This was my opening speech today Dec 6th as I hosted the Women In Film And Television
Awards. I got a good response and I think I make my point:
"It’s such an honour to be asked to host the Sky Women in Film and Television awards 2013. It’s great to see all of you young and old not so many old but that’s the world we live in. On that front I’m under no illusion about the rules of this trade. When I was doing my show about 10 years ago , I discovered a slight line here when I smiled, so I immediately cut the cords and set myself adrift from the shores of television.
I knew that someday the day would arrive when I’d be replaced by someone younger and more beautiful, in my case it was Alan Yentob. He carries the baton now of doing interview documentaries and I wish him well. Which reminds me of a joke. Recently I had a tattoo of David Dimbleby on my right inner thigh and a scorpion on the inside of my left inner thigh and I asked my friend if she thought they were accurate depictions. I asked who did she think the face was on my left inner thigh she said she had no idea. I asked who she thought was on my right inner thigh. She said she had no idea but she said the one in the middle is defiantly Alan Yentob. Anyway enough of him, really enough of him. I did interviews and shows for 25, which is a miracle for a brunette. I got to do documentaries interviewing extrodinary, riveting and original people and then I interviewed celebrities . Suddenly low and behold reality TV became popular and I thought ok why not try it once. On the escalator of life I finally hit the basement when I made a career double suicide pact with Richard E. Grant by doing a show I hope you missed called Celebrity Shark Bait. Here’s a clue; the sharks weren’t the celebrities. We did it for the money and a chance to see to Cape Town.. Besides us on this show, there was also a girl (forgot name) from some soap (forgot name) who wore very low cut tops to show off her white, milky breasts. They filmed her most days and Richard and I were told they didn’t need us, so we told estate agents we were looking for a house to buy and snooped into people’s homes. Meanwhile, Milky Breasts was now being filmed (I’m not making this up) in a freezer where they hang dead pigs from hooks all around her while she stood freezing in her bikini. They told her the point of this was to prepare her for the cold water. P.S We were going to wear dry suits for the dive so there was no point for the pig scene. She asked us if we thought she was being exploited.
The day came for the shark dive; large person of lesbian persuasion gave us instructions on the do’s and don’ts of shark diving. She had ‘Shark Lady’ printed on her red jacket, She tossed large chunks of tuna into the sea to get blood in the water. She said “its perfectly alright I’ve done it for 25 years it’s perfectly safe.” then we noticed she only had two fingers. It turns out Milky Breasts wouldn’t get in the water – she was too scared – her breasts would have dragged her to the bottom. So they threw in Richard and I. We’re at the bottom of the cage and suddenly something about 20 feet long glided at us, looked at us with dead eyes and swam away disappointed looking for A-list celebrities. It was at this point I set a sail from show business. I always know when to leave a party before the party leaves me.
If you don’t move on, it becomes a pathetic sight when you see a presenter, fingernails in the commissioner’s ankle begging” I’ll do anything, do a documentary on my gall bladder operation please. I’ll do anything you you want me to eat my mother in law? Toss her on the barbeque. “ or even worse I’ll work with Janet Street Porter? That’s a joke I love Janet.
So that’s why I decided at that point I needed to sweep together some of my brain cells before they completely left the building, so I thought I’d go back to school and study neuroscience. I crashed a course filled with 21 year olds. I felt like a freak so I told them I had a skin disease that one where you age really fast?
Then they let me go out with them until they figured out, I really was old. In the end they liked me cause I was the one with a car.
Also around this time I suddenly became poster girl for mental illness. I wouldn’t have told anyone I was outed by Comic Relief. They give some of their funds to mental health charities and asked if they could take my photo cause they knew that something wasn’t right. I said 'Ok' and thought it was going to be a tiny photo of me somewhere. But no they put a gigantic poster of me all over London of me with ‘This Woman has Mental Illness please help her.’
So I wrote a show to make it seem like that was my publicity poster
I wrote it and for 2 years I toured mental institutions. I think they loved me they weren’t always facing front. The bi-polars gave me reviews saying, “I laughed I cried.” If you can make a schizophrenic laugh you’re half way to Broadway.
