Michelle Obama reveals how she copes with her 'low-grade depression'

Michelle Obama discusses struggle with ‘low-grade depression’ and reveals how she shared it with Malia, 22, and Sasha, 19: ‘It’s important for young people to know that nobody rides life on a high’

  • The 57-year-old confessed to suffering from low-grade depression in an episode of her podcast last August
  • She said she has developed ‘tools’ to cope with life’s lows, including surrounding herself with family and friends, walking, exercising, and turning off the news
  • ‘I find if I spend the whole day in a sour mood, lights out, in bed, the next day I’ll feel the same way,’ she said 
  • Michelle said she urges her daughters ‘to understand that the valleys are temporary, and so are the peaks’
  • The former First Lady also talked about how the ‘friendship that was the foundation’ of her relationship with her husband is still there 
  • During the pandemic, Barack and Malia liked to pick ‘dark and sad’ movies, but Michelle and Sasha ‘want a little laughter and frivolity’

Nearly a year after Michelle Obama confessed to suffering from ‘low-grade depression’ during the pandemic, the former First Lady says it’s important for people to recognize that ‘nobody rides life on a high’ — and she makes sure to teach her daughters Sasha and Malia to ‘be prepared to handle the highs and the lows.’

The 57-year-old has been candid about her own lows, and speaking to Stephen Colbert last night, she said that it was only natural that people would ‘feel a kind of way’ during the pandemic and racial unrest of the past year. 

‘This is a part of life,’ she said. ‘Nobody rides life on a high, and I think it’s important for young people to know that, you know it’s like, no, you’re not going to feel great all the time.’ 

She added: ‘When I talk to my kids about that, I try to urge them to understand that the valleys are temporary, and so are the peaks, they can be temporary. They have to be prepared to handle the highs and the lows.’

Ups and downs: Michelle Obama says it’s important for people to recognize that ‘nobody rides life on a high’

Realistic: She he makes sure to teach her daughters Sasha and Malia to ‘be prepared to handle the highs and the lows’ 

‘There are moments in all of our lives, particularly in the middle of a pandemic, and unrest, racial unrest, you’re going feel a kind of way about it, so give yourself a break,’ she said.

Michelle added that over the course of her life, she has figured out the things she can do to pull herself through those low points.

‘Being 57, I know that that’s true. Over the course of adulthood, you develop your own tools,’ she said. ‘So for me it’s turning off the noise that is upsetting. Knowing that I can’t keep reading all the the feeds that are fueling my anxiety, and taking a break from that.’

She admitted that there event times in the White House that she had to tune out some of what was happening for her own well-being. 

‘There were times that I couldn’t hear the bad news about the country that I had to serve, because I know that the news is not a full reflection of what the country is. It’s not reality, it’s not how people live their day to day lives,’ she said.

‘So I pull back from it. I surround myself with things that make me feel good: family, friends, walks, exercise. 

She also said that she wants young people, including Sasha, 19, and Malia, 22, to think about their own tools that bring them joy, calm, and peace. 

‘I know those things for myself now. But it’s taken decades to develop those tools, so we have to be patient with ourselves, particularly in times that are hard,’ she said.

When Colbert said that when he is depressed, he finds it hard to use those tools because he doesn’t want to do anything, Michelle told him that she works hard to push beyond that feeling — and in the pandemic, it helped to keep herself to a schedule. 

‘It’s just the doing that gets you out of a funk,’ she said. ‘I find if I spend the whole day in a sour mood, lights out, in bed, the next day I’ll feel the same way. 

‘But if I get up, and I shower, something might happen in the course of me doing that that really knocks me into a positive place. So I try to fight the tendency to sort of wallow in my low. Don’t wallow in your low.’

Michelle had first opened up about her ‘dealing with some form of low-grade depression’ during an episode of her podcast in August.

Michelle spoke about her ’emotional highs and lows,’ saying, ‘Spiritually, these are not fulfilling times.’

She said she was battling depression ‘not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife, and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting.

Flasback: Michelle had first opened up about her ‘dealing with some form of low-grade depression’ during an episode of her podcast in August 

She said she was battling depression ‘not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife, and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting’ 

‘I don’t think I’m unusual, in that,’ she added. ‘But I’d be remiss to say that part of this depression is also a result of what we’re seeing in terms of the protests, the continued racial unrest, that has plagued this country since its birth.

‘I have to say that waking up to the news, waking up to how this administration has or has not responded, waking up to yet another story of a black man or a black person somehow being dehumanized, or hurt or killed, or falsely accused of something, it is exhausting.

