Cyclical Depression

Rachel Maddow On Cyclical Depression: "You Sort Of Disappear"

“I still can’t tell when I’m depressed because part of depression is not being able to have emotional cognizance.”

“I still can’t tell when I’m depressed because part of depression is not being able to have emotional cognizance.”

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow opened up about her long-term struggles with depression, how it affects her, and what helps her get through it in an interview with comedian Marc Maron on his biweekly podcast, WTF With Marc Maron. 

Maddow described her experience with the mental illness as cyclical, hitting her for a few days at a time every few weeks.

“And when it happens, I sort of lose the will to live,” she said. “Nothing has any meaning.”

This has been going on more or less since she was 10 years old. Though Maddow has trouble recognizing it in the moment, her partner Susan Mikula has learned how to spot it and has been crucial in Maddow’s ability to get through each episode.

Finding Ways to Cope

“Even after living with it for 36 years, I still can’t tell when I’m depressed because part of depression is not being able to have emotional cognizance,” she explained. “Having a partner who can tell me that’s what’s going on, even if I can’t emotionally process it, like I can’t hear it, it can remind me to make sure you exercise, make sure you sleep, make sure you don’t do anything dumb.”

Exercise is one of the main ways that Maddow combats her depression, which she does without the benefit of medication. She has also increasingly been using prayer to the point that she now considers herself to be religious.

“The act of stopping what your brain is otherwise going to do to do a deliberate thing which is based around giving thanks, I think is a reset that’s like a psychic pause, but I also think it helps you get your head on straight.”

She also experiences periods of mania, though she says that these episodes have lessened in frequency: “It’s like one-sixth of what it used to be.”

You Just Don’t Connect with Anything — You Sort Of Disappear

Maddow has spoken on her depression in interviews in the past. In 2012, she spoke with Terri Gross of NPR on the subject and how it relates to her struggles with imposter syndrome.

“People are going to realize that I’m a great fraud and it’ll end, so I better make sure this is a good show because it’ll be my last,” she admitted. “Part of me feels that way every day.”

After so many years, however, the renowned political commentator has become used to the ups and downs, scheduling her life around it when she can tell it’s coming on and powering through her difficulty focusing when she has to. Her experience has also allowed her to come up with an unusual, yet accurate, metaphor for depression.

“And you know, when you are depressed, it’s like the rest of the world is the mothership and you’re out there on a little pod and your line gets cut, and you just don’t connect with anything, you sort of—you sort of disappear.”

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