Emma Thompson: English Rose Discusses Thorny Depression

Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson has known the highs of stardom as an iconic British actress and screenwriter but she has also tasted bitter, emotional lows because of her long running battle with depression.

The English rose says her depression led her to such lows that at one stage in her life she didn’t wash or dress.

I’ve certainly been there, in various depressions, when you never wash, and wear the same things all the time,” she told her interviewerfromEasy Living magazine.

It’s the sort of depression that doesn’t necessarily make you want to kill yourself – you just don’t want to be, you want to switch it off and stop. That’s not the same as saying ‘I’m going to kill myself’. But it’s a feeling I know well.”

emma thomnpson - english rose

Thompson looks back to the 1980s when she first had clinical depression at a time when she was performing in a stage version of Me and My Girl.

I really didn’t change my clothes or answer the phone, but went into the theatre every night and was cheerful and sang the Lambeth Walk. That’s what actors do,” she told the Telegraph.

But the blight of depression returned when she divorced Kenneth Branagh in 1995. The double Oscar winner branded divorce as a “ghastly, painful business”, adding: “But also fame, in some ways a ghastly, painful business as well. You become slightly more public property in a way that’s not necessarily always comfortable.”

emma thonspon and emma watson

But for Emma the perfect tonic was work and it served as her income and saviour in those dark times. She points to her writing work on Sense and Sensibility for which she wrote the screenplay and starred her husband Greg Wise and fellow British actress, Kate Winslet.

The only thing I could do was write,” she said. “I used to crawl from the bedroom to the computer and just sit and write, and then I was alright, because I was not present. Sense and Sensibility really saved me from going under, I think, in a very nasty way.”

Writing still provides and escape for her and when asked what from, she pointed at the inner demons: “Oh, you know, the voices in my head. The constant “must do better”, “must try harder” plus “you’re too fat and not really a very good mother.”

Indeed the stress of trying for a second child after the birth of her first, Gala, was another factor that fuelled her illness: “It was hellish after Gala was born, trying to have another baby through IVF. That was terrible – I blamed myself, and no-one could persuade me that it wasn’t my fault – and that led to another depression.”

Emma Thompson

She unofficially adopted a 16-year-old Rwandan orphan, which she says made it possible for her to “balance” herself, rather than constantly trying to escape into a “fantasy world”.

As with so many cases, the illness is never far away, but through help, therapy and meditation, a lot of people manage to keep it at bay.