After UCL I really wanted to understand how our brains work because everything we are in is this 3 pound piece of meat the size of a big mac. I always believe in shopping for the best so I went to Oxford for the last 2 years to find out how we run this thing called us. I just graduated in September which wouldn’t have happened if I still was on TV so I have to thank those who made it impossible for me to keep going, they know who they are. I just wrote a book called Sane New World about the brain and how to use it which is in your party bag right now. It’s next to 50 shades of grey. She deals with the lower half of people and I deal with the upper half.
And irony of ironies about 2 months ago I received an email which is luring me back to the glamorous shores of televisions. The email offered me the chance to become the face of vaginal dryness.
I’m going to read the email out.
Dear Penny (she is my P.A)
Hope you’re well. I just wanted make contact with you regarding an upcoming project which may be of interest to Ruby Wax.
One of my clients is Dr Wolff – the German cosmetics and medical company, we’re campaigning for a moisturising cream aimed at (pre) menopausal women suffering from vaginal dryness.
We’re hosting a round-table event to discuss issues around this topic including the effects of vaginal dryness on sex and relationships. I wanted to see if Ruby would be interested in speaking at/attending the event at all? We’d also love to have her on board to provide a quote for the press release, and a possible radio day.
Do let me know if this sounds of interest at all, and we can discuss it in more detail.
Can Alan Yentob do that? I don’t think so. He can’t take this one away from me.
Ok on to the really famous people."
I went to Westport, Ireland, to sell my books and do their small literary festival. I arrived at Knock airport. I have been to Knock before to see the shrine of Our Lady who appeared as a vision August 25th 1946 to a common person who hopefully wasn’t drunk. Anyway this person had a vision of not only Our Lady but some sheep hovering 3 feet above the ground and so a humble shrine was built holding about 2,000 people and gift shops with holy water and Jesus in different outfits.
This time I went beyond Knock to the tiny town of Westport where everyone acts like you’re a long lost relative and they are thrilled to welcome you giving you a “Top of the morning” greeting even when it’s not morning. They talk about having a crack which I didn’t get until I left. (I thought they were on the stuff). And just when I was thinking the town is so provincial and I was getting snotty, they take me to a pub: and there is the reason why we should all live in Ireland.
In the corner of the dark smoky, wooden-floored pub are several fiddlers, three flautists, a singer and someone banging a drum. They’re playing that Irish music that makes your heart bleed, it all sounds the same but it’s fantastic. One guy from The Chieftans (a brilliant Irish band) was playing along with them and I was told this happens most every night. Everyone in there was dancing; old, young, totally plastered but everyone totally happy. I was thinking how much we’re missing in London. Here the whole community get together and have these evenings like they’re one big family. I was told when someone dies in the town everyone piles into the house of the bereaved and they take care of the cooking and cleaning and there’s music and crying and drinking. How much would I love to live there in my next life. I probably would fake that someone in my house died just to have people come over and cook and clean for me. Then I’d get caught and then they’d probably throw me out of town. Better I’m in London.
I want to thank Miranda who wrote this blog
below after Bill Oddie’s comments. It’s another form of discrimination to undermine someone’s credibility because of his or her career. I did shows on T.V. so I’m not allowed to fight for something I feel strongly about i.e stigma and more research of the brain? There’s a point when you feel you need to move on and I always knew when to leave a party before it left me. Some people hang on for dear life to their one identity; this is usually out of fear. I come from a long line of immigrants; we’re used to bailing out fast, in a second, with a piano on our back to scuttle to a new ghetto that we can call home. So with a career in entertainment I jumped ship and went back to university to study the brain. Call me crazy but it’s a little more interesting than doing “Celebrity Big Brother”. (Not that I did that but you know what I mean). If we weren’t meant to change our goals in life, I’d still be practicing potty training and Bill Oddie would still be bird-watching which I hope to God he’s not. My career has not been enhanced but my life has far more important.
