Inspiration From The Mental Health Of 3 Famous Leaders

Do you ever get the feeling that the way you think isn’t normal?

That your brain doesn’t quite function the way you would like?

Does this affect your perception of yourself?

Are you worried how you come across when you communicate with your writing and speaking?

You’re not alone.

Some of the greatest American leaders felt the swaying of an unstable mind. And then they used it to their advantage in how they communicated their messages.

The truth is, it’s normal to get overwhelmed by the way your mind works.

These three leaders dealt with their own internal struggles. The quotes below tell tales of mental instability. But their words also tell stories of triumph over adversity.

What we learn from these famous leaders is that there are many ways to work with our mental health and communicate our innermost thoughts and feelings.

We learn that tapping into your emotional core is not shameful or counterproductive.

In fact, there is great power in writing about what you feel deep inside.

Your words are your weapons.


  • President Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln is one of the most well-known American presidents. You are likely most familiar with the president’s actions during the American Civil War, but did you know that he lived with severe, frequently debilitating depression?

Lincoln’s extreme depression

Lincoln’s words that follow help us understand just how much mental anguish he experienced. You can feel the emotion lift off the page as you read:

I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel wereequally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.

The president’s mindful approach

Yet, despite his often gloomy disposition, Lincoln was able to overcome his mental health misfortune and become one of the most well-known individuals in American history.

Lincoln knew that he had mental health struggles, and his awareness of his mind was the key to his success. The following words show that he was able to step back from himself and take a dispassionate look at his experience.

In this case, he did not define himself by his depression; he saw it as something happening to him and apart from his own identity. From Lincoln:

A tendency to melancholy…. let it be observed, is a misfortune, not a fault.

By creating some healthy space between himself and his feelings, President Lincoln transcended his emotions. He may not have wished for his gloomy disposition, but he was not opposed to using it to deepen his understanding. With a twist of perspective, Lincoln learned to bear witness and to care for himself with tenderness. As he did, he learned to care for a country living through unimaginable horrors.


  • President Theodore Roosevelt

This rough-and-tumble American president took the world head-on and changed the course of history in the process. But like President Lincoln, appearances could be deceiving. The brash, independent-minded leader was not always that way.

In fact, Roosevelt was extremely sickly as a child. He was plagued by frequent asthma attacks and home-schooled up until college. Barely able to physically exert himself, it wasn’t until his father admonished him for his weak state that Roosevelt mentally committed himself to overcome his physical weakness. He trained his body until he rewrote his fate and broke free from the illness that was destined to keep him home-bound.

The boy who could barely move became the physically imperious man that history has come to know, always on the move, both at home and abroad. But could his feverish activity have signaled that something was amiss?

Did Roosevelt experience mania?

What’s interesting about Roosevelt is that he is now thought to have dealt with manic episodes. Indeed, the president never stopped moving. He bounced from one activity to the next, changing the world by willfully changing his environment.

However, his words suggest that his approach was more than a little imbalanced.

The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.

Acting this way for too long is a recipe for disaster. Manic energy might appear enticing at first glance, but living with furious and ferocious pace is not sustainable in the long run. It was when President Roosevelt adopted a more measured approach that he came to lead with conviction. He changed from a man of all movement to a more complex leader, a man of both mental acuity and physical drive.

The president’s response: Keep moving

For President Teddy Roosevelt, his fast pace was his way of life. His saving grace was that he did not get stuck when any one activity failed — he just moved on to the next one. Over time, his relentless energy and actions became driven by a more thoughtful approach. He said:

The best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing is the wrong thing. And the worst thing you can do is nothing.

The important takeaway is that he knew his options, and he pursued them relentlessly. If one path led to a dead-end, he marched down another.

You can do this in your writing. You can channel Roosevelt’s reckless abandon in a way that makes sense for you. If you write in one way and it does not connect with readers, don’t give up. March down another path.

If you publish on one publication, and your writing doesn’t resonate, move on to a different one. You won’t ever write effectively if you choose not to write at all. You are going to make bad decisions. You will have writing that falls flat. Keep going.

The road to finding your path is not a paved, well-tended suburban highway — it’s a bumpy dirt path that cuts through a jungle of words, sentences, and ideas.

Which brings us to a final legend who knew that all too well.


  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most inspiring people of all time. With his story taught in schools across the country and a monument bearing his likeness, we have an almost picturesque, romantic idea of his life and the causes that he pursued.

But this American great had his own mental health struggles. He was familiar with the darker side of human nature because he had that darkness in himself. Like President Lincoln, Dr. King also lived with severe depression.

Suicide attempts –

Something students will never learn about in school is that King had serious mental health issues that started when he was a child. Dr. Nassir Ghaemi, in his book A First Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness, writes that King twice attempted suicide as his child. This shocking fact paints a dark picture of mental instability.

The knowledge that Dr. King had debilitating depression gives us a new appreciation for this familiar quote:

Only in the darkness can you see the stars.

At first glance, these words seem trite and better suited for a cheesy motivational poster than for the inspiring message of a great American leader. But knowing King’s path gives them new power.

King wrote and spoke effectively because he deeply felt his difficult emotions. He embraced painful experiences, and he turned them into words that inspired a nation. He bore into his soul and discovered that the emotions he found were humanity’s emotions.

So when he wrote or spoke, people responded emotionally because they connected with the truth of his statements.

Dr. King’s cure for depression

King had an unparalleled gift for digging into his own emotions to find common human threads. He used his personal suffering to understand the nation’s suffering. He then expressed himself in a relatable way that moved others to action.

We see in the words below that our inward battles must not stay there; their power must turn outward, to bettering humanity and to improving the world.

Ten cures for depression are to go out and do something for someone else and repeat it nine times.

Dr. King knew that, no matter how bad the depression gets, no person gets better by staying in bed. As isolating as it can be at times, mental illness is a social disease. To rid oneself of the cloak of heavy emotions, interaction with others becomes necessary.

To know pain is to know humanity. Pain transcended becomes empathy, and the ability to empathize can change the world.

Seek to understand, write to inspire

You must write with that same kind of emotion. To fail to do that is to do a disservice to yourself. Your words have gained their power because of the troubles you have known, but they will lose their power if you keep them inside yourself. Bear your scars for the world to see, and inspire others with your wisdom.

You can explore the caverns of your mind endlessly, but it is now well-known that eyes that are only exposed to the pitch-black darkness of a cave will eventually become damaged and lose their ability to see. It’s only when hard truths see the light of day that they become self-evident realities that inspire and unite.

It’s your job to communicate so that others can see what you see. So either write about it, speak to someone or call a family member or a friend. Mental Health is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s the need of the hour.


Thank you for reading. Love you for that!

—–Have Hope.Keep Faith—–

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