For anyone who struggles or has struggled with depression, comedian Sarah Silverman’s recent essay for Glamour is an all too familiar account of getting through life with the illness. Silverman gave us a peek into her experience with depression, from her first experiences to how she handles it now.
The essay was written in anticipation of her upcoming film, I Smile Back, in which she plays the role of depressed housewife Laney Brooks, who “has it all” but self-medicates with pills and booze. Silverman’s own initial experience with depression came at age thirteen, after returning from summer camp. “It happened as fast as the sun going behind a cloud," she writes. It was around this time that she articulated one of the sharpest descriptions of existing with depression that I’ve read in a long time: “It feels like I'm desperately homesick, but I'm home.” What began for Silverman as a sinking depression snowballed into three years of severe panic attacks and seeing multiple therapists.
“The first one hanged himself. Irony? Yeah. Another one kept upping my Xanax until I was taking 16 a day. Four Xanax, four times a day! I saved all the bottles in a shoe box because I thought, Well, at least if I die and they find this, they'll know what happened. I was a zombie walking through life. And then, a few years later, my mom took me to a new psychiatrist, who got me off meds completely over the course of six months. I remember taking that last half pill at the high school water fountain and finally feeling like myself again.”
But depression tends to hide somewhere inside, dormant and brewing – for Silverman it came back at twenty-two years old, after she’d graduated from NYU’s drama department and gotten a job writing for SNL. “The whole world was open to me! But one night, sitting in my apartment watching 90210, something came over me again. Though it had been nine years, I knew the feeling immediately: depression. Panic. I'd thought it was gone forever, but it was back.” She credits good friends, a good therapist, and safe and healthy doses of Klonopin and Zoloft for getting her through it. “Since then I've lived with depression and learned to control it, or at least to ride the waves as best I can.”
Silverman had agreed to play part of Laney Brooks five years ago when writer Amy Koppelman approached her about the role. Though she'd agreed, she'd done so without considering the reality of the project really coming to fruition – three years later it was officially funded. Upon finding out that the film was set to be made, “I replied-all: ‘Yay!’ And then I collapsed on the floor of my bathroom, shaking. What had I done? I knew playing Laney Brooks would take me back to a very dark place.” And even though Silverman now has a significant distance from her initial bouts of depression, working on the film carried a certain weight. “I'm not gonna lie, [it] was not a great 20 days. After we wrapped and I'd finally shed the heaviness of it, I was so glad I made this movie. It may not have been fun, but it was the next best thing: It was scary. That makes you grow.”
Silverman’s essay is a more-than-welcome contribution to the discussion of depression, a mental illness that - even with a reported 1 in 10 Americans who suffer from it and even with statistics showing women are more likely to do so - still comes with an irrational stigma. And it's exactly because of this that Silverman's own narrative with depression is so appreciated. Hearing that a public figure - one who has made a career out of her comedy, no less - is living with depression every day makes it a little more okay for the rest of us.
Silverman’s tone is ultimately a positive and hopeful one, and a necessary reminder for those who have come out the other side: “If you ever experience it, or are experiencing it right now, just know that on the other side, the little joys in life will be that much sweeter. The tough times, the days when you're just a ball on the floor—they'll pass. You're playing the long game, and life is totally worth it.”
See the whole article on Glamour and catch I Smile Back in theaters on October 23rd.
Photos via YouTube (screenshots) and Giphy
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