“The whole, like, sensitive, fragile thing. I do have those qualities, and I just don’t think there’s anything wrong with them.” Winona Ryder
Writer Heather Havrilesky comments in her interview withRyder:
“But even these days, when women who talk openly about their struggles still work very hard to project that flavor of sunny, upbeat optimism our culture prefers, Ryder offers us a helpful reminder that feeling conflicted, confused, or just ambivalent is a feature of being alive and not a bug.
“Emotional intensity, contradiction — these aren’t signs of instability or immaturity; they’re the sophisticated processing of an intelligent, mature adult.
“In this way, Ryder may just present a powerful talisman of complexity to a culture that embraces knee-jerk optimism, an inadequate guard against darkness or self-doubt.”
Ryder says: “I don’t regret opening up about what I went through [with depression], because, it sounds really cliché, but I have had women come up to me and say, ‘It meant so much to me.’
“It means so much when you realize that someone was having a really hard time and feeling shame and was trying to hide this whole thing …
“And even the whole, like, sensitive, fragile thing. I do have those qualities, and I just don’t think there’s anything wrong with them.
“There were times when I let it feel too overwhelming and almost, like, shamed, but I had to just get over that.”
From Winona Uninterrupted by Heather Havrilesky, New York Magazine, August 8, 2016.
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Winona Ryder starred in the film based on Susanna Kaysen’s novel Girl, Interrupted in 1999, and thinks Kaysen “captures a mood we’ve all experienced.
“It’s like a reflective time we’ve all had in our lives, whether to kill ourselves, whether to be miserable or move on.
“You go through spells where you feel that maybe you’re too sensitive for this world. I certainly felt that.”
“There was a time when I was 19 when I really, really, really thought I was going crazy,” she has said about her own brief stay at a psychiatric clinic.
“I was exhausted and going through a terrible depression. I had had panic attacks from the age of 12 – probably from the pressure of working and then going through adolescence onscreen.”
She left to get a year of intensive therapy, and recalls, “I was wallowing and I eventually got sick of it – I got sick of being sick.
“I was coming out of my own serious depression and I didn’t know what to label it, just as Susanna doesn’t know what to label hers.
“There was nothing really wrong with Susanna. They called her a ‘borderline personality’ because they couldn’t diagnose her.”
[From article: “Interviews with Stephen Fry, Winona Ryder and Stan Collymore on fame, fortune and depression”, netdoktor.com.]
At the end of the movie Girl, Interrupted [link to Amazon], Susanna (Ryder) says: “Declared healthy and sent back into the world. My final diagnosis: a recovered borderline. What that means, I still don’t know. Was I ever crazy? Maybe. Or maybe life is.”
Book: Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen.
“When reality got ‘too dense’ for 18-year-old Susanna Kaysen, she was hospitalized. It was 1967, and reality was too dense for many people.
“But few who are labeled mad and locked up for refusing to stick to an agreed-upon reality possess Kaysen’s lucidity in sorting out a maelstrom of contrary perceptions.
“Her observations about hospital life are deftly rendered; often darkly funny.
“Her clarity about the complex province of brain and mind, of neuro-chemical activity and something more, make this book of brief essays an exquisite challenge to conventional thinking about what is normal and what is deviant.”
(Amazon review.) (Photo: Susanna Kaysen at 18.)
Videos: Winona Ryder on 20/20 in 1999 while promoting “Girl, Interrupted” – she makes a number of thoughtful comments about why the film meant so much to her (she was an executive producer) and some of the social attitudes toward mental illness, or just being “too different.”
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More quotes by Winona Ryder that may relate to her being highly sensitive:
“What’s awful about being famous and being an actress is when people come up to you and touch you. That’s scary, and they just seem to think it’s okay to do it, like you’re public property.”
“I think too much. I think ahead. I think behind. I think sideways. I think it all. If it exists, I’ve f**g thought of it.”
Photo: Ryder in the movie Experimenter.
Here is a summary from the website:
“Yale University, 1961. Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) designs a psychology experiment in which people think they’re delivering electric shocks to an affable stranger (Jim Gaffigan) strapped into a chair in another room.
“Subjects are told it’s about memory, but the experiment is really about conformity, conscience, and free will. Milgram is trying to come to terms with the Holocaust and to test people’s tendency to comply with authority.
