“What have they got to be depressed about?”

I want to apologise to Robbie Williams.

This may seem an odd statement, as the Take That star and I have never met and I haven’t done anything to upset him. But a few years ago I remember hearing that he was depressed, and thinking to myself: “What’s he got to be depressed about? He’s rich, famous, talented, successful – yep, it must really be terrible being him.”

Only now I have experienced depression myself do I realise that it doesn’t care what you have or who you are. It doesn’t care how many fans you have or how many top ten hits you have. It is an illness and it can affect anyone. Take Frankie Sandford, of The Saturdays, for example. She’s a beautiful, talented, successful young woman, yet her experience of depression made her feel “worthless and ugly. I felt if I disappeared it wouldn’t matter at all”.

The work she is doing to highlight the reality of depression is both brave and brilliant. So what is so brilliant about it? Frankie is an idol for young people, some of whom will be going through depression themselves, and others of whom might not have a clue about the damage it can do. Her story will reach and inspire many more people than a non-famous blogger like me ever could, because she is also a major star in the media, whose words will appear in all kinds of high-profile places. I think it’s fantastic, and, as I’ve written before, if there is one silver lining to depression it’s being able to share your experiences with other people who are in the same boat, and perhaps raise awareness among the people who aren’t.

Although they have glamorous lifestyles that many people envy, celebrities are human after all. And if one in four people will suffer from depression at some point in their lives, it stands to reason that this is happening to them too. It has happened to me. I smile a lot, I laugh a lot, I have a lovely wife and children, I have a job and I live in a nice place, so what do I have to be depressed about? I’m not the sort of person who gets depressed, am I?

Well, yes, actually. It is very easy, and common, for depression to be muddled up with feeling depressed. Feeling depressed happens to everyone at some point. There are all kinds of reasons why you might feel down about something. But depression is not a passing feeling. Nor is it a choice. It is not as if the likes of Robbie and Frankie sat themselves down and decided they fancied being depressed, and could just snap out of it when they’d got bored of it or when someone else told them to. Depression is a horrible mental and physical illness that feasts on stress and gorges on negative thinking, which it whisks up into a whirling vortex and relentlessly beats you about the brain with. Whoever you are.

So, sorry Robbie. You’re now one of a growing number of famous people – like Frankie – who I respect enormously for talking openly and descriptively about their experiences of depression. As for the lesser-known or unknown people who are going through this ordeal, well – and be warned, this is going to sound cheesy – we may not have fans, we may not have a ready-made audience, but we do have each other, and we can get through this, one day at a time.

* I wrote this blog for Time to Change, who are doing a brilliant job of tackling the stigma of mental illness.


19 Comments on ““What have they got to be depressed about?””

  1. Nice one Paul – great read as ever. And yes as I have discovered thanks to people like YOU, I am not alone. I am greatful for support you have shown me when I have needed it the most xxx

  2. Paul…. I disagree with your blog. You do have fans! I always look forward to reading your honest, truthful descriptions of how depression can affect us. I love seeing it’s strategies for alienating people being laid bare and exposed as the lies that they are. Maybe once we all stop believing these lies that we are on our own, that we somehow deserve the wretchedness which drives people to despair and that we are ‘just’ ill, not useless, worthless etc, we can turn this around. One day at a time.

    Maybe it’s harder for famous people, once you’re eventually there and have found the fame, it’s not as wonderful as you might’ve assumed and then you’ve gotta work extra hard to stay there. I definitely think there’s something about artistic creativity and talented people suffering from depression. I loved Spike Milligan and his wit, but he too was crippled at times.

    I didn’t know that about Frankie. I shall be telling my young clients who suffer from depression. That will surprise and hopefully encourage them.

    Keep going Paul! Your blogs are a brilliant antidote!

  3. Chrissie gained you another fan… Love your blog
    I suffer badly from depression and have for at least 26 years… since I was 13. Probably longer.

  4. Thank you for the cheesy bits! Because I was beginning to lose hope again after an argument with my husband where he told me to ‘get the f out of bed then’. Afterwards I said ‘would you have said that to me if I had cancer? No, I doubt he would. People can empathise with cancer sufferers but not mental illness. People think we are making it up.

  5. Three says:

    Writing a blog and having people around it does wonders in dealing with depression. It did for me few years ago, and hopefully will for you too. Since I stopped writing that one, the bitxh came back and it got worse. I guess everyone has its own way of dealing with depression, hope you found yours.

    Good posts (came via Jeremy Vine, btw), looking forward for many more from you! Good luck!

  6. Rebecca says:

    Excellent post. I never understood my sister’s heavy dark cloud till the anvil sat on my head whenever it felt like. I also never understood how parents could not follow through on the numerous recommendations/exercises for their special children until I had two disabled sons and a job and house and daughter and… there’s nothing like being understood; unless it’s being there for someone else who needs compassionate understanding.

  7. singingangel1 says:

    I have only just come across your blog but I am, already, in love with it. As someone who has suffered from severe depresssion for a number of years I appreciate any help, guidance or inspirational thoughts that might come my way.

    Thank you for writing in such a way that other people may begin to understand this horrible illness and understand that we can’t ‘just snap out of it’.

  8. Noch Noch says:

    my apologies too to everyone i said “what do they have to be depressed about?”
    like you, being on the other side, I now understand depression
    Noch Noch

  9. depressed says:

    Great post you have here with good info 🙂 Thanks for sharing 🙂

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