Depression Stories

They Were Depressed

Imagine being invited to a dinner party where these people were on the guest list: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Robert Schumann, Ludwig von Beethoven, Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain and Vincent van Gogh When you arrive Schumann and Beethoven are discussing the movements in their most recent musical compositions, Poe and Twain are listening to Van Gogh talk about the meaning of his art, while Roosevelt and Lincoln discuss politics.

You wonder to yourself why these people are here. After all, this is a fundraiser to help people suffering from depression. Maybe they all have someone in their family who suffers from depression? The time arrives during the dinner for speeches by special guests. You are shocked as one by one each of these famous people describes their own battle with depression. Lincoln even quotes from a letter he wrote to a friend some years earlier:

“I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would be not one cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell. I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die or be better it appears to me.” He encourages everyone to persevere, for he says, some years later he wrote this in another letter: “The year that is drawing toward the close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. These bounties are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come.”


Source: based on information found in an article by Liora Nordenberg “Dealing with the Depths of Depression” at US Federal Drug Administration website. Final Lincoln quote found at

Body Image

Judith Durham was one of Australia’s first international pop stars. As lead singer for The Seekers she toured Australia and the world and had a string of hits, including the first Australian  group to have a No 1 hit overseas.

Yet while Durham appeared to be on top of the world, emotionally she was a mess. In contrast to her adoring fans she became deeply depressed about her weight and appearance. She started to hate her face – too pudgy, eyes too small. She developed a hatred for her body, considering her fuller figure unattractive. When superthin model Twiggy came on the scene her self loathing grew. Even after losing 16 kilograms she still felt fat!

Durham says that her depression was matched by loneliness. There was no one she felt she could talk to about it. “I was just consumed by it” she says. “You could go to a doctor and ask for diet pills, but I didn’t know if there was anybody I could have talked to who could have changed inside my head, who could have convinced me, ‘It’s all right to look like this.'”

Angelina Jolie

Like most of us actress Angelina Jolie went through a period of defining her life.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald Jolie reflected that: “I do feel more centred now…Certainly, I was lost at times in my life. I’d like to think I was never a bad person, but I certainly went through times where I was not clear about who I was.”

According to Jolie it was seeing the world that changed her. “[There was a time] where I never had a sense of purpose, never felt useful as a person. I think a lot of people have that feeling – wanting to kill yourself or take drugs or numb yourself out because you can’t shut it off or you just feel bad and you don’t know what it’s from.”

Source: reported in Sydney Morning Herald 28/10/03

Amy Tan

Amy Tan is the best selling author of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Saving Fish from Drowning, and the Opposite of Fate.

What is less well known is Amy Tan’s ongoing battle with depression. Indeed, her family history has been one of a sad battle with depression. Amy, who lives in the US has a photograph of her grandmother and three other women from her family. Every woman in the photo committed suicide. Amy’s mother, expressed her depression by violently upturning and even smashing the family’s furniture, and always threatened suicide. Amy herself experienced depression as early as 6 years of age, the age of her first suicide attempt. In addition to her mother’s suicidal tendencies, life gave Amy other reasons to be depressed. Her father and brother both died young from brain tumours, she was molested by a counsellor, raped by a school janitor and one of her best friends was murdered. Amy’s depression manifests itself as numbness alternating with extreme anger.

Even raging success as an author didn’t put an end to Amy’s depression. In 1993 she went to the premiere of the movie of her book The Joy Luck Club and instead of feeling great was overcome with a sense of meaninglessness, that everything in life was ugly and she was all alone.

It was after this Amy Tan started taking antidepressants and has found this has made an enormous difference. She says, “I know I will always have some degree of depression. I still have to wrestle with it, but I see where it fits in with my mother’s life, my grandmother’s life, my own life. For a long time I didn’t know how to be happy, and I didn’t trust happiness – I felt that if I had it I would lose it. But today, I am basically a happy person.”


Source: Reported in Who magazine interview, May 21, 2001