One in four of us will suffer from depression, as Ruby Wax told us yesterday during her session at the Book Festival. Having battled with the illness for years, she is determined to be the poster girl to help in any campaign to rid mental illness of the lingering stigma that sufferers have to endure in the way of discrimination and misunderstanding. Ruby Wax has embraced her illness, and made it work for her. In her own words, she has gone from not graduating from the Busy Beaver Nursery School at age 5 to receiving a Masters from Oxford next month for her studies on the brain. In seeking to understand her illness, she has literally Mastered it. This does not mean she has foregone medication. As she herself says, diabetics would not stop their insulin, nor cancer victims their chemo. She has written a book â€œSane New Worldâ€ to help us understand how the brain works, how we can help ourselves to maintain our sanity, and how we can rewire our thinking to find calm in a stimulus overloaded and frenetic world. Itâ€™s a book full of insights and humour. She believes we are simply not equipped to deal with the non-stop demands of the modern world, and we need techniques to distance ourselves from the clamour in our brains, and the clamour all around us. In our minds we are self critical and self judgemental, our own worst enemies for mental health. Mindfulness is what Wax suggests we embrace – the strategy of looking inside ourselves to self-regulate thoughts and emotions. Be aware of the present, listen to your surroundings, keenly, intently. In doing so the heady rush of cortisol keeping us on high alert will subside, and we will begin to feel calmer and more in control.
In the second section of the book there is an extremely clear and understandable account of how the brain works. We are not genetically hard wired from birth as was once thought, but our genes can change with behaviour. We can literally change the way our brains work by what we do and how we think. Itâ€™s a message that might surprise many that â€œI am what I amâ€ has got it wrong. As Wax says, we need to change the lyrics of that song, but it wonâ€™t be so easy to dance to. There are enough anecdotes, puns, and quirky jokes to make this an accessible book to read, while providing many insights and shrewd observations.
â€œSane New Worldâ€ available from Amazon in hardcover