MICF: Ruby Wax

I love Ruby Wax. I love her for every Ruby Wax Meets interview, because she script edited Absolutely Fabulous (great writers need great script editors – and I love script editing), and because she asks if anyone knows how to behave like an adult.

 ruby 64 portrait

I’ve been an adult for a long time now and I’ve still got no idea how to behave.

Out of Her Mind is Ruby’s story about finally being diagnosed with clinical depression and being so ill that she was institutionalised. That’s still such a horrible word. I wanted to tone it down with the less-stigmatised “hospitalised”, but is isn’t the same. Institutionalised implies being shut away for being nuts, bonkers, crazy, mental; that you have a mental illness. That you have a mental illness. Ruby’s show stresses how one in four people suffer from mental illness and how far too many in four still don’t see mental illness as an illness.

“It’s all in your head.” Yes it is. It’s a chemical imbalance that in Ruby’s case was mis-diagnosed as glandular fever and it’s likes when she was young and caused her to hear abusive voices no matter how happy or successful she was – so she kept running. By running she meant being constantly busy and striving for more regardless of if that more was going to make her feel any different or any better.

For us who have enjoyed her work, some of that running helped to create some exceptionally good writing and performances, but she doesn’t link her creativity to her illness and continues to stress that our genes don’t know or care what we do in life.

Ruby is not the only comedian using an illness (that ultimately made her stop running by taking away her ability to function) to create a show, but Out of Her Mind stands above some others because she’s created a balance of “please understand that clinical depression is nothing about how you feel” with a story telling that’s honest, open and very funny. She doesn’t let her anger and passion about the subject get in the way of telling a good story and makes her self-indulgence a vital part of her telling.

With diagnosis, treatment and medication, Ruby was able to take control of her abusive voices and realise that the voices that shaped her as a child were wrong. But it’s still not a happy story as she explains her belief that humans are built for survival, not happiness.

I don’t think she means that we really can’t be happy, but more that not being happy isn’t unusual and that it’s not something to be scared of.

I loved Out of Her Mind and I’m really looking forward to see what she writes next because I suspect that now she’s stopped running her brain can give her the freedom to create something amazing.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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