“Milgram meets Sasha (Winona Ryder), a former dancer living in New York. Their courtship includes a visit to the Yale lab, where Milgram’s experiment has yielded disturbing results: 65 per cent of Milgram’s subjects deliver shocks that may be fatal, obeying polite commands from a lab-coated authority figure (John Palladino).
“Milgram is working at Harvard when his obedience findings are reported in The New York Times. He is accused of being deceptive, a manipulative monster. Sasha – now Mrs. Milgram – fortifies his sense of empathy and ethics…”
A personal note –
I heard about this research many years ago as an undergrad psych student, and was so appalled that people – even presumably intelligent college students – would relinquish their compassion and ethics to follow hurtful orders from an authority figure or institution.
But, of course, many people do just that in real life, not just in a laboratory setting – for example, some people who work as police officers or in the military.
A quote from the famed psychologist:
“You could say we are puppets. But I believe that we are puppets with perception, with awareness. Sometimes we can see the strings. And perhaps our awareness is the first step in our liberation.” — Stanley Milgram
Photo of Milgram with his “shock machine” from 8 Social Psychology Experiments: Revealing Insights Into Our Behaviour.
Winona Ryder made a strong comment on this topic of authority, probably years before being cast in this movie:
“My godfather Timothy Leary coined the phrase ‘question authority.’ It is one of my favorites.
“To question our government is the most important thing people can do right now in the US.”
[Quotes from her imdb profile.]
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Highly sensitive children – holding back
Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. has said she has seen “too many” highly sensitive children and adults “whose depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem prevent them from expressing whatever talents they have.”
[From her newsletter article The Highly Sensitive Child (and Adults, Too): Is Sensitivity the Same as Being Gifted?]
Aron considers being an HSP “means, necessarily, that you are more easily overstimulated, stressed out, overwhelmed.”
She says there is a common tendency to call high sensitivity “fearfulness” and cites a New York Times Magazine describing “animals that hold back” as “shy and fearful” rather than “sensitive and observant.”
[From her newsletter article Reflections on Research]
Labeling and mislabeling
Diagnosis by others [particularly professionals], or simply how we explain our reactions and moods to ourselves, can have a profound effect on how those experiences impact our lives, for better or worse.
A common label many of us have put on our complex emotional experiences is “crazy” – as Winona Ryder commented above, and in another interview:
“It’s just a feeling of ‘Am I crazy? Am I too sensitive to be in this world?’ A feeling that the world is just too complicated for me right now, and I don’t feel like I belong here.”
But, she added, “it passes, and fortunately today I feel blessed for all the good things in my life.” [From Autumn in New York : Interview With Winona Ryder]
Taking care of yourself
Ryder was interviewed in the Oct. 2009 issue of Interview magazine (summarized by The Week magazine), which noted that after her widely publicized 2001 arrest for shoplifting, Ryder stopped taking major film roles.
“It wasn’t like a breakdown, but I had to just stop and take care of myself. I was struggling,” she says.
“I never went out. I was just terrified and exhausted. I approached work very seriously, and it just got to be too much for me. I just felt like I really wanted to hold on to who I was and try to have as much a normal life as I could.”
The Week adds, “Today Ryder, 38, focuses on smaller, more independent films, writes almost daily, and avoids places where the paparazzi gather.” [“Why Winona Ryder dropped out,” The Week theweek.com October 15, 2009]
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Most of us don’t have to be concerned with that level of fame – but we can benefit from good self-care.
Cheryl Richardson talks about her own sensitivity, and Chapter 8 of her book is titled “You’re So Sensitive”: The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time.
If you seek help from medical professionals, one thing to be aware of is potential misdiagnosis.
In their article: Misdiagnosis of the Gifted, Lynne Azpeitia, M.A. and Mary Rocamora note:
“Since the gifted function with relatively high levels of intensity and sensitivity, when they seek therapy they are frequently misdiagnosed because therapists receive no specialized training in the identification and treatment of persons who have advanced and complex patterns of development.”
Some related books:
The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D.
Misdiagnosis And Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults by James Webb et al.
Related sites of mine:
Emotional Health and Creativity on Facebook
Emotional Health Resources
Meditation programs, biofeedback devices, stress relief products
YouTube / Mental Health – Emotional Health videos
Facebook / Emotional Health and Creativity videos
Anxiety Relief Solutions site