The one lesson I've learned from life: Comedienne Ruby Wax on not pushing herself too hard
- Ruby, 63, is an actress, comedienne and author who lives in London
- Seven years ago she worked herself so hard she 'drove off cliffs of sanity'
- She was institutionalised and sat in chair for months, terrified to get up
- Then discovered a mindfulness-based therapy that taught her to relax
Ruby, 63, is an actress, comedienne and author. She lives in London with her husband, producer and director Ed Bye. They have three grown-up children, Max, Madeleine and Marina
IT'S A MISTAKE TO PUSH YOURSELF TOO HARD
For years, I was constantly doing myself down, for all sorts of reasons. I’d tell myself I shouldn’t have treated myself to a new kitchen appliance when nobody else had it. ‘You should be ashamed of yourself!’ I’d tell myself, angrily.
Through sheer drive, I had made a career in TV that lasted 25 years; I’d married and created a family.
Actress and mother-of-three Ruby Wax, 63, who has depression, revealed how seven years ago she worked herself so hard she 'drove off the cliffs of sanity'
But I drove myself so hard that, seven years ago, I crashed, burned and drove off the cliffs of sanity.
I tried to carry on as normal, desperate to make it appear that all was fine, even though nothing was making sense. People must have thought I was nuts.
In due course, I was institutionalised, and ended up sitting on a chair for months, too terrified to get up. I’d suffered depression all my life, but this was the Big Kahuna!
I’ve spoken openly about my clinical depression, and I’ve never been ashamed of doing so. What is there to feel guilty about? But the great sadness is that so many other people beat themselves up over silly little things, too, and, in the worst case scenario, go off the rails.
A few years ago, she discovered mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), which helped her focus on enjoying the moment, rather than trying to do a million things at once
A few years ago, I discovered mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), which helped me focus on enjoying the moment, rather than trying to do a million things at once and ending up in a tizzy.
I learnt everything I could about mindfulness as I didn’t want to have to run to a therapist every time I had a ‘turn’. I wanted to be able to contain my depression when it reared its head like a demon, as it still does from time to time.
Practising mindfulness doesn’t help you banish depression entirely, but it acts as a kind of early warning system.
When I sense it coming on, I cancel things — be it dinner parties, showbiz gatherings or business meetings — because I know I need to get my adrenalin down and focus on sorting myself out.
So far, it’s working. Mindfulness has helped me focus on the important things in life. I never focused on my kids when they were growing up because I was so busy.
But now, once in a while, I can actually hear what they’re saying. It’s stopped me beating myself up all the time.
So the days when I used to get furious at myself for being sad or anxious when I had so much, and could order a takeaway at 4am when other people were fighting for their lives, have now gone.
The last thing I thought I deserved was kindness. But we could all do with a little more self-compassion at times.
A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled, by Ruby Wax, is published by Penguin Life at £14.99. Paperback out December 29.
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