When it comes to depression, I search everywhere for guides–people who can teach me how to live with it, or at least how to give it meaning. And when a celebrity–some Hollywood type or important politician–joins the crusade to end discrimination against the mentally ill, I take copious notes on how she has managed to stay both sane and successful. Here are some spiritual lessons I’ve gleaned from courageous celebrities that have “come out” to help other depressives, like me.
Lesson #1: Laugh Always and Upside Down
I’ve always loved Rosie O’Donnell for her wit. But now I want to post photos of her all over my desk. What’s not to love about a celebrity who hangs herself upside down for 15-to-30 minutes a day to jumpstart her neurotransmitters (along with yoga and antidepressants) using inversion therapy? Seeing Rosie demonstrate it on “The View,” reading a teleprompter from a swing, made me laugh out loud at all the ways–some quite creative–we depressives use to treat our mood disorders.
Lesson #2: The Power of Words
I’ve studied Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s diplomatic and graceful style in discussing his wife’s depression while protecting her privacy on some of the most personal details. Patrick must have memorized Don Miguel Ruiz’s classic, “The Four Agreements “–a book introducing the wisdom of the ancient Toltec, a Mexican tribe of scientists and artists–because it appears he’s got the first agreement down: “Be Impeccable with Your Word.” As Ruiz writes, “Your word is the power that you have to create. Your word is the gift that comes directly from God.”
Lesson #3: Judge Not
As a recovering alcoholic and a depressive, I was so moved by late-night comedian Craig Ferguson’s monologue declaring that he would not make fun of Britney Spears’ head-shaving meltdown. His twelve-minute spiel tugged at my heart because it was filled with absolute compassion and humility. How brave of him, as a respected comedian, to say: “Guys, lets not judge, because we don’t exactly have it together either. And there but by the grace of God, go I.”
Lesson #4: Prayer for the Ultimate Loss
Prayer is always my first response when I hear about the deaths of people who ran out of hope, because I myself knocked on death’s door so many times. To the families of comedian Richard Jeni (pictured) and “Boston” lead singer Brad Delp, who both recently committed suicide, I extend my love and support. I pray that Richard and Brad have found their peace, and I pray that you might find strength and comfort in knowing that so many of us depressives join you in your sadness, in your grief, and in your fight for this cause.