Uber philanthropist Audrey Gruss’ mother suffered from depression and she remembers what it was like growing up with a mentally ill mother. Gruss now lives part-time in a breathtaking oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach. Gruss has raised tens of milloins of dollars for other charities. Two years ago she decided to start her own. She created Hope for Depression with $25 million of her own money. The goal of the groups is to fund international international cutting edge research that seeks to integrate neuroscience with psychology.
When you see Audrey Gruss, a striking blonde always impeccably dressed and coiffed, you do not think football. Polo, yes. Football, no. Yet Gruss picked four-time Super Bowl champion Terry Bradshaw to speak at her second-annual fundraiser luncheon for Hope for Depression. Bradshaw was a very, very good choice. If you did not know that Bradshaw has depression, he will be more than happy to tell you about it. He is not bashful, even in a ballroom full of weathly impeccably dress and coiffed Palm Beach women. You gotta love a manly man who is willing to stand up in front of a bunch of women and confess that he gets choked up when he sees an elderly couple holding hands.
There he was, up on the dais, telling us how he hated every minute of every Super Bowl he won (FOUR!) and a dark cloud descended on him in the weeks after. The depression would paralyze him. He knew something was wrong. His three marriages failed. He dawged around for years, doing things he is not proud of. He hit bottom when he realized he would not be raising his two young daughters. He went to his preacher – “and cried my eyes out.” He went to a therapist and “cried my eyes out.” Then he went to a psychiatrist where he got an answer: “The diagnosis was a relieft. It explained why I had done so many things.”
So the quarterback who needed a cortisone shot in his elbow to relieve the pain before every game figured there must be a shot or a pill to fix his depression. No. He started antidepressants AND therapy and continues with both – eight years later. The depression still comes but now he knows what it is and what to do.
I waited around the ballroom after lunch, watching Bradshaw sign autographs and pose for pictures. When I interviewed him he was funny, charming and, at age 60, still buff. He’s the kind of guy who looks you right in the eye when you ask a question and pulls in close when he answers. He looks so happy, healthy and so comfortable in his own skin. This is why people doubt us. When we do the footwork – therapy, medications, diet, exercise, sleep, reaching out for help at the first sign of trouble – and we get well, we get REALLY well.
Anyone who has ever been in a clinical depression knows that when it finally lifts, your life is not the same. It’s like the commercial for the allergy drug Claritin. You take the medicine and a dull film is peeled away and you can breathe. Everything is bright and colorful. You have unimaginable gratitude. Every morning you wake up like Scrooge on Christmas. You take nothing for granted.
People who do not believe in mental illness see us like this and doubt us. “Hey, who wouldn’t be happy if they had just taken two months off work – with pay – slept all day and lost 20 pounds?” If we had come back to the office with a cane or a stubble of new hair on our head no one would doubt us.
I finally realized I cannot control how people think. I can only control how I think. I know what I went through was real. I look and listen to Terry Bradshaw and I think – “See, he understands how it feels. He believes it is real. If depression can take down a manly man like Terry Bradshaw, it can take down anyone. If a manly man like Terry Bradshaw can ask for help, so can I.”