Sarah Sands: Walking, not whining, relieves the blues, Ruby

Share
Related Topics

Two male university students were Skypeing each other. They had been close friends at school and had about seven months of news to catch up on. After a delighted drawn-out "Hey", they swapped views on Chelsea's line-up and performance. They joked about each other's sporting prowess. Then, sated by conversation, they signed off. Afterwards, one of them wondered rhetorically if he should have wished his pal a happy birthday.

Ruby Wax says in her new show Losing It, at the Menier Chocolate Factory in south London, "I think we have a human problem and it's about relationships." I fear she has lost half of humankind already. Not since The Vagina Monologues has a show been so intimidating to men. Ruby is asking that we nail depression right here, right now, by talking about it.

Predominantly male theatre critics wonder nervously if is this is entertainment. If a woman talks about how she feels for an hour or so and then invites the audience to do the same, a man may just pack his bags and head for Libya. This does not mean that men are shallow. Rory Kinnear's National Theatre Hamlet, now on tour, is revealing about depression but seeks to dramatise rather than "normalise" it. Wax, like Tracey Emin, attracts a female following that regards intimate revelation as courageous. Both would be intimidating were it not for their vulnerability. However, I know men, and some women, who regard this vulnerability as intimidating. A male don told me that his male undergraduates were in constant fear of women bursting into tears.

In The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Donmar Warehouse in London, the fat boy is outwardly boastful while confiding his secret fear of failure. His female rival is outwardly diffident and inwardly competitive. Guess who wins? Yet the exorcising of fear through confession may not work for either sex.

I understand that Ruby Wax is acting for the common good by removing the stigma from depression. It is certainly a good thing if she can raise a laugh from fellow sufferers. But I have observed depression at proximity, and one of the worst things about it is the self-absorbed paralysis. This is what is resolutely abnormal about it. It destroys natural curiosity, empathy and pleasure in environment and other people. Can you imagine being emotionally indifferent to the first daffodils of spring or to the happiness of your loved ones? I have also seen cognitive therapy fail, because there are only so many times you can retread the mind's closed circle.

People suffering from depression require infinite patience and kindness, but only drugs seem to be a proven solution, and those are not without side effects. A glorious sign of mental health is engagement with the rest of the world. Does more discussion of how it feels to be depressed inspire the victim look outwards?

Wax says that mental illness is no different from physical illness and should not be differently perceived. Yet there is a vital difference: depression affects personality and identity, which is why it is so particularly hard on those closest to you. Men may have the right instincts about the Ruby Wax show. As George Eliot urged, enlightenment means looking out through windows, rather than peering into mirrors.

Sarah Sands is deputy editor of the 'London Evening Standard'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Don’t pity me for eating alone, just give me a better table

Rosie Millard
Aerial view of planned third runway at Heathrow  

Heathrow expansion: This final 'conclusion' has simply fanned the airport flames

Chris Blackhurst
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map