‘And it has led to a weight that I haven’t felt in my life, in a while.’

But she added ‘spirit is lifted’ when she feels healthy and surrounds herself with good people, like family and friends. 

‘I reach out to my family, and to my friends, even in this time of quarantine. You know, I fought to continue to find a way to stay connected to the people in my life who bring me joy, and my girlfriends, my husband, my kids,’ she said.   

‘It’s the small things, small rituals [that make a difference],’ she said.

The former First Lady she learned to stick to a routine in the White House, but lately it’s been difficult, and it is affecting her sleep. 

‘I’m waking up in the middle of the night, ’cause I’m worrying about something or there’s a heaviness,’ she said. 

‘I try to make sure I get a workout in, although there have been periods throughout this quarantine, where I just have felt too low. 

Tools: She also said that she wants young people, including Sasha, 19, and Malia, 22, to think about their own tools that bring them joy, calm, and peace 

‘You know, I’ve gone through those emotional highs and lows that I think everybody feels, where you just don’t feel yourself, and sometimes there’s been a week or so where I had to surrender to that, and not be so hard on myself. And say, “You know what? You’re just not feeling that treadmill right now.”

‘You have to recognize that you’re in a place, a bad place, in order to get out of it. So you kinda have to sit in it for a minute, to know, oh, oh, I’m feeling off. So now I gotta, I gotta feed myself with something better,’ she added. 

This week, she also spoke about depression in an interview with Gayle King on CBS This Morning.

‘I thought it was important to say it out loud,’ she said. ‘Because to not feel depressed, you know, with all that was going on over the course of this year — it’s sort of, like, “So you feel okay in all of this?” You know, and sometimes we just need to speak the truth. 

‘When there is such uncertainty and unrest, and lack of leadership and calm, it is upsetting. It shakes you,’ she said.

‘There are dips, ebbs, and flows to life. There are times when you feel great, and times when you feel really low. But it’s important for us to own that that happens to us.

‘I think I want young people to be comfortable with identifying those peaks and valleys, and knowing that those valleys don’t last forever. I just don’t want any young person to make a decision about anything when they’re in a valley. You know? They have to know that time will move you to a better place.’ 

Still in love: The former First Lady’s interview with Colbert on Tuesday also touched on lighter subjects, with Michelle calling her husband ‘cute’

‘The friendship that was the foundation of all of this is still there,’ she said

The former First Lady’s interview with Colbert on Tuesday also touched on lighter subjects — including when Michelle, a member of Gen X, poked fun at her husband, a Baby Boomer.

‘He’s gonna be old — 60! But he looks good. I like him, so it’s like, oh you’re cute!’ she said.

She also spoke about how good it’s been to be home with her husband during the pandemic, now as empty nesters. 

‘The friendship that was the foundation of all of this is still there,’ she said.  

‘And that’s what I tell young people, young couples: It’s gonna come full circle, especially if you have little kids and you’re working and your career, you look over at that guy and you’re like, “Ooh, why did I do this? I don’t even remember” But you come full circle, the kids are out of the house, and it’s like, oh, you’re kinda cute! 

‘That’s where we are now. “Look at you in your little golf outfit! You look cute.” I feel it now.

‘I think it’s even better because the pressures that were there are also gone,’ she went on. ‘They’re different. Our kids are independent beings. We’re not worried about feeding them, or curfew, or all those things that make life tense.

On their own: Though Sasha and Malia were living back home with their parents for part of the pandemic, Michelle said ‘they’re adults, and it’s sort of like, hey, it’s your life’

Though Sasha and Malia were living back home with their parents for part of the pandemic, Michelle said ‘they’re adults, and it’s sort of like, hey, it’s your life.’   

‘They went to the West Coast and they’ve been gone. They just left. They don’t check in much,’ she said. 

‘Our youngest, Sasha, who’s not as talkative as our older one, was just like, “I really have nothing to say to you. I’m not even trying anymore.” But we got through a couple of good months of feeling good being around each other.’

During the pandemic, the family watched a lot of movies together — thought Barack and Malia’s taste is a bit different from Michelle and Sasha’s.

‘Malia is the movie savant. Although, we don’t all like the same movies. She and Barack like dark and sad, and Sasha and I, we want a little laughter and frivolity,’ she said. 

‘It seems like they take themselves a little seriously with their movies and they like to rehash dark moments. I’ll say, Barack’s taste in movies is everybody is sad and then they die.’ 

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