7 Famous People with Depression

John McManamy | Feb 27, 2015

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This list is populated with those who achieved greatness or celebrity despite – or in some cases because of – their crushing burdens. But the real lesson is that depression can bring down even the strongest in our midst. We may celebrate victory, but there is no shame in acknowledging defeat. Let us begin …

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Abraham Lincoln

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“I am now the most miserable man living,” the 31-year-old Lincoln confessed. “I must die or be better.”

Depression was a constant in his life. Trial and tribulation shaped the man. Over time, he passed from fear to engagement, then to transcendence. “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” read the words on his Memorial.

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Winston Churchill

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“Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result,” he wrote. He referred to his depression as his “Black dog.”

Historian Anthony Storr observed:

“Had he been a stable and equable man, he could never have inspired the nation. In 1940, when all the odds were against Britain, a leader of sober judgment might well have concluded that we were finished.”

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Sylvia Plath

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As a young woman she had already survived numerous depressions and a suicide attempt.

“How did I know,” she wrote, “that someday - at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere - the bell jar, with it’s stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?”

But in her short life she also dared to live. In one poem, she boasted: “I eat men like air.”

Then, the bell jar would descend for good.

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Meriwether Lewis

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He was a hero in an age of heroes. He led a small band of men on a spectacular journey of discovery through 8,000 miles of untracked wilderness.

But his friend and mentor Thomas Jefferson also noted that he was subject to “hypochondriac affections.” After a troubled stint as governor of the territory he had explored, he set out for Washington DC. He never made it. In Jefferson’s words: “He did the deed.”

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Tchaikovsky

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On a tour of the US, two years before his death, he wrote: “I feel that something within me has gone to pieces.”

Then he threw himself into his greatest work, his Sixth Symphony, Pathetique. “Adagio lamentoso,” reads the title to the last movement.

Nine days after its premier, he was dead. He had contracted cholera from drinking unfiltered water.

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Robin Williams

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His comedy routines personified mania, but off the stage depression proved his major challenge.

Author and comic Bruce Clark notes that comedians have a rare gift for experiencing the dark side and crafting this into laughter.

Robin Williams found a way to laugh, then make us laugh. Then the laugher died.

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Mariel Hemingway

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Her celebrated grandfather committed suicide. So did her sister Margaux. In all, seven family members have died by their own hand, in what one survivor refers to as “the family exit.”

The actress lives a life of seclusion with her live-in boyfriend, “running from crazy.” This is the title to a 2013 documentary, which chronicles her life in the shadow of the family curse.