RUBY Wax gives a tour of the mind, how to use, not lose it, in her new one-woman show Frazzled at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds on April 8.

Based on her book A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled, the show charts how the acerbic American comedian, writer and mental health campaigner has turned her well-documented battles with depression into learning to develop an inner calm with the help of mindfulness.

"Most importantly, it's helped me sense a depression coming before it hits," says Ruby. "This doesn't mean I dodge it but now I'm ready for it. When I sense the tiny, far-off footsteps of despair, I batten down the hatches, swiftly unplugging from any contact with the rest of the world, both on screen and in person."

Those words come from How To Be Human: The Manual, 64-year-old Ruby's latest self-help book, written with the help of a monk and a neuroscientist, more of which in a moment.

First, Ruby makes it clear she has not mellowed. "I don't really like that word. It shows an overall losing your edge. I think my edge is better, but then I pull it back more. I still get angry about stuff but it subsides quicker," she says. "If a traffic cop stops me, the full reptilian rage will hit, but it will go down quicker.

"Rage is addictive and it tastes good. You can repeat the story to regain the anger, but now I put the brakes on and don't repeat the story, unless it's funny. If you can turn it into comedy, your body's in great shape."

Following the Frazzled tour, Ruby will be working on a new pilot show with material based on How To Be Human, in which she delves into evolution, why we think what we think and feel what we feel, as she explores emotions, addictions, relationships, and more besides in everyday life.

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The cover artwork for Ruby Wax's latest book, How To Be Human: The Manual

The aforementioned monk and the neuroscientist will feature in the second half, in conversation with Wax, who has a master's degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy from Oxford University, acquired three years ago.

Ruby has been married to television producer and director Ed Bye for 28 years, after they first met when he directed her in Girls On Top, the ITV comedy that featured Wax alongside Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. "I chose Ed because he had Grade-A sanity genes and I felt that would break the chain of thousands of years of Wax madness in one fell swoop," she says.

"We have totally almost independent lives. Ed doesn't question what I do and he's funny. I mean, if I want to go out for dinner with my friends, I don't automatically have to bring Ed. I ask them if they want Ed to come. Ed doesn't even know some of my friends. I'm not a couple."

Ruby and Ed have worked and lived together in relative harmony, but many negotiations have played their part along the way. "Life's a deal. Ed will cook and clear up when we have people over, but I invite everybody and make sure we pull this off, that everybody's happy," she says.

"If something goes wrong, I'm the first person on the phone to really hit it hard, because I'm aggressive and he's not. If you have a situation where somebody has to be English, he steps in."

Ruby took action to pre-empt the sadness she knew she would feel when the last of their three children left home, booking her place at university before the last one exited, to avoid empty-nest syndrome. "I kind of know when the party's over," she says. "But I am devastated. I want my kids to live at home now. They live ten minutes from me but I love having all my kids at home."

Ruby's childhood was unhappy: her mother Bertha had OCD and was prone to screaming rages and hysterics; her father, Edward Wachs, a wealthy sausage skin manufacturer, was angry and violent towards both wife and child.

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"The trick is to learn to back off," says Ruby

For years, she believed her parents' relationship was horrendous, but when she took part in the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? series last year, she discovered the terror they had suffered as Austrian Jews at the hands of the Nazis just before the Second World War; a terror that may have pushed them to the edge of sanity.

"The discovery didn't traumatise me. I found it really uplifting," says Wax. "If something's an epiphany, that's a good deal. I understood my roots. That's worth 50 years of therapy."

It changed her feelings towards her parents. "Now I understood who they were as people, as opposed to cartoon-like parents. I got an insight into what they were like when they were young. It helped me understand them and I don't have any animosity," says Ruby.

They escaped to Belgium and eventually stowed away on a boat to the United States, settling in Chicago, where Ruby was born, although Britain has been her home since she was 18.

Practising mindfulness has made Ruby happier, calmer and better able to focus her mind, but there are times when she still lives life at a mad pace. "If I need to, yes I do, but when I start burning out, I might notice it quicker and get out of there."

When she feels herself to be going down mentally, she cannot think. "It's like brain fog. It's like a car that's caught in mud," she says. "I used to push and push and then you really break the engine. But now I'll go, 'No, the brain is filled to capacity'. The trick is to learn to back off."

Ruby Wax presents Frazzled – A Guide To Mindfulness at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, April 8, 7.30pm. Box office: 0113 213 7700 or at

How To Be Human: The Manual by Ruby Wax is published by Penguin Life.