Mental illness symptoms have been assigned to celebrities throughout the past two centuries, at least. Recently, singer Stevie Nicks described her horrific experience at the hands of a psychiatrist in a Newsweek article.
She states, “The biggest mistake I ever made was giving in to my friends and going to see a psychiatrist. It was in the mid-1980s, and I had just gotten out of Betty Ford. I was feeling buoyant and saved and fantastic.
“But everyone said, ‘We’re sure you’re going to start using again. You should go to a psychiatrist.’ Finally, I said, ‘All right!’ and went. What this man said was: ‘In order to keep you off cocaine we should put you on the drug that we’re using a lot these days called Klonopin.’ Stupidly, I said, ‘All right.’ And the next eight years of my life were destroyed.”
She describes her agonizing realization that her life was being shattered by this powerful anti-anxiety drug.
Ms. Nicks says “The next six years were terrible. Looking back on it, I think this therapist was basically a groupie. He loved hearing stories of rock and roll and he started upping my dose. He watched me go from a beautiful, 125-pound, newly sober woman who had the world at her feet to a 170-pound woman who had the lights go out in her eyes.”
She checked into Betty Ford once more, and describes her painful withdrawal.
“Finally, in 1993, I’d had enough. I said, ‘Take me to a hospital.’ I went in for 47 days, and it made Betty Ford look like a cakewalk. My hair turned gray and my skin molted. I could hardly walk. You can detox off heroin in 12 days. Coke is just a mental detox. But tranquilizers—they are dangerous. I was terrified to leave, and I came away knowing that that would never happen to me again.”
What was the result of her detox? Stevie Nicks writes, “I learned so much in that hospital. I wrote the whole time I was there, stuff that I consider to be some of my best writing ever. I learned that I could have fun and laugh and cry with amazing people and not be on drugs. I learned that I could live my life and still be beautiful and fun and still go to parties and not even have to have a glass of wine. I never went to therapy again after that—why would I?”
Stevie Nicks is to be applauded for realizing her mental illness symptoms could be handled without drugs. Other celebrities have not been so lucky.
Frances Farmer, Vivien Leigh, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe were all diagnosed with mental illness, treated by psychiatrists and had their careers and lives literally destroyed. 1
Vivien Leigh suffered from TB, an illness that can sometimes produce mental illness symptoms. 2
Ms. Leigh “began experiencing attacks of hysteria in 1946 after she became exhausted while performing on stage in London. Further bouts occurred in 1952 and her husband convinced her to see a psychiatrist. Her hysteria worsened and she ended up in an institution, packed in ice, fed raw eggs and given electroshock therapy (EST) as her ‘treatment.’ She once had to perform in Warsaw with the EST burn marks still on her head. Her headaches from the electroshock became too debilitating so she was prescribed psychotropic drugs instead.”
She eventually died from TB.
Celebrities are not immune from the diagnosis of having mental illness symptoms. And those that speak out about their mistreatment at the hands of the psychiatric profession are to be applauded.