Since childhood, there are very few moments in my life that can be identified as raw happiness, when it feels like a forth of July firework display is happening in your heart and you've leapt out of your skin. Last week I had that moment. All it took was a letter that informed me I got an OBE (so simple).
When you receive such a jaw dropping, out-of-body, hallelujah letter, every negative thought runs for shelter and shrivels and you're free, your mind has been set free. My children watched it happen. I was talking to them about something boring while opening this envelope and the next thing I knew, they were trying to pull me down from the ceiling. I was speaking in the voice you get when sucking helium, telling them the news. Part of me is still floating on that ceiling. How did this happen I hear you ask?
If it weren't for Comic Relief who put posters of me up all over London saying, "One in four people have mental illness, one in five have dandruff, I have both," this wouldn't have happened. About seven years ago they had asked me to pose for a photo to help promote their mental health campaign. I had no idea the poster would cover whole walls in the tube station lining the escalator. At the time I almost fainted, now I'm grateful to them. Comic Relief inadvertently dragged me out of the closet and 'outed' me about my depression. All this was really my fault for not asking them their plans for the photo.
It was then I thought I'd write a show about mental illness mainly to infer the posters were promoting my new show, which wasn't written yet. I workshopped the show in mental institutions for two years to make sure my people approved, especially it being a comedy. Once they found it funny and honest, I knew I could tour it to the masses. Prior to that, I never told anyone I had depression, mainly because of the fear of being fired from my job and also I didn't want people to think I was whining about some 'imaginary' disease when I a career, fantastic teeth, kids and cash.
Firstly, once I started doing the show no one could fire me because it was my show. As far as being self-indulgent, in the second half, after the interval, I had a question and answer session, and turned it over to the audience. They understood about feeling the shame that I did, the same fear that they were complaining about something that wasn't visible and could be cured simply by someone near and dear saying, "Perk up."
A few times I'd get these big, macho guys who'd stand up and talk about their depression telling everyone they never told anyone before. There they were, bravely spilling out their feelings because you could taste the compassion and sense of identification coming from that audience. Every night would be like a revival where people spoke about their feelings, sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart breaking. Every night, I adored that moment when the audience started to take over. It felt like I was coming home, finding my tribe after years of isolation.
Oftentimes, I felt closer to those people than I do with many of my friends. This was the most thrilling thing I'd ever experienced on stage. Every one of us understood that you if have something wrong physically, get ready for the flowers, if it's mental get ready for nothing; no calls, no visitors and if your work finds out, good luck keeping your job. My feeling is from this experience, if we keep speaking out and supporting each other, things will change and they are already; you can feel a ground swell.
So, I want to thank everyone who's ever spoken out about his or her illness or helped someone who's suffering. Mostly I want to thank Miranda Bunting(@mirandasmurmurs) who I met when I launched the website, "Black Dog Tribe." She's really the heroine who supported me all the way. An OBE!!! I still scream that out a few times a day, (in private.)
I'm on tour throughout 2015 with my Sane New World show.
For more information about Ruby Wax's OBE for services to mental health and what other people have said, you can visit her websiteSuggest a correction