Naomi Judd is a Grammy-winning legend who's been a part of the fabric of country music for decades. And while her life has been full of challenges and tragedies along with the triumphs, she's always bounced back.
But in 2011, everything changed overnight. She'd just wrapped a tour with her fellow country music star and daughter Wynonna (Judd is also mom to actress Ashley Judd) when a hammer seemed to come down over her life, and she felt paralyzed.
"I didn't get off my couch for two years," she revealed on TODAY Tuesday. "I was so depressed that I couldn't move ... My husband (Larry Strickland) and my girlfriends and Ashley would come over and I would just go upstairs and lock the door to my bedroom ... You become immobilized."
It really did come out of nowhere, but that's one of the points Judd wanted to emphasize: it wasn't about being happy or sad, it was a chemical imbalance. She likened it to when the body ceases creating insulin in diabetic patients. "We don't make enough of the good neurochemicals in the brain," the 71-year-old said. "It's a disease. It has nothing to do with our character."
Still, it took a while before she realized she required professional help, by which time she admitted, "I was dangerously depressed."
Suicide was an option she considered, even scoping out a nearby bridge. "That's how bad it can get," she said. "It's hard to describe. You go down in this deep, dark hole of depression and you don't think that there's another minute.'"
Finally, her husband and Ashley called 911 "in the middle of the night" and Judd entered therapy. But it wasn't an overnight fix. She explained she had severe treatment resistance and even underwent electroconvulsive therapy (ECT or "shock" therapy) to hopefully "jump start" the chemicals in her brain.
Once she stabilized, she decided to include her experiences in a new book, "River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope," which she says is a "survivor's manual about how to survive depression and anxiety."
As she noted, it's about facing your challenges head on and not pretending they don't exist. "One of the things that happens with depression is throughout my life I've had a lot of tragedies ... and you just keep squelching it down, you just keep suppressing it and all of a sudden one day if you don't deal with it, this starts coming out sideways."
"River of Time" will be published on Dec. 6.
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