Monday, February 28, 2011

Standing on the shoulders of giants: famous people with depression

Is it just me or have things been really quiet in the blogsphere lately?. Well at least MY blogsphere, which granted is not very big. University is officially starting to hit me. My first assignment is due tomorrow. I have finished it but just need to type it up. Over the next few two weeks I am going to get hit with more assignments. So I don't have an actual post this weekend...luckily for me I have written a few posts but have never published them. The stuff I wrote below, I wrote some time ago and this will be my post for the weekend. Sometime soon hopefully I plan to research and do two posts on studying with depression and trying to find a job when suffering from a mental illness. These two topics are what I will have to be dealing with in my life for the next few months.


One day while riding a bus to work, soon after I arrived in England, I happened to be holding onto a £2 coin and started to inspect it. On the rim of this coin was the phrase "Standing on the shoulders of giants". Most £2 coins have it. I found this phrase very mysterious so I googled it. The Phrase finder describes the meaning of this phrase as this: "Using the understanding gained by major thinkers who have gone before in order to make intellectual progress". It was believed to be coined by 12th century theologian and author, John of Salisbury and was also prominently used by Sir Issac Newton.

All the great discoveries and inventions that we have today are because someone forged ahead into the unknown. I was thinking of this in regards to mental illness. There have been great scientific discoveries but I believe that what really cracked the stigma  was when a few very brave and well known people came forward and spoke out. That's what has given the everyday man freedom. I am sure this has been done before, but the idea only came to me the other day: to research famous people with depression and mental illness. What I came up with surprised me. I have tried to select people that everyone will be familiar with.

Winston Churchill
This man is on my list of top 5 people I'd like to have a conversation with. There are so many things that I want to ask him. Churchill is believed to be the greatest prime minister England ever had and one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. He lead his country and the allies to victory in WWII. Yet through out his life Churchill often suffered prolonged and severe bouts of depression. He was the first person to use the term "Black dog" to describe his illness. He also had a speech impediment but many people believe that Churchill won the war by talking his way out of it. This may sound corny but often when I can't get out of bed I always think of him and wonder how the hell he did it. How did he get out of bed AND still go to war? This proves that depressives can sometimes achieve a whole lot more than non- depressives.

Vivien Leigh - Actress: Gone with the Wind/ Streetcar Named desire
If you have never seen "Gone with the Wind" where the hell have you been??. Vivien was a very talented, very beautiful Oscar- winning actress. But her whole life her health was marred by tuberculosis and what is now known as Biopolar disorder. This earned her the reputation of being difficult to work with. She was a recipient of ECT and once had to placed in a nursing home after a severe breakdown rendered her incapable of caring for herself.

J.K. Rowling - Author of Harry Potter
Rowling admitted in an interview that she had been diagnosed with clinical depression in the past and had experienced periods of being extremely suicidal. The feelings she experienced with depression inspired her to introduce " Dementors", soul- sucking creatures in the third book.

Drew Carey - Famous comedian
Drew Carey has tried to commit suicide twice by taking large doses of sleeping pills. He has said in interviews that he has always felt mad at the world and would use food and alcohol to try and numb his pain. He says he is on a "constant" road to recovery.

Brooke Shields- Actress
I really admire Brooke Shields because she spoke out about her experience which is still considered extremely taboo. Brooke had severe postpartum depression, which to me is probably the most devastating form of depression. She has said in interviews that she was overwhelmed with thoughts of harming her baby and the desire to commit suicide was with her every hour of every day. Fortunately she was surrounded by people who encouraged her to get help and she made a successful recovery. She has since been raising awareness for postpartum depression.

Kirsten Dunst - Actress
Kirsten has publicly admitted checking into rehab in 2008 to be treated for depression after being ill for about 6 months. She has said the reason for her going public was to highlight the struggle faced by so many successful women and to dispel rumors.

Kurt Cobain - Musician ( Nirvana )
I can remember the day he died so clearly. It was 1994 and the year that I first began feeling suicidal. Kurt had suffered a lifetime of depression, addiction, ADHD, bronchitis and was in constant severe pain from an undiagnosed stomach disorder. Yet it was these very killers of the soul that inspired some of the greatest music of his generation. We all know that depression can suck the life out of you...add everything else this poor guy had to deal with and and it was no wonder he met a very tragic end.

Abraham Lincoln - 16th president of the United States
Growing up in South Africa, the only American history I studied at school was The Great Depression ( ironic...), so I didn't know that much about Mr. Lincoln until recently. And what I first heard about him surprised me. Many people that knew Lincoln described him as a very jovial character ( what a contrast to those stony- faced portraits ) but had also said he was very prone to melancholy aka depression in today's terms. Some historians believe he was Bipolar...he was known to weep in public. He spoke of suicide as a young man. This never detracted from the fact that he was one of the greatest presidents in US history. I read a fascinating article here


  1. Heya Miss Stephi!! Sorry I haven't been around lately, but I'm still reading when I get a chance. I wish you all the strength in the world to push through your goals with school.

    You list of people is quite interesting. Most of them I knew about but for some reason Drew Carey surprised me a bit. Not sure why, because I have always suspected a lot of comedians suffer from some sort of mood disorder. Another quinky-dink is that I just put Gone with the Wind on my movie list to watch again soon, just minutes before I read this post. Very cool!

    I hope you are doing well and I'm cheering for you!

  2. Love Vivien Leigh! Actually have her as my screen saver :)

    I have noticed extremely talented/intelligent people are often very susceptible to mental illness- not sure why this is?

    Great post as usual Stephi!

  3. Great post, Stephi. Abe Lincoln is one of my very favorite people in history who suffered so much from depression and still was so courageous with what he did to change the world. It's been very quiet in the blogosphere and I'm also feeling sluggish. Winter blahs? It sounds like you're busy with positive things and I look forward to hearing about your adventures in school. I'll email you back soon, I promise ;)

  4. Hey Miss Running!
    I actually didn't think I would hear from you again so this is a nice surprise. I have been meaning to e-mail you back.

    Drew Carey also surprised me, I have a lot of respect for him- from what he has said it sounds like he has been to hell and back with his depression but he never gave up. If you look at comedians or even people who act in the typical American comedy you will notice a disturbing trend of addiction and depression.

    Gone with the wind is one of my favorite movies, so enjoy it whenever you watch. It doesn't matter how much time passes, I just get totally swept up everytime I watch it....and I still want to throttle both Rhett and Scarlett at the end lol!.

  5. Foxy!!
    Vivien Leigh is just timeless, she had something that no one else could ever replicate.

    Yep it is interesting that some of the greatest people of our time were also the most messed up. I guess there is something true in the phrase "tortured genius".

  6. Hey Wendy-
    You should read the article that I linked about Mr Abe. It was excellent.

    While you are experiencing winter blah's, I'm having summer sizzles- there is going to be a torturous heatwave where I live this week...did I meantion that aircon in houses in South Africa are not standard features?

    The blogosphere will also be changing and evolving that's why I can't let myself get too attached to people. Good friends will be here today and gone tomorrow.

  7. Hey Stephi,
    I came upon you blog last night, Your posts are very interesting and informative.
    Your last line about friends is oh so true
    Isnt that why blogging is great?

  8. Hey Diablesse,
    Welcome to the blogosphere! I hope you find it a rewarding experience and meet lots of interesting people. I have been on your blog and it certainly does look very intriguing!.

  9. To my point of view this is what I refer to a brilliant blog article! Do you use this blog for your personal goals exclusively or you still have it as an additional source of income?

  10. @Suffocated I allow advertising on this page because it wouldn't hurt to earn a little money. Having said that, I have never earned any money as of yet and mostly use this blog for personal use