Rosie O’Donnell Describes Trying to Get Off of Her Medication and Spending 4 Days Crying in Her Bed: ‘I’m Not Going Back’

Rosie O’Donnell has had her fair share of controversies. That’s natural for someone who has been in the public eye for almost 30 years.

She has her fair share of enemies. Brad Pitt reportedly hates her for spoiling the ending to his movie Fight Club on live television. But O’Donnell isn’t going anywhere, and to her credit, she’s trying to do good. She’s deeply caring. Early in her career, that caring ended up damaging her mental health. 

Columbine was mentally damaging to O’Donnell 

Rosie O'Donnell
Rosie O’Donnell | Shannon Finney/Getty Images

Rosie O’Donnell spoke with Danny Pellegrino about her mental health journey on his Everything Iconic podcast. In 1996, O’Donnell started on her talk show. It was a big change, and the career move came with a lot of responsibility. Then, in 1999, the Columbine school shooting shocked the nation. Although school shootings are now all too common place, at the time it was completely unheard of. The Columbine attack was tragic and terrifying. Like most Americans, O’Donnell was deeply affected. 

She told Pellegrino that “I don’t know what I would say to my younger self other than I was at such a high anxiety state and my life had been sort of turned upside down in the three years prior. And I couldn’t believe that I was sort of experiencing such good fortune in many ways, and here were children being shot up in their classrooms by a classmate. It was just really overwhelming for me … Since then I’ve been on medications, since ’99, April ’99, with Columbine.”

O’Donnell only tried to get off her medication once 

Rosie O’Donnell didn’t intend to stay on her medications for life. At one point, she and her doctor decided the time was right to try and wean her off medication. However, the results left O’Donnell in a worse mental state. She claims “After about four days of crying in my bed, I said, ‘Ok, I’m never going to ask you again to go off these meds. Let’s get me back on the meds.'”

Now, O’Donnell is never going to try and go off her medication again. She says that “for the rest of my life I probably will be on medication of some sort to level out the deficiencies that my brain isn’t able to compensate for.” 

It is important to know that not all people who take medication for their mental health take them for life. But according to the New York Times, a growing number of Americans are taking antidepressants for longer. Quitting is difficult, and should be carefully monitored by a doctor. O’Donnell went four days without her medication, but it can take months to truly detox from the medication. 

Rosie O’Donnell is one of a growing number of celebrities discussing mental health right now 

Just like Columbine sent O’Donnell into a mental health spiral, the pandemic has left a large chunk of the population mentally unwell. Even before that, dire news about climate change and racism seemed to dominate the headlines, and even Michelle Obama admitted to feeling depressed. More and more celebrities are being open about mental health issues, just like O’Donnell. 

Michael Phelps has made it his mission to shed light on depression, and is even a spokesperson for a teletherapy company. His fellow Olympian, Simone Biles, has followed his example to prioritize mental health. She recently withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics for her mental health. Tennis star Naomi Osaka made  similar move earlier this year, when she withdrew from the French Open. As more prominent figures prioritize and publicize mental health, society is getting closer and closer to positive change in the mental health domain. 

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