Marilyn Monroe’s letter to her psychiatrist

Marilyn Monroe’s letter to her psychiatrist

Marilyn’s melancholy gaze

On the Facebook page of, we published a quote from Marilyn Monroe and it was immediately controversial. The criticism: how can a page of psychology report the words of a “little woman who committed suicide”? Comments like this are proof of how strong the social stigma linked to mental health is and how much gender stereotypes affect our judgment .

Any destructive criticism that you can address to anyone tells of your experience, your limitations or prejudices . Every human being, even the simplest and most humble, could have something to teach us … if only we weren’t so distracted by inner beliefs! On the occasion of the anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death, we decided to publish the Letter she sent to her psychiatrist when she was interned at the “Hospital for the Great Disturbed”.

Marilyn Monroe was born on June 1, 1926 and killed herself on August 5, 1962, at the age of only 36.

A year before the fatal event, Dr. Kris fearing the actress would take action , interned her in a psychiatric hospital . It was the worst nightmare for the actress, as she herself recounts in this letter sent to her California psychiatrist, Ralph Greenson. Last words from an institutionalized and legalized hell (the asylum or psychiatric hospital).

March 2, 1961,

Dear Dr. Greenson,

I asked May Reis (Marilyn Monroe’s personal assistant) to type this letter for me, as my handwriting is not clearly legible, but I have also included these notes and she will understand what I mean.


March 1, 1961,

I just looked out the hospital window and now, where the snow had covered everything, everything is a little green: the grass and the little shoots, the ones that never shed their leaves (even if the trees are not very encouraging yet. ), the bare and gloomy branches perhaps announce spring and are perhaps a sign of hope.

Have you seen The Misfits? In one of the scenes, he will be able to see to what extent a tree can appear strange and naked to me. I don’t know if you can see it distinctly on the screen … I don’t like the way certain scenes have been edited. Since I started writing this letter, I have cried four silent tears. I don’t really know why.

Last night I was up all night again. Sometimes I wonder what night time is for. For me it practically doesn’t exist, and it all feels like a long and scary day with no end. And I also tried to take advantage of my insomnia constructively and started reading Sigmund Freud’s correspondence .Opening the book for the first time, I saw Freud’s photograph and burst into sobs: he looked very depressed (that photo must have been taken shortly before his death), as if he had died as a disillusioned man … Dr. Kris told me he was in a lot of physical pain, which I had already read in Jones’s book. But I also think I’m right, I trust my intuition because I feel a sad boredom on his face. The book proves (although I’m not sure anyone’s love letters should be published) that he was far from awkward! I like his sweet and slightly sad sense of humor, his fighting spirit that has never left him. I haven’t gotten too far in reading yet because I’m reading Sean O’Casey’s autobiography at the same time (did I mention that he sent me a poem one day?). This book upsets me a lot, to the extent that one can be shocked by this kind of thing.

The Paine Whitney clinic lacked empathy altogether, which hurt me a lot . I was interrogated after being put in a cell (a real concrete cell and all) for really disturbed people, the very depressed, (only I felt like I was in some kind of prison for a crime I didn’t have shop assistant). I found this lack of humanity worse than barbaric. They asked me why I was not well here (everything in the room was locked: the electric lamps, the drawers, the bathroom, the cabinets, there were bars on the windows … the cell doors were like windows so that the patients were always visible, traces of the violence of previous patients could be seen on the walls).

I replied: “Eh well, I would have to be unscrewed to like it.” Then some women started screaming in their cell, and I think they screamed because life had become unbearable … In those moments, I told myself that a psychiatrist worthy of the name should have talked to them. To ease their misery and their pain, even if only for a moment. I think they (the doctors) could also teach them something … But they are only interested in what they have studied in the books. I was surprised because they already knew all this. But perhaps they could learn a little more by listening to living and suffering human beings. I feel like they take more interest in their discipline and drop their patients altogether after having them “bend over”.

They asked me to mix with the other patients, to do group therapy. “And what for?” I asked them. “You can sew, play checkers, or cards, or knit“. I tried to explain to him that the day I do such things, they will really have an extra nut in their arms. These are the last things I want to do. They asked me if I felt “different” (from other patients, I suppose) and I said to myself that if they were stupid enough to ask such questions, I had to give them a nice simple answer, so I said, “Yes, I am”.

On the first day, I met another patient. He asked me why I was so sad and suggested that I call a friend to feel less alone. I replied that they told me there was no telephone on this floor. Speaking of floors, they are all locked: no one can enter or leave; she seemed shocked and surprised and said to me: “Let me take you to the phone”. Waiting for my turn for the phone, I noticed a guard (I recognized him from the gray uniform) and when I was about to pick up the phone he snatched it from my hands and said harshly: “You are not allowed to call “.

