“Keep yourself busy if you want to avoid depression.
For me, inactivity is the enemy.”
Matt Lucas, actor, screenwriter and comedian
It’s hard to imagine that some of the most influential and powerful people in this world battled a mental illness of some sort. From anxiety, to depression, to OCD, many well-known individuals faced these conditions, and were able to find solace in utilizing different coping mechanisms to ease their suffering.
As someone who suffers from any mental condition, it always helps to hear how others soothed their anxious mind. For myself, I also found solace in hearing the words and reading about the coping mechanisms of those remarkable individuals who fought the same inner demons that I do right now. Knowing that I am not alone, and that great individuals felt the same way I did, in itself has been a comfort for me.
Identified below are just some of the world’s most influential and powerful individuals who fought an internal war of their own. Their stories, words and coping skills on this condition can hopefully bring you comfort and reassurance in knowing that you are not alone in the battlefield of having a mental illness.
The beloved American President who unified the extremely divisive United States during the tumultuous Civil war era. His unprecedented decision making and unwavering leadership led him to become one of the loved and inspiring Presidents the United States has ever known. Behind closed doors, he was fighting an inner war of his own. Lincoln had a personal life that many of us today could not fathom living. Only one of his four boys lived to full adulthood, and Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd, battled her own demons due to the loss of most of their children.
His choice of coping mechanisms
Lincoln had described his own condition as a misfortune and not a fault. Luckily, Lincoln found alternate ways to combat his bouts of depression throughout his lifetime. He enjoyed telling funny jokes and embraced sharing his humorous stories with others. Lincoln found great comfort in poetry, and in believing that his life had a greater purpose for mankind (rightfully so).
While his own life ended abruptly and unjustly, Lincoln will always be remembered and revered as a man who not only united a country, but also held strong with his own internal war against depression.
“A tendency to melancholy…. let it be observed, is a misfortune, not a fault.”
Abraham Lincoln (In a Letter to Mary Speed, 1843)
As Lincoln was revered in American history, so was Winston Churchill respected in his era and by his country. The British Prime Minister during WWII, Churchill was a remarkable leader, and quite memorable character during his time. However, perception is deceiving, as Churchill also fought severe bouts of depression, often referred to as his ‘black dog’, that would leave him locked away for days, even months, before he would come out feeling normal again.
His choice of coping mechanisms
Perseverance in never giving up assisted in Churchill overcoming his battles with depression. He also found happiness is writing and painting. In his art, there is no undertone of a depressed mind and his art spoke more to a content mind than a troubled one. Due to Churchill’s intellect and eloquence of words, writing also helped sooth his bouts of depression. It refocused his mind on something more positive, and took away the debilitating thoughts that depression can place on a person.
Some historians believe that Churchill had manic depression, and that his condition is what him a formidable leader. It gave him have a clearer understanding of emotion, increased Churchill’s resilience to tragedy and instilled greater empathy to those around him. His illness was a part of him, and one that made him the man that possibly helped save the world from destruction.
“We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.”
Winston Churchill (in a Radio Broadcast, 1940)
Well-known and beloved writer of the Harry Potter book series, author, J.K. Rowling trialed through rough bouts of depression before and after her books made her a household name. Rowling even based her darkest character, called dementors, on what facing depression is like; a creature who takes away all hope, feelings and happiness from you, leaving nothing but hopelessness and emptiness in its wake.
Her choice of coping mechanisms
Rowling finally sought outside help for her condition after her quick rise to success that left her overwhelmed and panicked. Seeking therapy has been instrumental for her depression, and has really helped Rowling in feeling better overall. She continues to be a powerful figure in this present day, and her artistry of worlds is unrivaled at times. One of the best quotes as stated by one of Rowling’s favorite Harry Potter characters, Albus Dumbledore, speaks to all of us who feel shadowed with depression, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.”
J. K. Rowling (in her Harvard Commencement Speech, 2008)
There is no shame in recognizing that you may suffer from depression. Some of the most influential and successful leaders have faced battles similar to the one you may be facing now. As opposed to staying silent, or letting yourself be drained by it, seek help from others or in positive ventures. Do not let your condition completely control or consume you; let it be a part of who you are and rise above it.
As the great leaders of years prior, and in today’s era, have learned to combat their mental illness, so can you. Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone, and that being strong isn’t about hiding it, but about being able to face it head on and without fear.