How Wynonna and Ashley Judd Reacted to Mom Naomi's Depression and Why Naomi Is 'Terrified' to Share Her Story

After Naomi Judd decided to write a memoir about her battle with depression, she knew she need to tell her daughter Wynonna.

“It was just the two of us, and I said, ‘I have something to tell you’ and she got big tears in her eyes — she expected something dramatic. And I said, ‘I’m writing a book,'” Judd tells PEOPLE.

“Don’t do it, mom! Don’t do it!” Wynonna pleaded with her mother. “People will think you’re crazy and I know you’re not!” recalls Naomi, “Wy was afraid for me, she was afraid it might make things worse.”

For three years of her life, Naomi struggled with suicidal thoughts and coped with panic attacks which is documented in her new memoir, River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope.” She admits writing her book “terrified” her in which she details her childhood with a cold and distant mother, an alcoholic father and great uncle that sexually abused starting when she was 3 ½.

naomi judd and daughters
(Photo: Facebook / Wynonna Ellen Judd)

In her book, she doesn’t shy away from talking about family conflict, revealing that she hid her illness from Wynonna. After being released from a psychiatric ward, Naomi called her. “Wy absolutely fell apart,” Naomi tells PEOPLE. “She said, ‘Mommy? Where have you been?’ I said, ‘Well, Pop and Ashley had to take me to the psych unit at Vanderbilt.’ I could hear the phone click — we live so close, five minutes later, she was busting into my bedroom. And she was bawling.”

Naomi shared the stories about her darkest days when she didn't wash her hair for a month and her legs grew too weak from lying on the couch that she had to have an elevator installed in her home.

“My whole life — even as a child — I tried to be an inspiration to people,” Judd says. “I had had such a hideous life, so complicated and so truncated, and even though I was hiding way deep my own complicated messes, I wanted fans to see me with my perfect hair and my flamboyant dress.”


She learned during therapy the importance of helping those who suffer the way she has. “My whole thing in life has been helping people,” says Judd. “As Ashley told me, ‘You cannot hug the 40 million people that have depression. There’s not enough of you. But by writing the book, you’ve given them everything they need.' ”

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