“Those thoughts of suicide don’t come anymore. But I’m vulnerable. I know I can backslide,” she said once while describing her recovery process.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on May 2, 2022. It has since been updated.
Trigger Warning: This story mentions suicide and mental health struggles that may be disturbing to readers.
Naomi Judd, one half of the iconic country duo The Judds, died at the age of 76 on April 30. It came as a shock to many, especially because the cause of her death has not yet been made public.
Her daughters, Wynonna and Ashley, released a statement saying, "We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness," according to TODAY.
For the longest time, Judd fought against suicidal ideation, panic attacks, and the ups and downs of her mental health struggles, which ultimately led her to become an advocate for others, per NBC News.
In 2017, she spoke about her experience beginning "out of nowhere" in 2011 with severe depression and suicide ideation. She also detailed her harrowing experiences in a book, “River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope,” which she called a “survivor’s manual about how to survive depression and anxiety” to help others who are struggling.
“I didn’t get off my couch for two years,” she told Savannah Guthrie. “I was so depressed that I couldn’t move. I wouldn't even brush my teeth. I wouldn't get out of my pjs. 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."
I’m so sad about Naomi Judd. She was so lovely & warm & fun but the thing I remember best was how proud she was of her daughters, she talked about them the whole time. My heart breaks for her family. https://t.co/asDaIM3u3l— kristen johnston (@thekjohnston) April 30, 2022
At the time, Judd emphasized it wasn’t about being happy or sad, it was a chemical imbalance. “We don’t make enough of the good neurochemicals in the brain,” she said at the time. “It’s a disease. It has nothing to do with our character.”
It got so bad that she even considered suicide, she revealed, adding that she went looking for a bridge nearby, so she could jump off it. “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.’”
“It’s so beyond making sense but I thought, ‘Surely my family will know that I was in so much pain and I thought they would have wanted me to end that pain,’” Judd said, according to PEOPLE.
What stopped her from acting on her suicidal ideation was the thought of a family member finding her body, she said. She underwent treatment and also found other effective ways to heal. However, she began to experience physical changes she struggled to come to terms with.
We're heartbroken to learn about the passing of the legendary Naomi Judd & honored to have shared many unforgettable moments & performances together. Our hearts go out to her husband Larry, daughters Wynonna & Ashley, & legions of fans around the world during this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/xTmYvEG1nj— CMT (@CMT) April 30, 2022
Medications caused her face to swell and her hair to fall out, she said in 2016. She said lithium caused her right hand to shake, and she said she looked "horrible." She also revealed that she had to wear a wig or a hairpiece because of her hair loss.
“It’s a drag. I’m always afraid I’m going to leave my wig in the car or at home. And I’ll sew hair inside across the back of my hats, so it looks like real hair,” she said.
Speaking of her constant battle with depression and the challenges she faces in the process of recovery, she says, “Those thoughts of suicide don’t come anymore. But I’m vulnerable. I know I can backslide.”
In an essay for NBC News, she wrote, “I never dealt with all the stuff that happened to me, so it came out sideways, as depression and anxiety. Depression is partly genetic, and I have it on both sides of my family."
"So I know now that there are almost 44 million people in America that experience mental illness in a given year," she added. "If you’ve got a pulse, then you’re fighting some battle, whether it’s a diagnosis of depression, like 16 million people, or one of anxiety, like 42 million people, or something else. And there’s power in numbers: it means that there are other people. You’re not alone."
Rest In Peace, Naomi Judd. 🎤 pic.twitter.com/vMb9DoQG59— Eleven Films (@Eleven_Films) April 30, 2022
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo By Kevin Winter