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I’m Not as Well as I Thought I Was: The Sunday Times Bestseller

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These days, trying to stay sane in a completely chaotic world makes life incredibly difficult. For those readers who are deep in the darkness of mental illness, I hope my book makes you feel less alone.

As soon as she realised she was “spiralling downhill”, she rang her psychiatrist, who advised her to return to London. He told her that he knew, from her voice, all was not well, which made her feel “that shame we depressives usually feel at some point, like I was being self-indulgent, making the whole thing up for attention.” But as she explains: “Once you’re in it, you hardly know where you are. You don’t exist any more. Your spirit has left the building.” I'm Not as Well as I Thought I Was is Ruby's most honest and raw book to date - an insight into the depths of her psyche, and a stark exploration of what trauma can do to someone. Reflecting on years of personal and professional experience, she opens up to readers about her struggles with mental health and different treatments over the years, hoping to provide reassurance and guidance to anyone confronting their own anticipated, or unanticipated, struggles with mental health. Wax shudders when I ask her about retirement. She writes amusingly about her horror at an imagined prospect of a life spent taking tea with other retirees. And yet she now protests (again that fear of being misrepresented) that she likes taking tea with friends. Later on she volunteers: “I don’t potter around or ever say, ‘I can’t wait to go and do some planting.’” And when we touch on the subject of how depression can flourish in a limbo just as much as when a life is in overdrive, she slips in the aside: “People die when they retire.”It is 8am on a rainy morning outside Ruby Wax’s house in London’s Notting Hill Gate. The American-British comedian, writer, television personality and authority on mental health has suggested we meet before breakfast, although the reason for this timing, intended to be helpful to each of us, no longer seems as clear as when the arrangement was made. It is like being up for some antisocial budget flight. Her white stucco house is handsome from the outside and lights are on in the lower-ground-floor kitchen as I ring the bell. I spot a window box crammed with artificial flowers – as if to say: the show must go on, whatever the season. In this, they are like Wax herself. There is mental illness in the Wax family (as there is in most families if you look hard enough). When she took part in the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, she made the discovery that her great aunt and great-grandmother both spent time in mental asylums. “Is it Vienna or the genes?” she wondered. In 1939, Wax’s parents left Vienna to escape the Nazis. She has joked “my parents ran from Europe to escape the war and I ran to Europe to escape them”. There was never any talk at home of relatives killed in the Holocaust. Wax did not even know her mother was Jewish until she was an adult and stumbled upon her passport with a red J for Jew and a swastika. Had her parents been able to speak about any of it, it would have made a huge difference to her: “I’d have understood why they were so outraged and crazy.” I'm not a fiction writer. I can't fake it. I could say I rode into the sunset, but life isn't like that unless you're a cowboy. Truth is I'm not as well as I thought I was.

She has a miraculous ability to write about depression without being depressing, and there are many entertaining adventures before she comes to a standstill. But more of this in a moment. For here she is at her kitchen table, asking if I’d like honey with the tea, wanting to know if it tastes alright: “Tell me the truth…” she instructs. It is, I suddenly realise, the exact phrase she used in her groundbreaking interviews with celebrities on the BBC’s When Ruby Wax Met… in the 90s (she has interviewed everyone from Trump to Madonna to OJ Simpson). The book opens in a mental institution with ‘all the charm of the hotel room/prison I was isolated in at Heathrow’ an antidote to living a frazzled life. Along the way I wanted to find meaning, peace, happiness – the stuff Wax has had comic mileage out of her parents – launching her career with comedy based on their ghastliness. Was anything good about them? “My parents over-loved me. They wanted a little doll who’d be the American dream. Instead, they got this androgynous, angry, repressed child.” She thinks her talent for comedy comes from her father, who was “a great comedian”, although his humour had a “vicious” streak. Meditation has also helped with the anger she thinks she inherited from him: “I’ve switched that button off.” Her mother was beautiful, clever and “obsessively” clean: “Even in a five-star hotel, she’d be on her knees, washing out the garbage can.” She adds: “I can have that too. Not in the same way but, if there’s a crumb, I’ll chase it.”On the face of it, mindfulness goes against her grain. She is restless, happiest when on the move. But that is precisely why meditation is helpful: “I have to do 45 minutes every day – about four of us do it together on Zoom. I did 15 minutes today, before you came, figuring I’ll be in a taxi later… going to get my teeth fixed…” But to sit still and find the “wise” adult who can calm her inner kid is challenging: “You really watch yourself: how agonising it is just to be in your own skin.” A true tour de force. We're all a little messed up in our own ways, but we should all strive to be as fabulously fearless as Ruby.' - Fearne Cotton An exceptional account on mental health from a true tour de force. We're all a little messed up in our own ways, but we should all strive to be as fabulously fearless as Ruby Fearne Cotton

BRIGHTON AYLESBURY HARPENDEN NORWICH BRIDPORT HAYES BIRMINGHAM YORK CHESTERFIELD LIVERPOOL RICHMOND CARLISLE NEWCASTLE CREWE ALDERSHOT FROME SWINDON GUILDFORDHowever, after some transcendent experiences, I ended up in a mental institution. Obviously, I didn't find what I was looking for." we’re all chasing. However, after some transcendent experiences, I ended up in a mental institution. The comedian’s plan to write a travel memoir took a darker turn when her depression returned after 12 years. She talks about her recovery, empty nesting – and stranding herself on a desert island

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