"I am afraid I wholeheartedly disagree with Bill Oddie over this. There is no question that people like Ruby Wax and Stephen Fry are trying to make mental illness fashionable - the energy, drive and selfless dedication that Ruby has for this cause has changed the lives of THOUSANDS. She and Stephen did not choose mental illness. Ruby has done an extraordinarily courageous thing by studying neuroscience and talking extensively about her own experiences in order to help others - I have no doubt that she never once has intended to make money out of it. In fact, I don't know any other person who has given up quite so much in order to trail blaze for an "unfashionable" cause in the way that Ruby has.
There are many people who are so grateful for people like Ruby Wax and Stephen Fry for talking about their mental illness and for working so hard at educating those who don't understand it. In fact, Ruby has worked like a Trojan - always thinking of others and never about herself. She is determined to get people help and not take the glory. If you know what depression is like, there is no way you would try and make it fashionable - you wouldn't wish it on anybody. Bill Oddie's comments have made me extremely angry because there is no question that Ruby has hindered people's understanding of such conditions - she has educated and helped MANY."
Bill Oddie this weekend writes in the Telegraph
that celebrities shouldn’t talk about their depression and that we use it as a career move. In the second half of my last show “Out of Her Mind” I invited the audience speak out and once a week I invited the public in free of charge and brought volunteers from Sane, Lewis Wolpert, Peter Fonagy head of the Anna Freud Centre, Mark Williams founder of mindfulness and many others. I simply organized the event to give people a chance to find individual help and get their questions answered. I also toured mental institutions for 2 years not thinking the show was going to go to theatres in the U.K., Australia, Cape Town, Europe and the U.S. I created Black Dog Tribe for people and care-givers to meet online because there is so much shame around this disease. I just graduated from Oxford University having studied neuroscience and mindfulness to learn more about how our minds work and why everyone in an urban environment is heading toward burn out.
My book “Sane New World” is not about depression but rather how the brain works in everyone, and why many people (not 1 in 4 but 4 in 4) can’t deal with the 21st Century. Obviously Bill did not read the book and yet claims it’s about depression. I don’t work in T.V and haven’t for many years. I am now touring my show to bring awareness to small audiences. I wonder what he’s doing besides criticizing someone who is trying to help. Unfortunately, we live in a society that listens to celebrities I don’t feel great about that but it is the reason Comic Relief makes millions each year. I think we should thank Stephen Fry for being the first to speak out, it’s a very brave thing to do and he didn’t have to to improve his career. This response has been quoted on the telegraph website
"Dear Ruby, at first let me say that it is great of you to come forward with your personal story to create openness and awareness on the matter. By talking about it, getting it out there, other people can be inspired to do the same or to get help for their selves or their loved ones . You often don’t know how bad the situation is, until you are confronted with a reality-check.
I consider you as a very open and honest person. Maybe your openness helped you to cope or to get help. Though I can imagine it was (is) also a shield where you could hide yourself and pretend that everything was ok.
I can imagine that people automatically think or presume they can make a claim on you due to the fact that you were a TV-figure. Did it make for you harder to find your way because reality and friendships presented were sometimes misleading and were there people in your life who kept your feet on the ground (and cherished you for who you are)?
I also think that by coming forward with your story and becoming a kind of spokeswoman on the matter, people think you are a pocket-sized shrink. I already had much respect for you in the past. Hats off for the work that you are doing and trying to help other people.
Not that I consider you as a Mother Theresa now (joke), but because of being open yourself, you open the door for others and you show the way to get help and get better. If adults become aware of this issue, they can also be cautious and address it better, so that children don’t need to go through the same ordeal as their parents.
Therefore a ‘big thank you’ to you for being you.
Wish you and your family all the best.
Thank you for that email Stephanie.
When I worked in T.V I certainly never got mail like this. When you’re a comedian and meet people it’s usually so superficial and embarrassing; they relate to you as the person you play on T.V. and you have to pretend to be that character otherwise they’re disappointed. It’s so exhausting and you want to say “Hello, there’s a person in here not just a clown.” What I really found upsetting is when people laughed before I even said anything. Writing my book and being on tour I’ve been able to meet people from the UK, Cape Town, Belgium and Holland and when the book signing happens it’s been a profound experience.
