Alistair Campbell – surviving depression in the family

Alastair Campbell, the controversial aide and campaign director for Tony Blair, much-criticised for the Iraq ‘dirty dossier, has since exiting No 10 made a career out of mental health activism. He talks widely in the media about his own depression, breakdown, alcoholism, suicidal impulses, self-harm and has a new book out: “Living Better: How I Learned to Survive Depression,” which has an afterword by his wife of 40 years Fiona Millar on how she coped.

   He writes about when his low moods hit: “The dynamo I normally feel 24/7 whirring inside me is switched off – a power cut. Energy gone. Power gone. Desire gone. Motivation gone. Everything gone, gone, all gone.”

  His wife Fiona Millar, also a journalist, describes their marriage as ““Bloody difficult . . . but never boring”. Though her other comments made me wonder quite how much of herself she’s had to sacrifice to keep the family together after he refused psychiatric treatment when he had his breakdown aged 28.

“I came to realise these high control needs, the constant urge to influence and make a difference, were an essential part of keeping himself on an even psychological keel.”

“To this day he is keen to exclaim “I won” if he has slept longer, walked further, swum longer in the freezing outdoor pool we frequent, or if the dog has run to him rather than me.”

“It was a hurtful puzzle that Alastair could get up for work and function seemingly normally, be affectionate and engaged with the children, but reserve his silent, black-dog moods for me.”

“As usual I took the blame.”

   He was finally persuaded 20 years later to go for professional help. She says the psychiatrist explained to her “that Alastair’s high need for control effectively meant that at times he saw me as an extension of himself, almost like an extra limb, and if he couldn’t get me to behave the way he wanted, it caused him real pain. If this intervention had happened 20 years earlier, I wonder how different our lives might have been?”

   He was born 25 May 1957, no birth time sadly, with a schizophrenic brother and depression running in the wider family as well. He has a Gemini Sun and Venus opposition Saturn in Sagittarius, which in a minor way could dent his self-esteem. More significantly he has a Yod of Saturn in self-righteous Sagittarius inconjunct Mars in excitable Cancer sextile Mercury in Taurus – all of which would induce anxiety, uncertainty and a high degree of frustration; though it can also lead to a singular path in life which is followed with dogged determination.  He has another quincunx of Neptune to his Sun with Neptune also in a highly-strung square to Uranus.

  A birth time would help but it’s not an easy chart since a Saturnine yod requires maturity to bring out the best in it otherwise it backfires. And indeed his strongest harmonic is the rise-and-fall, can-be-self-defeating 10H.

   His wife Fiona, 2 January 1958, has a Capricorn Sun which opposes his Mars so it will be an argumentative interface.  With her Mars in Sagittarius square Pluto in Virgo colliding with his Saturn and Sun. She does have an Air sign Venus in Aquarius to match his Air sign Venus in Gemini; and her Moon may be Gemini conjunct his Sun which would make sense. But it’s still quite an odd mix. With Mars Pluto in her own chart she’d be used to having to be compliant from early on.

  Their relationship chart has a superficially amiable composite Venus opposition Jupiter, which is the driving rod of a Grand Trine of Venus to Uranus to Saturn – which would help, since Jupiter smooths rough edges and keeps hope alive.  But there’s also a one-sided and aggravating composite Sun opposition Mars square Saturn – that usually indicates one partner having to give up a chunk of their identity and needs to make it work.

  I’m not a believer in using astrology as a diagnostic tool for psychological conditions. But reading his wife’s comments and reminiscences I’m not sure I’d have described him just as a depressive. His behaviour sounds quite manic and narcissistic as well.

5 thoughts on “Alistair Campbell – surviving depression in the family

  1. I rectified Campbell and Millar’s charts.
    Alistair Campbell, 9:43:30 Am birth time, Asc 6Le42, gives Jupiter in 3rd, writer, novelist. Moon, Gauquelin’s writer significator sits on his MH for writers.
    Fiona Millar, 3:59:20 PM birth time, Asc 21Aq25, nVenus, ruler 3rd and 9th, writer/novelist. Moon, ruler 6th of work.
    sits in Gauquelin’s 3rd House sector for writer, novelist. Asteroid Millar, sits on her Descendant, public projection of
    family name.

  2. “I’m not a believer in using astrology as a diagnostic tool for psychological conditions. But reading his wife’s comments and reminiscences I’m not sure I’d have described him just as a depressive. His behaviour sounds quite manic and narcissistic as well.”

    Maybe this is undiagnosed bipolar disorder, given the dynamo quote? While bipolar people wouldn’t in most cases meet NPD diagnosis, their hypomanic/manic stage behavior in particular is completely selfish. And it’s stunning how many people who’ve been diagnosed only with depression and seem not to respond to treatment are, in fact, type II bipolar. I’ve read about people Campbell’s age in particular who’ve been first diagnosed with depression in the 1980’s and waited for a correct diagnosis for decades. I think this was the case with Stephen Fry (exactly 3 months younger than Campbell), but there are cases I’ve read through support sites here too.

  3. ‘I’m not sure I’d have described him just as a depressive. His behaviour sounds quite manic and narcissistic as well.’
    Definitely agree with that. Especially given that Moon Mars combination. Aside from his treatment of his wife, he projected it onto the world stage causing the death of at least 15000 Iraquis and leaving a legacy of destabillization and terroism that keeps on giving.
    I do so wish for all our sakes that aspiring leaders and political influencers in democracies were required to be psychologically tested before being let loose on all of us.

  4. I know that living with someone with depression can be very stressful. He has an Aries Moon in probable square to Mars in Cancer, so mutual reception and therefore quite powerful. Moon/Mars can be subject to fluctuations of mood and Mars in Cancer, more in males I find, can be a bit like treading on eggshells at times, because with the Moon/Mars, Mars in Cancer person, there can be an incredibly thick ‘atmosphere’ around them when they’re going through the dark moods. I can only imagine how difficult it was for his wife and family.

    Plus Sun opposition Saturn can indeed indicate depression sometimes. I have Sun square Saturn and since it’s the only aspect my Sun makes, my Sun struggled in childhood – I was a depressed child, (Saturn in the 5th) kind of hemmed in by family dynamics. Plus my depressive maternal grandfather had the quincunx between his Sun and Saturn. His father fell down the stairs on Christmas Day when my grandfather was 9, broke his neck and died two weeks later – it’s a very Saturnian story in many ways – and my grandfather never got over this. Reading between the lines, I think that he wasn’t really allowed to grieve. So I feel there are all kinds of stories like this with Sun/Saturn stressful aspects, because there’s something alchemical with these two planets when they touch in the natal chart. It can be a hard slog towards individuality and many years before the Sun/Saturn feels at ease with itself.

    With those hard aspects touching his Venus and Moon, I’d be interested to know more about his childhood and relationship with the parents.

    • Ugh.

      Yh I can co-sign for Saturn in 5th bringing a miserable childhood. It really makes its mark in that house.
      God bless my inner child.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: