Anything and Everything

Mad Confessions: Beth Dunne on her inspiration, Ruby Wax

TW: DEPRESSION, MENTAL ILLNESS

Ruby Wax is my personal hero. I have been trying to figure out what to write that would do her justice as my inspiration, so I’m just going to try and write from the heart.

Ruby became a poster girl for mental illness almost overnight and has done so much to help end mental health stigma. Her TV show ‘Ruby Wax’s Mad Confessions’ presents 3 businesspeople confessing about their mental illnesses to their employers, work colleagues and friends, as well as her investigating the laws surrounding mental health (these laws have since changed seeing as this programme was aired in July 2012) and meeting some MPs who spoke about their mental health issues. She also visits Oxford where she was studying Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness. These are all issues extremely close to my heart and Ruby just presents them so perfectly. I for one am fed up of these issues being sugar-coated and made to seem like something desirable, for example in ‘Skins’: a girl who has an eating disorder but displays none of the physical traits of an eating disorder and still remains beautiful and quirky throughout? No thanks. A fair representation of illnesses and the harsh realities they actually are? Yes please. Now that’s not to say that I’m 100% against people presenting mental illnesses artistically, I am just against the misrepresentation. Misrepresentation leads to misunderstanding which leads to ignorance. And let me tell you, we do not need any more ignorant people asking why it is impossible just get up out of bed and face the day. We need more understanding, and I feel Ruby gives that to people.

A lot of people dub Ruby as being a histrionic or melodramatic, like she is playing it up for the media.  These people should consider themselves lucky that they do not understand where Ruby is coming from. She has suffered. A lot. And instead of hiding away and dousing herself in the shame undoubtedly already put upon her by society, she spoke out about her breakdown and about her depression.  She educated people, and words cannot describe how important that is when it comes to mental health.

I have suffered with depression for a couple of years, and at my absolute worst I found myself watching Ruby Wax’s videos for the Time To Change Campaign to calm myself. She was my empathetic guide. And when it came to Ruby’s talk in March at the Women Of The World Festival, I was at an absolute low. Watching Ruby’s talk inspired me; it gave me courage and even made me cry. Some members of the audience were even brave enough to share their experiences and how Ruby had helped them. I was too scared to say anything and just about picked up the courage to talk to her afterwards and tell her that we have been to the same psychiatric hospital and a crowd of people were also telling her they were part of her ‘tribe’ (that’s the word she uses to describe the type of people she found in the hospital that she connected with). There was such a warm feeling in that room, I felt surrounded by my tribe, by people who could grasp the idea that getting up can be impossible.

At another one of Ruby’s talks I attended at The Barbican, Ruby educated the audience a little about mindfulness: a technique which is helping control mental illnesses. Techniques that you can do at home, like breathing in and 10 times with your eyes shut and focusing all your energy on individual parts of your body. I realise this doesn’t sound like much, but in the beginning of a panic attack these tips can be extremely helpful. She has since released a book about the subject, called ‘Sane New World’.

Ruby Wax is an intelligent, strong, caring, yet underrated, woman who spreads knowledge and understanding of mental illness, and for that reason she is my complete inspiration.

You can watch ‘Ruby Wax’s Mad Confessions’ here: https://vimeo.com/46739231

You can watch her TED talk here:

And you can watch more of her videos, like ‘Ruby’s Room’ here: http://www.youtube.com/user/officialrubywax

By Beth

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