During the book signing for some reason, people open up to me and that’s such a great honour to be trusted with their stories. I feel this tremendous warmth and care from almost every person I make eye contact with. Even when I’m tired from doing an interview on stage, once I meet the people in the audience, I get energized from the warmth and kindness they put out. Some say thanks for talking about mental illness and bringing it into the open, others ask what they can do about their sister/cousin/friend/co-worker/mother as far as getting them help? What this intimacy does for me is so healing for someone with depression.
Thank you everyone who I’ve met for giving my heart a kick start.
I offer my book “Sane New World” as an antidote to Christmas for those of us who don’t feel jolly, and I suspect there are far more people out there who won’t admit to it and smear on a cheery face. ‘Tis not a season to be jolly,’ tis a season to have a nervous breakdown from buying gifts in a stampede of The Crazed; catching the madness like a virus from everyone out there so you end up buying things no one will ever want, like a pitchfork.
It’s an alternative to Christmas book for those of us who hold onto our sanity for dear life at this most insane day of the year. Sending Christmas cards to people who do not send you one back is a one-way ticket to a mood disorder. There you are preparing the turkey, broken and bitter, stuffing stuff into some bird’s ass as you watch your life go by and no one will even remember that you stuffed it. You end up so out of it you don’t know if you’re stuffing the turkey or your brother-in-law. And to make things worse, you know you’re slaving over something that will go in one end and out the other.
There is nothing more upsetting then buying someone a cashmere scarf and getting a candle. That is what you mean to them- a candle – a social leper. I usually wrap up the gifts each person gave me the year before with a card that says’ same to you’. When you buy presents you try to pick a price based on how much someone means to you and that always changes moment-to-moment. And then there are the people you need favours from. I always send a big gift to my banker hoping it will stop him ripping me off for the coming year. The worst is counting down on New Years Eve to ‘1’ and not feeling that erection of exhilaration like everyone else when the fireworks go off; that’s when I know to go into my closet and not come out till February. I think I’ve finally cracked it now I go far away each Christmas and come back looking surprised saying “Oh did I miss something? Sorry.”
I did my sermon yesterday at the School of Life. The event takes place in a church but isn’t based on any religion, it’s just as a great venue where everyone sings and shouts and then you (which was me that day) give your philosophy of life at a pulpit. The hymn’s yesterday were “Crazy” and “Reach Out” by the Four Tops. It’s got such a great atmosphere, everyone is there open and ready for action. Derren Brown does the next sermon on December 4th. I did my speech after listening to 300 people singing at me so my hair was standing on end. This is my first try out of the new show based on my book “Sane New World” it’s always interesting and sick-making to wing it. I haven’t memorized the script yet so I’m roughly getting the ideas across hoping I’m making sense.
The show is for the 4 in 4, not the 1 in 4 who have mental illness. It’s for everyone who feels the pressure of just living and getting through the day. Our brains don’t have the bandwidth for living in the 21st century, evolution didn’t know this was coming and so we can’t really cope. Part of our brain (the cognitive bit) created this glorious technology which was supposed to make life easier and give us spare time. We wouldn’t know spare time if it came and hit us on the head. The emotional part of the brain is stunted, it just didn’t develop so we don’t know how to cope with the continuous flow of bad news. You open a newspaper and everyone in it is was killed. It’s like we’re junkies for things that drive us nuts even though we know it drives us nuts. Our own thinking is what’s driving us mad. The world is the way it is so now we have to learn how to rewire our habits of thinking and find the brakes so we’re not dragged through life by an endless list of emails to answer. The idea is to become the master not the slave of the mind.
Just to remind everyone out there that BlackDogTribe.com is still cooking and still hooking up like-minded people to support each other or just talk to someone like them. I originally set it up a few years ago because during my shows the audience would ask questions; “What do I say to my kid/friend/co-worker?” “Should I take drugs?” “Who can I go to for help?” I had a free walk-in each week where I’d supply experts on the brain and a whole band of volunteers from Sane to answer individual questions.
