Ruby Wax X SANE Spotlight
Ruby Wax has been a SANE Ambassador since 2011. Best known for her comedy and documentaries, Ruby is also recognised for being open about her depression and campaigning for better understanding of mental health.
In the first of our Spotlight interviews, we caught up with her recently to talk about life, mental health and cold water swimming.
How have the last couple of years been for you? Have you had to adjust yourself to any of the circumstances that we’ve all gone through?
While I was in lockdown I was doing my Frazzled Café. These are online meetings where you can come and talk in a safe space about what’s really going on with you. I was running it every night so I had total connection with a group of people speaking from the heart. It’s for anyone who just wants to talk about what’s going on in their lives because the idea is, if you talk about it, that’s half the cure. And so I still run the meetings once a week but I did it every night during lockdown and that was my salvation.
SANE has an online community for anyone affected by mental health including a forum for people to connect with each other. Is that sense of community really important to you?
Yes, I think that’s what people now really want more than anything is community. Connecting with people in similar situations is very important. We have hosts doing Frazzled Café every day, every hour, and you can go on frazzlecafe.org – I do it every two weeks and it’s free. A forum like SANE’s is also a great way to make that connection and keep it going.
Your Instagram always shows you doing physical activities such as cycling, kayaking and cold water swimming. Is physical health as important as mental health for you?
I have all this pent-up energy but I can’t run because my legs don’t spread that far. So, when I’m lucky enough to be near cold water I like to go swimming. And I read that it’s good for depression, so I’m going to believe it. But if you really do an activity – whether it’s cycling, running, swimming – it doesn’t prevent mental illness, but it gets that adrenaline and endorphins going.
I also do mindfulness for 45 minutes every morning. I have to do that to centre myself. If I don’t have something to do then I have problems, I have to have a focus to keep my mind occupied. Mindfulness makes me good at focusing. I’m writing my next book and that’s what keeps me going right now. It’s called I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was and it’s coming out next year.
You were very open about a recent bout of depression. How are you feeling now?
I’m a lot better. Last time this happened to me about 12 years ago it took months to return to who I used to be, but this time it only took weeks. I was fortunate to have transcranial stimulation which recalibrates the neurons and it’s a treatment for people who don’t respond to medication. It’s not the electric version where you lose your memory, it’s done with magnets. It’s not for everyone – it works on 60% of people – but I was lucky enough that it worked on me, so I was fine in just three weeks. It’s very new in the UK although it’s been around in America for a while. I’m very lucky.
You’re a renowned advocate for mental health and recently received an Honorary Doctorate from Banger University for your work in this area. Congratulations on such a well-deserved accolade.
Thank you. I’m connected to Bangor because, when I was writing my book A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled, they did a scan of my brain. Then I spent time at a silent retreat and then they scanned it again when I came back to see the difference. I also feel a connection to them because they also have a Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at the university.
I have two doctorates already so I’m pretty lucky. I’m also the Chancellor of Southampton University. I mean, go figure, I did really badly in high school but when you have a mental illness you apparently get all these accolades!
You mentioned your new book is out next year. What else can we keep an eye out for?
I’m doing a tour around March which will be based on the new book and I have a Mindfulness Guide for Survival course online. It’s all out there on my website so you can go learn mindfulness, except it’s my way. The tour will be about finding meaning and what that means so I’m looking forward to taking that around the country next year.
Thanks to Ruby for taking the time to speak to SANE, supporting the charity as an Ambassador and for her continuing mental health campaigning. You can find out more about all of her projects at rubywax.net.