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I” wrote US songwriter Lorenz Hart about the feeling of infatuation. It’s blissful and euphoric, as we all know. But it’s also addicting, messy and blinding. Without careful monitoring, its wild ...

posted 12:46:43pm Feb. 19, 2014 | read full post »

When Faith Turns Neurotic
When does reciting scripture become a symptom of neurosis? Or praying the rosary an unhealthy compulsion? Not until I had the Book of Psalms practically memorized as a young girl did I learn that words and acts of faith can morph into desperate ...

posted 10:37:13am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

How to Handle Negative People
One of my mom’s best pieces of advice: “Hang with the winners.” This holds true in support groups (stick with the people who have the most sobriety), in college (find the peeps with good study habits), and in your workplace (stay away from ...

posted 10:32:10am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

8 Coping Strategies for the Holidays
For people prone to depression and anxiety – i.e. human beings – the holidays invite countless possibility to get sucked into negative and catastrophic thinking. You take the basic stressed-out individual and you increase her to-do list by a ...

posted 9:30:12am Nov. 21, 2013 | read full post »

Can I Say I’m a Son or Daughter of Christ and Suffer From Depression?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we read: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” What if we aren’t glad, we aren’t capable of rejoicing, and even prayer ...

posted 10:56:04am Oct. 29, 2013 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.