I really wanted to start walk-in centres everywhere but because a lot of people don’t want to admit anything is wrong or feel that shame we all feel, the next best thing was to create an anonymous on-line community where people can meet people who suffer the same symptoms. That means care-takers can talk to other care-takers and give each other advice on what to say besides “perk up” (that’s a killer). People who can’t get out of bed can talk to others who can’t lift themselves up and out. It’s such a relief to talk to your tribe who will never get bored talking about how they feel. People who haven’t got a mental illness can get bored or feel helpless so it’s such a relief to talk to your own kind. Last year I handed BlackDogTribe
to Marjorie Wallace who runs Sane, an incredible charity where they have a continual hot-line for support and how to get help among other things. She is an angel and worked 30 years to create Sane. I hope you all join the BlackDogTribe
so you do not feel so alone.
Why is it you can accomplish so much, have so many people tell you what a great thing you’ve done; how proud and impressed they all are and the next day feel like shit again? I peaked last week graduating from Oxford; feeling slightly hysterical and inflated (a feeling I cannot recall having in my life ever) because I felt I finally cracked into the world of people who used to terrify me with their encyclopaedic brains. What happens is when you’re wearing that black bat cape and square hat with the tassel is that suddenly people assume you know something and converse with you like you can actually bring something intelligent to the table.
In the past I used to drip in sweat when seated near an ‘expert’ on anything from politics to worm farming, terrified they would find out that I knew absolutely nothing; my mind an empty, cloudless sky. In those situations I always wanted to call a friend like they do on game shows to get some info on the subject to show I’m not such an idiot rather than have to hold some inane smile on my face expressing fascination. Does anyone have that thing called self-esteem for more than a few hours? And what does it mean anyway? How can your self have esteem about it self? It’s just another thing (sensation) you stick on you but nothing to do with the ‘self’. What happens the next day after they put the gold over your neck at the Olympics or you score a goal in football and a hundred people hug you? How long can the esteem for themselves stick around before it loses it’s erection?
For reason’s of health I think we should all put our efforts on just feeling our ‘self’ without the accoutrements of pride or esteem or even disappointment.How this is done is not easy because there so much out there to tempt us to look great, make money, get power, be famous, to get more than the other guy, to win, win ,win whatever there is to win. Here’s the real bitch: No one likes you any more when you get those things and, underneath, when you’re alone you’re just your plain old ‘self’ anyway. I hope this doesn't sound too weird but I know what I mean and that’s all that counts.
Okay here’s a little sampler of what depression isn’t; it isn’t because something bad has happened in your life. I am a living example of that myth put to bed. Nothing bad happened, as a matter of fact I just graduated from Oxford on Monday; this should be every Christmas that ever was wrapped together in the world of self esteem. That ‘I’m so happy I could burst thing’ lasted one day, today is Friday and I’ve recognized only this morning that I am going down the rabbit hole of sanity. Even I, who thinks I’m such an expert on those who are mentally unwell took a full 3 days to realize my thoughts are turning sick and vindictive that comes with the infection of depression.
Thoughts are the signals of the illness, there’s no other way to recognize it. There is no lump, no rash, no scar as proof, only warped, vicious thoughts. They start off rational enough then I start looking through my contacts list at how many people I know and then decide I need to call them all immediately. I do this probably out of extreme fear that I’m disappearing and will shortly be forgotten by everyone in the world. I feel death is imminent (another bad sign). I start with a few ‘how are you’ calls and then like a flood-gate opening, they become obsessive; I call people while I’m driving, sitting on the loo, shaving my legs and cutting them by accident because my hand is dialing on the phone. I’ve also started to answer every email that’s ever been written to me for no apparent reason, hoping they won’t be answered so I don’t have to answer them back.
I could tell I needed to call a doctor because this morning after insisting on an x-ray for everything I went to pick up my glasses from the shop at 7 in the morning and parked outside waiting for it to open on a double yellow line with the blinkers going and trucks honking at me to pass the one lane road. While I was sitting there meditating I realized I needed help so I’m going to the doctor now. There is solace in this that I am aware the black dog is back but may only stick around for a little while; at least I know and that’s a gift.