Ruby Wax opens up about her battle with depression

Ruby Wax opens up
Ruby Wax opens up

Ruby Wax has made a career out of being funny, but behind the smiles and jokes, her life hasn’t always been a bundle of laughs.

For decades, the comedienne has battled depression and bipolar disorder – something she successfully managed with medication for 12 years until an unexpected relapse two years ago, when she was staying in a monastery in Yorkshire.

“I thought I was possessed by the devil, so it wasn’t the most appropriate place for it to happen,” Ruby, 71, tells HELLOin this exclusive interview. “I said: ‘I’ve got to get out of here,’ and then I admitted myself to a psychiatric clinic.

“If you have depression, you go dead, but you’re awake,” she adds. “It’s not just being sad. It’s like somebody took your brain and it hurts to move.”

A regular on British TV since the 1980s, Ruby is now back on the road with a new play and book, both called I’m Not as Well as I Thought I Was, inspired by her time in the clinic, where she stayed for five weeks after travelling around the world in search of the meaning of life.

The US star’s globetrotting adventures took her from helping refugees in Afghanistan to joining migrating whales in the Dominican Republic and a 30-day silent retreat in California.

“You have to get up at 5.30 in the morning and then you meditate until ten at night and then you have to volunteer to clean the place,” she says. “There were gongs all the time and they were so loud, my cervix vibrated.

“In the beginning, you go crazy. They take away your phone, there’s no reading, no distraction, and your thoughts are really giving you hell. But eventually, the thoughts give up, so you’ve got this open space. Food started to be delicious and I could watch nature for hours without getting bored.

“But then, when I got back out again, I went back to my normal routine of being egotistical and doing an ad for potato crisps.”

Ruby Wax helping others at the Frazzled Cafe
Ruby Wax helping others at the Frazzled Cafe


Ruby’s struggles led her to establish the charity Frazzled Café, an online community where people who feel overwhelmed by the stresses of modern life can share their thoughts and feelings.

“People have a chance to talk about what’s going on in their mind,” says Ruby. “I think we’re the only charity that catches people before they might get ill. Maybe we alleviate the early symptoms because to be heard is half the cure.”

It is one of the mental-health charities benefiting from the Kind2Mind campaign being run by Big Give, the UK’s most successful match-funding platform, which will match every donation pound for pound, until 28 May.

Ruby and her daughters Maddy and Marina
Ruby and her daughters Maddy and Marina

Ruby’s family with her producer-director husband Ed Bye – son Max, who works in tech, and daughters Maddy and Marina, who return to this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe with their comedy act Siblings – know how to cope with her illness.

“I think they’re really wounded because they don’t want Mummy being that ill. But they understand it. They know I’ll get better.”

To have your charity donation doubled via Big Give’s Kind2Mind campaign, click below or visit and search for Frazzled Cafe or your chosen charity.

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