Hosts Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin, who are also best friends, talked at length about Dunn’s bipolar disorder—and in particular, feelings around a recent and seemingly insurmountable depressive episode.
The pair, who are also best friends, delved deeply into many of the associated anxieties and genuine concerns that are linked with depression, from feeling like a burden to others to Dunn’s worry that the tone and subject of their talk would upset listeners. But as they discovered, the “response has been overwhelming,” says Dunn. “[The listeners] were like, ‘This is how I feel, and it’s good to hear it vocalized.'”
In a conversation with The Fix, Dunn and Raskin—comedians, writers and podcasters whose joint credits include the best-selling novel I Hate Everyone But You and the hugely popular “Just Between Us” YouTube comedy channel—said that the conversation about Dunn’s depression was born partly out of Raskin’s mention of #JustCheckingIn, a hashtag she launched to encourage conversations about mental health.
From there, as Raskin says, “It became more about personal experience.”
“I’d been having a bad day, and Allison and I had been talking endless about this sort of thing because we’re best friends,” says Dunn. “I’d casually mentioned in the last few episodes that I’d been depressed, and so it was like, ‘Let’s just fill in the whole thing.'”
“It felt a lot like impending doom,” says Dunn about the depression. “And because it’s cyclic—it’s cycling moods—it felt like this is what it’s going to be like for the rest of my life.”
Once she began talking with Raskin, a host of emotions arose for Dunn during the course of the podcast conversation. “I was very annoyed at first,” she laughs. “You don’t ever want to hear about what you need to do, even if [someone is] gentle about it.” The enervating aspect of the depression also took hold: “I deeply believed that this had never happened before, that I would never get better, and it was over for me. So it’s hard to do something actionable when someone truly believes that.”
And for Dunn, one of the biggest roadblocks was her fear of how the listeners would perceive the conversation. “There’s a lot of mental health talk about ‘how I overcame,’ or ‘here’s what’s happening since I got better,'” she recalls. Guilt over being in “the middle” of her episode, and how it might negatively impact listeners, was pervasive. “There’s a lot of people who care about us, and I was nervous. I was like, ‘Are they going to flip out?'”
As it turns out, the listeners didn’t. “We have a wonderfully accepting fanbase, which I don’t think is always the case for creators,” says Dunn. “They were like, ‘Don’t worry—we’re not mad. This is how I feel, and it’s good to hear it vocalized.'”
Many responded to Raskin’s gentle encouragement of rest and recovery. “If you’re having a flare-up, it’s extra important to give your body the rest it needs,” says Raskin. “Have mini-breaks or mini-vacations, and if you have nothing to do, watch a TV show rather than panic about it.”
Above all, the act of checking in—both by the person struggling with depression or other issues, and from their friend or family member—can be crucial in helping work through many of the feelings that Dunn experienced. For those who may be reluctant to bring up their status with others, Raskin advises reversing the situation.
“If my friend wasn’t feeling well and needed help, I would want them to let me know,” she says. “You’d want to deal with it with compassion. And that can give you a little perspective, that maybe it would be beneficial to reach out, that people want to hear from you.”
Alleviating feelings of anger, self-reproach and anxiety can help those in the midst of difficult feelings to open up.
“Allison always says that there’s ‘the thing’ and ‘how you feel about the thing,'” says Dunn. “You can deal with the actual thing, but you have to get rid of how you feel about the thing, because that’s just adding more stress. You don’t need to add more shame and worry on top of the actual thing. And I thought that was good advice.”