Ruby probes workings of the mind

Ruby Wax
Ruby Wax
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As Ruby Wax prepares to bring her Sane New World tour to Yorkshire she tells Catherine Scott about why we just aren’t ready to deal with 21st Century life.

Arriving in Britain from the United States in 1977, Ruby Wax began her acting career with the Royal Shakespeare Company. 

Ruby smashed on to our television screens in the 80s playing loud, brash American Shelley DuPont in the hit comedy series Girls On Top where she starred alongside Tracey Ullman, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

The show helped catapult her into becoming one of the great female comedians of our generation.

Her BBC show Ruby Wax Meets saw her interview people such as Imelda Marcos, Pamela Anderson and Roseanne Barr and win a Bafta for her interview with Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.

However, it is for her battle with depression and her staunch campaign to end the stigma attached to mental illness, that she has garnered a new and diverse following.

Ruby says she has battled depression most of her life, but says it does not define her.

Fascinated with trying to find out why her brain worked the way it did, she embarked on a Masters Degree in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy from Oxford University.

“I was so determined to study the brain that I told them if they didn’t let me in I was going to study it anyway,” says Ruby. “I wanted to know how and why the brain works, the way it does, and why things sometimes go wrong.”

Her studies and subsequent book, Sane New World, made her realise that the human brain is not ready to deal with 21st century life.

“We are not equipped for this century, it’s too hard, too fast, and too full of fear; we just don’t have the bandwidth,” she explains.

“Our brains can’t take so much information in a world where we’re bombarded by bad news and force-fed information. I can just about take in the weather then I’m exhausted. You open a newspaper, everyone’s dead.

“We know so much about how the world works – but so little about our how our own minds work. It’s like having a Ferrari on top of your head but no one gave you the keys.”

It is ironic on the day we speak Ruby, 61, is rushing between interviews as she promotes her current UK tour, which is based on her best-selling book and takes the same name.

“It is funny,” she says of the tour. “But it tells you how our brains work and put the reins on it. This is a show for everybody – it is a model on how to survive the 21st century.

“The public should be more aware of the way the brain works.

“Only then can they deal with it when something starts to go wrong.

“Suicide is the biggest killer in men under 30. Surely that shows that young people aren’t prepared for the pace of life we have today?

“Studying hasn’t cured me of depression but it has educated me to understand it more. I can now see it coming. If you have a disease you can’t think it away. I can now understand that I am sick.”

Ruby says campaigns like Time for Change, which is aiming to tackle the stigma surrounding mental illness, are starting to work.

“Things are better than they were. We do now feel that we can talk about mental illness, which is a step in the right direction.”

As well as touring the UK over the next two months, Ruby is also busy writing another book on mindfulness.

Ruby Wax: Sane New World: The Tour is based on her No.1 best-selling book Sane New World: Taming the Mind, which has enjoyed worldwide success since publication in 2013.

She will be at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Quarry Theatre, Leeds on September 14, at Harrogate Theatre on October 13 and at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield on October 14.

For further details about the Sane New World Tour visit www.rubywax.net