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If you like Mike Wallace's story, you might also like:
Sam Donaldson,
Rudolph Giuliani,
Nicholas Kristof,
Charles Kuralt,
Dan Rather,
Ted Turner and
Bob Woodward

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Mike Wallace
 
Mike Wallace
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Mike Wallace Interview (page: 7 / 7)

CBS News Correspondent

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  Mike Wallace

Could you tell us a little bit about your struggle with depression, which you have made public.


Mike Wallace: I had done a story about depression on 60 Minutes early on. I didn't know anything about it, really. I found out about a California fellow who ran a large corporation, who had been Secretary of Defense or Assistant Secretary of Defense. He had it all. He talked to me about it and said, "Suddenly, I found myself in a deep depression. What was I depressed about?" Josh Logan was on that, and he too had a manic depression. So, we put the piece on the air. Then, when I was on trial for my life effectively, during the Westmoreland trial, when he sued CBS and me and a variety of other employees of CBS for $120 million because we told the truth about the story called, "The Uncounted Enemy" of Vietnam deception. I sat in the cold and drafty Federal courtroom in Foley Square in New York for about five months, and the plaintiff puts on his case first in a libel suit. He had sued for $120 million bucks. To be called "liar, cheat, fraud," et cetera, and in a libel case nothing is barred, little by little by little, I found myself getting spacey, and unable to sleep and unable to eat, and I mean really, what in the dickens is going on? What happened, obviously it took me a little time to find out, was that I was in a classical, clinical depression. I mean, it really was a tough one. I was copeless; not just hopeless, but copeless. I tried to keep on working because I was ashamed of acknowledging the fact that I was depressed. You don't use that word.


What year are we talking about?

Mike Wallace: The broadcast was '82, the trial was '84.


I finally got to see a psychiatrist, and he said, "Mr. Wallace," and I said "Yes, Dr. Kaplan," and today, 20 years later, it is still Dr. Kaplan and Mr. Wallace. I see him every six months or so for a lube job, so to speak. He said, "You are suffering from a depression and we can treat it," et cetera, et cetera. So, what happened was he fed me something called Ludiomil and talked to me. That's in my estimation quite important, that you do psychotherapy along with pharmacological therapy. He talked to me, and little by little by little he found out -- he didn't really know what it was that I did at that time -- finally he said to me, "You know something, Mr. Wallace," -- this was after about a month of therapy -- "What you have to do is to get ready, number one, to answer the kind of questions that you like to ask people because they are going to ask you that on the stand. Then you have to get ready to lose because if you lose, you think your life is gone. Well, we're going to try in these sessions to get you ready for that." Of course, he was absolutely right. But, what the Ludiomil did was make your hands shake, among other things. It dried your mouth, everything. But, I could just see myself sitting on the stand five yards from the jury with a glass in my hand and my hand shaking and the jury saying, "Well, any guy whose hand is shaking that way is obviously guilty."


In any case, because we were superbly represented, the case was made and he went away. He dropped the lawsuit.


I didn't want to talk about the stigma of depression. Finally, one night I was on the Bob Costas Show, back when he did Later on television, about 1:30 in the morning. In the middle of it, I suddenly realized, "Hey, the people who are watching at this time of night are people who can't sleep." So, I decided those are the people that I used to be, and that is the first time I began to go public about it. It lifted an extraordinary burden. Since that time I have talked about it fairly openly for the reason that it can be helpful for other people to say, "Well look, here's a guy who was at the bottom of the heap, miserable, and look, he has it back. He's...surviving."

[ Key to Success ] Courage


There's no shame in having it.

Mike Wallace Interview Photo
Mike Wallace: There's about as much shame as getting Scarlet Fever. No, there is no shame whatsoever.

Tipper Gore also went public in the last couple of years. Her depression was also triggered by an event in her life, a very serious injury to one of her children. That is something a lot of people don't realize, that there can be a triggering incident. That doesn't mean it's not clinical depression.

Mike Wallace: Or genetics can trigger it. A shocking event, the loss of a job, the loss of a marriage, there are all kinds of things. It may be latent in you. As I look back, I believe my mother probably had a tendency to that. But it can be treated, if people would pay attention to it, and when they are given some kind of medication, stick with it. Find the right recipe and stick with it. Sometimes it takes a little while to catch.

We ask our interviewees what the American Dream means to them. You have spoken to so many different people from so many walks of life in the years you have been broadcasting. What does that phrase mean to you today, "The American Dream?"

Mike Wallace: Well, it's such a wonderful country. The American Dream is the privilege of being able to realize what you are capable of, at least what you believe you are capable of, and to test yourself, and nobody is going to get in your way. Maybe if you are black it's not so easy, for some people it is not so easy, for certain minorities, for women. It is the extraordinary freedom that comes with opportunity, to try to make of yourself what you would like to make of yourself.


The other thing about the American Dream is to help others to achieve it, to realize it too, and to be willing to defend it, to be willing to go to the mat, to tell other people and to defend it with your body if necessary, with your mind, with your ethics, to be honest. I just can't imagine -- despite all our flaws, and we have plenty of them, the American Dream for me is the privilege of living in a society that is as good as ours is, with all its flaws, and God knows there are those, I can't think of any place in the world that I would rather live. I'm extraordinarily privileged, as the son of immigrants who came from no place.

[ Key to Success ] The American Dream


Anybody can do it, not anybody, but just about. It is a lot better than it used to be. Hopefully, the time will come, sooner rather than later, that anybody will have a shot at it.

What are you most proud of?


Mike Wallace: Having survived. When I say "having survived," I mean it. Find your way, struggle and hanging in there, being honest with yourself and honest with others and finally, finally, learning to be kind to other people.


Thank you so much. You have been very generous with your time. We appreciate it very much.

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This page last revised on Mar 24, 2008 13:32 EDT