And they also boast of the “home” environment. I asked him (the doctors) what they meant by that expression. They replied “Well, on the sixth floor, we have carpet on the floor and the furniture is modern”, to which I replied “Well, that’s the kind of thing any interior architect can provide, once he has the necessary funds, “but  to deal with human beings, why don’t they realize what truly makes an interior more human? The girl who told me about the phone looked so vague and pathetic. After the incident with the guard, he told me: “I didn’t know they were going to do that.” Then she added: “I am here because of my mental disturbances… I have cut my throat and wrists several times,” she said she did it three or four times. The only thing on my mind when listening to it was a refrain:

“Mix with one another my brothers,

unless you were born lonely “

Eventually, men try to reach the moon but they don’t seem very interested in the heart beating in the human being . Even if we could change, we shouldn’t necessarily want to. This by the way, is the theme of the Misfits, but no one has realized it. I guess it’s because of the changes to the script and the changes imposed by the script …

Written later:

I know that I will never be happy, but maybe at least happy! Do you remember Kazan pretending I was the gayest girl he had ever known, and believe me he has known many! But she loved me for a year and, one night when I was filled with anguish, she rocked me to sleep. He also advised me to do an analysis and later wanted me to work with his professor, Lee Strasberg. Is it Milton who wrote, “Happy people are never born”? I know at least two psychiatrists who are looking for a more positive approach to things .


Again I didn’t sleep all night. I forgot to tell you a few things yesterday. When they put me in the first room, on the sixth floor, they didn’t tell me it was a psychiatric ward. Dr. Kris told me he would come to see me the next day. The nurse came in after the doctor (a psychiatrist) gave me a medical exam, including a breast exam, to make sure I didn’t have any breast lumps.

I protested, but without violence, explaining that the doctor who had let me in, an idiot named Lipkin, had given me a thorough check-up less than a month earlier. But when the nurse walked in, I noticed there was no way to call him, even with just a bell. I asked for an explanation, and she told me I was in a psychiatric ward. After she left, I undressed and that’s when I met the girl on the phone in the hall.

I was waiting in front of the elevator door, which looks like all the other doors, with the handle but without the numbers (you see, they all took them off). After the girl told me about what she had done, I went back to my room aware that they had lied to me about the phone and sat on the bed thinking about what I would do in this situation if it was a theatrical improvisation. So I said to myself, better not oil the lock until it creaks. I acknowledge that I went far enough with this metaphor, but I got the idea in Your Mouth Burns, a movie I starred in a long time ago.

I took a chair that wasn’t too heavy and pushed it voluntarily against the glass, and it wasn’t easy because I had never broken anything in my life. I had to try several times to get a small shard of glass; afterwards, I hid the splinter in my hand and sat quietly on the bed waiting for them to arrive. They came and I told them that if they treated me like crazy, I would act crazy.

I admit that the sequel is grotesque, but I really did it as I was in the movie, except that it was there with a razor blade. I made him understand that I would cut my wrists if they didn’t let me out  – which I never would have done as you know, Dr. Greenson, I am an actress, and I would never voluntarily get a mark, a wound, I am too much. vain to do so. You remember, when I tried to kill myself, I did it very carefully with ten tablets of seconal and ten of tuonal which I swallowed with relief (or at least that’s what I felt at the time).

I didn’t want to collaborate with them because I couldn’t approve of their way of doing . They kindly asked me to come over but I refused to move and stayed on the bed. Then four of them got together, two very strong men and women to carry me upstairs. I have to admit they had the decency to carry me with my head to the floor. At least, you see, I didn’t have my face uncovered. I just cried silently all the way and they locked me in the cell I told her about and the fat cow, one of the ones who had carried me into the room, ordered me to take a bath. I explained to her that I had just had one and she told me in a tone that does not allow for replies: “Every time you change floors, you have to take a bath“.

The plant manager, who looked like a high school principal, even though Dr. Kris calls him “administrator”, questioned me as if he were an analyst. He told me I was a very, very sick girl and had been one for years. This man despises his patients and I’ll tell you why shortly. He asked me how I was able to work in such a deep depressive state. He wanted to know if this had any repercussions on my acting and asked me in a sure and definitive tone. In fact, he presented it as a fact rather than a possibility, so I pointed out that Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin and perhaps Ingrid Bergman had also worked in a depressive state at times. I told him he was as stupid as saying that a player of Di Maggio’s level couldn’t hit a ball when he was depressed. It is simply ridiculous.

In this regard I have some good news, in some way, because I think I have been useful for something, so at least she says. Joe says I saved his life by recommending him a psychotherapist that Dr. Kris had spoken well of. Joe says he recovered after the divorce, but also says that if he had been in my place, he would have requested it too. For Christmas, he sent me a whole field of poinsettias. I asked who sent them to me so I was surprised (my friend Pat Newcomb was there when they delivered them to me). They told me: “I don’t know, the note just says:“ BEST WISHES JOE ”“. I replied: “There is but one and only Joe”. Since it was Christmas Eve, I called him and asked him why he had sent me the flowers. He told me: “First,and then why who else could send you? You have only me in the world “. He then added: “I know that when I was married to you, you never made me angry.”

Long story short, he proposed that I have a drink with him one of these days. I pointed out that he never drank. He told me he drank a few times, so I told him I agreed on the condition that I go to a very very dark place. He asked me what I would do for Christmas; I told him: “Nothing special, I’m alone with a friend“. He asked me if he could join. I was happy that he was coming, although I must say that I was depressed and that I was crying nonstop, at the same time I was happy with his arrival.

I think I better stop here, because you will surely have other things to do. Thank you for listening to me for a few moments.