For five years, between 1969 and 1974, Maureen McCormick was
perfect—at least on screen.
Those were the years she played Marcia Brady on the iconic 1970s family
sitcom "The Brady Bunch." Marcia, the oldest sister in a blended
family of three girls and three boys, had it all going on.
"She was the older sister who could always get the boy and could
always figure out what her brothers and her sisters and her mother and father
needed," McCormick recalled at APA's 2009 annual meeting last month in
San Francisco. "She was just perfect. And I think in some ways the
public has always perceived me as perfect, has always perceived me as Marcia
Maureen McCormick candidly discusses how she overcame the mental health
problems she experienced in her post-"Brady" years.
Credit: David Hathcox
McCormick was the guest at this year's Conversations event, sponsored by
the American Psychiatric Foundation. She was interviewed by James Nininger,
M.D., a director of the foundation and an APA trustee. She also spoke
separately with Psychiatric
That perception was a burden to bear, particularly as the real-life Maureen
felt herself to be far from perfect. And in time, the distance between her
charmed TV sitcom alter ego and the realities of her own life began to be
Today, McCormick has published an account of those
realities—including a once-secret family history of mental illness; her
own struggles with mental illness, including addiction and compulsive
destructive behavior; and her treatment and recovery with the help of
psychiatry—in Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding
My True Voice (HarperCollins).
"It felt really good to come out and be able to say, 'This is me,
this is my past, and this is who I am and what I am today,'" she told
Psychiatric News. "I thought it was important to write my story
because I feel for years I had been hiding a lot of secrets. Those secrets
made me extremely uncomfortable, since I was presenting one person to the
public while there was this other person inside who was really suffering.
"I thought it was really good to come out and talk about [mental
illness]. I don't think we hear enough about it. There is still a huge stigma
attached to having a mental illness. The more people who are out there talking
about it, the more we are not going to feel alone. I know that for years and
years I felt alone while I was growing up, because no one talked about
depression or obsessive-compulsive disorders or any of the things I was
McCormick, in her book, holds back little. She writes about a trove of
family secrets: her grandmother's death in a psychiatric hospital, her
grandfather's suicide a week later, and her mother's being born with syphilis
trasmitted from her mother.
And she chronicles a downward slide into depression, drug addiction, and
destructive sexual behavior and a series of short-lived experimental
In 1997 she was diagnosed with depression and began receiving psychiatric
medication—not without great apprehension. "I had a drug problem
with cocaine for years and years," she told Psychiatric News."
And when I got off that, I didn't want to get on any other drugs [for
fear of getting addicted]. And there was so much stigma attached."
She still encounters that stigma within her own family. "Even my
father and a brother think I'm on mind-altering drugs," she said.
But six weeks into her treatment with Prozac, she began to feel relief of a
kind she had not known for years. "It happened so gradually that one day
I noticed I didn't feel jittery and unfocused," she wrote in her book."
Actually, I realized that I felt good.
"And once that happened, it was like a wonderful awakening, as if I'd
been rewired in such a way that I no longer felt the pain and fear that had
given a foreboding texture to my life since I was a teenager."
She also recounted the effect on her of the death of Robert Reed, the actor
who played the father on "The Brady Bunch."
Reed, who died in 1992, had lived a closeted homosexual life and was
suffering from AIDS when he died in 1992 from cancer. "That was a huge
event for me," McCormick said. "He was hiding who he was, and I
know it must have been very difficult for him. Now I know."
The response to her book, McCormick said, has been "amazingly
positive." She is married and the mother of a 20-year-old daughter, and
she continues to be active in the entertainment industry. There is talk of a
movie being made of her book.
Does she have a message to the psychiatrists who helped her get to where
she is today?
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing what you do,"
she said. "You saved my life." ▪