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Joanna Lumley discusses having a 'complete nervous breakdown' in her twenties

The actress has previously spoken about experiencing hallucinations

Olivia Blair@livblair
Monday 04 July 2016 16:00
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Joanna Lumley
Joanna Lumley

Joanna Lumley has spoken candidly about the “nervous breakdown” she experienced in her twenties, revealing it resulted in her taking a six-month break during which she had regular panic attacks.

Lumley has been a popular high-profile figure in the UK for the past 40 years thanks to her TV credentials and campaign work and she recently reprised the beloved role of magazine editor Patsy Stone in the Absolutely Fabulous movie.

The actress has previously spoken frankly about her mental health and discussed one incident which happened near the beginning of her career, in her mid-twenties, when she reportedly hallucinated "snipers" were aiming guns at her while she performed on stage in 1971.

Lumley has now further discussed that episode, telling The Times: “It was six months. It was a complete nervous breakdown.”

The 70-year-old said she soon quit the play and took six months off to go and visit her parents.

“I was off for six months. I was pretty badly shaken up,” she said. “My nerves were gone. I didn’t dare go to the shops. I had a really ropey old time. I was spending all day thinking, ‘How will I get through the day?’ I had those panic attacks when you think, ‘Breathe in, breathe out, just keep breathing in. Study the flowers. What colour are the flowers? Anything to stop your mind going mad. And I thought, ‘I’ve got to get out of this, how do I?’”

Lumley says during her time out to recover, she began to take a new approach to the negative thoughts she experienced, which she believes ultimately helped her.

“To try and make myself get out to shops to buy food I would imagine the worst thing that could happen at each stage,” she said. “If I fell over on the floor, what would happen? Always the same answer came back into my head. ‘Someone will help you up’.”

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