Last night I was dreading writing this post, mostly because I had no idea who it would be about. I know of plenty of famous or well-known people who have struggled with things like bipolar disorder or some sort of personality disorder (likely because they need people to understand why they behave a certain way), but outside of those, celebrities are rarely brave enough to disclose their mental health issues.
Enter, Jon Hamm. I will give you time to swoon.
I picked Jon wearing glasses and a five o’clock shadow because it’s my blog and that’s how I like it. For you clean shaven lovers, you’ll get yours. Just wait.
So, I will refrain from making a joke about how Jon Hamm has been given the diagnosis of Damn Sexy, oh wait… I just did that. Moving on…
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Mr. Hamm, he’s the lead character Don Draper on Mad Men. He’s universally adored for his good looks, his acting chops, and his charm. I’m also personally in love with his expansive vocabulary. He taught me two new words while I was reading his interviews – unmoored and pendulous. He’s been with the same girl for 14 years and doesn’t seem to be interested in dipping out anytime soon. All appearances and reports would lead you to believe that Jon has been a glowing success and a well-adjusted individual all his life. But, alas, he has not.
Jon Hamm’s live began less than quaintly in Missouri when he was born to a secretary and a an owner of a truck driving business. His parents divorced when he was 2 years old and Hamm went on living with his mother until she was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer when he was 10. He moved in with his father shortly after his mother’s death, until his father passed away when he was 20.
“I was… unmoored by that. But I was very fortunate to have really good friends in my life whose parents sort of rallied: ‘We’re gonna help this kid out, because otherwise there’s going to be trouble…’ I struggled with chronic depression. I was in bad shape. I knew I had to get back in school and back in some kind of structured environment and… continue.”
Hamm openly talked about his struggle with chronic depression in 2010. He has been candid about what treatments he used to work through his dark time. Besides having a strong support network, Hamm said he had success with therapy and antidepressants.
“I did do therapy and antidepressants for a brief period, which helped me. Which is what therapy does: it gives you another perspective when you are so lost in your own spiral, your own bullshit. It helps. And honestly? Antidepressants help! If you can change your brain chemistry enough to think: ‘I want to get up in the morning; I don’t want to sleep until four in the afternoon. I want to get up and go do my shit and go to work and…’ Reset the auto-meter, kick-start the engine!”
Hamm also said he found refuge in the theater department, finding that other children in similar situations sought out drama as a way to work through their struggles.
“Well, the theatre department always seems to be the sort of… way station for the orphans and all the people who don’t fit in anywhere else. I always swirled back to it.”
I’ve always liked Jon Hamm because he is handsome and hilarious on 30 Rock. I like a man who isn’t afraid to openly poke fun at how gorgeous he is all while wearing hooks for hands.
As always, I am more endeared to Jon Hamm. I find the way he expressed his work with his chronic depression to be refreshing. He was honest, he was straightforward, and he had no shame. He basically told the press, “Yeah, I had depression. So what?”
Exactly! So what. It doesn’t make him weaker and it doesn’t make him any less wonderful. From all reports, it likely made him the success he is today because he had to learn to work through some of the most difficult times of his life. Things like the death of both parents and a divorce can send you to a dark place and leave you feeling like a victim and that the world is just not a good place for you. It can also be an opportunity to find out how truly resilient you are and prepare you for a life of tough times, like going on several auditions and getting rejected. Having the patience and the faith in yourself to keep going until you hit it big, on the show Mad Men, for example.
I admire Jon Hamm. He’s good looking, talented, and intelligent. He’s also not a tool. He seems authentic and vulnerable in a way that makes him stronger than if he just pretended like his depression had never happened. Thanks, Jon Hamm. Thank you for being you.