1. Marilyn Monroe
Before she became the most famous actress of all time, Marilyn Monroe had a traumatic childhood that haunted her for the remainder of her life. She never knew her father. Her mother suffered from schizophrenia and spent years in and out of psychiatric hospitals. Essentially abandoned, Marilyn grew up bouncing from one foster family to the next, even spending two years in an orphanage.
Although she was famous for playing the part of a “dumb blonde,” Monroe was an intellectual. She was an avid reader, and she was devoted to improving her craft. Her true ambition wasn’t to be a sex symbol, but rather a serious actress.
Although she was famous for her beauty, she was painfully insecure; she lived in constant fear of disappointing others. Marilyn was deeply in love with her husband, playwright Arthur Miller. She felt completely humiliated and rejected when she came across a diary entry he had written. In it, Miller expressed that he was disappointed in her and often embarrassed by her.
Devastated by Miller’s betrayal, Marilyn found it increasingly difficult to work. Struggling to cope, she flew in one of her psychotherapists. She had difficulty sleeping due to emotional distress, so she started relying on barbiturates. She felt deeply alone and unloved. Although she was admired by millions of fans around the world, she felt rejected by the people she trusted and loved the most.
Marilyn was terrified of ending up in an institution like her mother. Marilyn and Miller separated after he fell in love with another woman on set. Completely overwrought and unable to sleep, she agreed to check herself into a hospital where she thought she would be able to rest.
To her shock and horror, she was locked in a padded room with steel doors in a psychiatric ward. As she sobbed and begged the hospital staff to let her out, the staff members assumed it was a sign that she was psychotic. They stripped her of her clothes, forced her into a bath, and put her in a hospital gown, threatening to put her in a straitjacket if she didn’t calm down. She felt completely traumatized by this treatment.
Even after she was released, she still felt trapped, aware that everyone around her perceived her as unstable. Her behavior became increasingly erratic; exasperated, she famously proclaimed, “if you are going to treat me like a nut I’ll act like a nut.” She was fired during the production of her final, unfinished film because she was continuously late or absent. Four months later, on August 5, 1962, the legendary actress was found dead in her home of an apparent suicide by barbiturate overdose.
It remains a mystery whether Monroe’s tragic drug overdose was intentional or accidental. It is possible she committed suicide because she felt hopeless and unable to endure further suffering. However, it’s also possible her death was an accident that resulted from the dangerous combination of barbiturates and alcohol. In any event, the iconic actress’s early death is a painful example of the devastating effects of substance abuse, child abuse, and mental illness.
Photo source: Marilyn Monroe by Cinemactor