**may be triggering to some
It’s taken me several days to finish writing this. I wasn’t quite sure what I truly wanted to capture in this piece but I just knew that I wanted to continue an important conversation and to talk about Naomi Judd’s legacy as a reminder once again that mental illness does NOT discriminate. It’s a message that sadly needs to be repeated over and over again. To the outside world, Naomi seemed to have it all but Depression doesn’t give two shits about fame and fortune or beauty and age for that matter.
At 76 Naomi was a music icon in the country world and was all set to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum alongside her daughter Wynonna just 24 hours after she tragically took her life. Her illness just wouldn’t allow her to hold on for one more day or for the final tour of her career she’d been gearing up for this coming Fall.
In an interview she did several years ago while on tour promoting her new book; “River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope”, Naomi told moderator Robin Roberts on Good Morning America that after being on a tour with Wyonna about 10 years ago now she returned home and suddenly found herself in a deep dark depression, anxious and suicidal; unable to leave her couch for the next two years.
“Fans see me in rhinestones, you know, with glitter in my hair, that really is who I am,” “But then I would come home and not leave the house for three weeks, and not get out of my pajamas, and not practice normal hygiene. It was really bad.”
As I started to delve further into Naomi’s journey I began to see so many similarities in our stories. She too was diagnosed with treatment resistant depression after many failed treatments, including ECT and medication trials, like me. She had stated in several interviews that her descent into depression seemed to hit her out of nowhere, like me, until therapy made us both aware that wasn’t the case. She was also very vocal about her diagnosis which eventually led her to become an advocate for others with mental health issues and suicidal ideations, like me (she was a very prominent voice for the organization NAMI ~National Alliance on Mental Illness).
And once she re-emerged back into the public eye, feeling hope again for her future she began writing her book because she needed the world to know that mental illness “is not a character flaw. It’s a stinking disease”.
She said at the time that she was grateful to now be on the other side of her illness that almost took her life. But Depression for many is a lifelong struggle and much like a disease such as cancer it is not uncommon for a relapse to occur once in remission. And much like a disease such as cancer a person still needs to be vigilant with proper maintenance, therapy and medications. A person struggling with Depression who goes into remission may choose to stop taking the proper precautions that helped guide them into recovery, whether it be by discontinuing their treatment with medication or maintaining regular therapy sessions.
Unfortunately though Naomi had stayed vigilant and took the proper precautions needed to stay in remission but much like a disease such as cancer which you cannot control, it can still sadly lead to the loss of life.
Her daughters Ashley and Wynonna put out a statement the day she died which read in part; “Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness.” The news has been devastating to her fans and her loved ones ever since but the message her daughters put out to the world needs a standing ovation because all too often people try to cover up a loved one’s suicide due to the stigma and shame that often follows a tragic loss of life due to depression. If we can all take just one positive thing away with us from this tragedy, it’s that their message is one of hope that one day people will be able to talk about mental illness just as we would cancer. RIP Naomi
If you or someone you love is in crisis please go to your nearest emergency room or reach out to Canada Suicide Prevention Service at: 1.833.456.4566 or check your local listings
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