Former First Lady Michelle Obama is no stranger to tackling tough subjects. This week has been no exception, as she brought up her experiences with depression during the pandemic on Wednesday.
In her newly-launched podcast, The Michelle Obama Podcast on Spotify, Obama focused this week on discussing some of the repercussions of living during a quarantine.
Her emphasis was on what Obama referred to as a “low-grade depression.”
“Spiritually, these are not fulfilling times.”
She, of course, mentioned the frustrations of living in isolation and experiencing breaks in her routine, as we all have.
The importance of a routine, Obama pointed out, went back to her days in the White House, though achieving that sense of normalcy feels even more urgent now.
“For Barack and I, we’ve lived outside of the norm of regular life for quite some time, and what we learned early on in the White House is that in order to stay sane and feel like the human that you once were, you have to have a schedule and a routine that’s pretty lockstep.”
But like so many of us, Obama is struggling to keep that sense of normalcy, including in her health and wellness routine.
“I’m going to bed a little bit later, and I’m waking up in the middle of the night ’cause I’m worrying about something or there’s a heaviness.”
“I try to get a workout in, although there have been periods throughout this quarantine where I just have felt too low. I’ve gone through those emotional highs and lows that I think everybody feels, where you just don’t feel yourself.”
“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’.”
Not only did Obama state that she felt she was experiencing a “low-grade depression,” but she also used phrases like “out of body” and “out of mind” to describe her current state.
Obama also confessed that her feelings are about more than the ongoing pandemic, but the current state of our nation, as well.
“I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression, not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife.”
“Just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting.”
“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…“
“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.”
“It has led to a weight that I haven’t felt in my life in a while.”
In order to keep moving forward, Obama shared that she’s allowing herself to feel and experience those lows, but she is otherwise doing what she can to focus on the joys she finds with her family.
“I have had to kind of give myself that: those days, those moments.”
“But for the most part, staying in a routine, getting a workout in, trying to get outside; schedule has been key, and having a regular dinner time. I’m finding that in quarantine, we look forward to that.”
Obama gave a glimpse, too, into what her family’s current routine looks like.
“Barack’s in his office, making calls, working on his book. I’m in my room, the girls are on their computers.”
“But right around five o’clock, everybody comes out of their nooks, and, we do an activity. Puzzles have become big, sitting and doing these thousand piece puzzles.”
“Barack has taught the girls [the card game] ‘Spades,’ so now there’s this vicious competition.”
Obama also said there’s been a certain amount of opportunity to the pandemic, including having the time to slow down and decide who they will be “in the new world.”
Speaking of her daughters, Obama said:
“It’s almost like they needed the world to stop a little bit. You know they didn’t realize that they were, that the world they were in, and the way they were living it, was so treadmill-like.”
“So fast and furious. Because it was all they ever knew.”
“[This is an opportunity to] decide how you want to show up in the new world. Because it will be a new world.”
Obama’s greatest wish isn’t to return fully to the way things were before, though.
“I hope that we reach for better.”
This episode of the Michelle Obama Podcast was undeniably candid, but also graceful. After launching the latest podcast on Wednesday, Obama turned the focus back to the harsher realities of living in the pandemic and how to navigate it.
She asked her followers on Twitter what they are doing to take care of themselves during this pandemic.
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) August 6, 2020
Her followers were incredibly candid about their own experiences with depression and how they’re trying to deal.
THANK YOU for saying what you said. I've never been so depressed before in my life. How am I dealing? Passably but not well. Inexplicably, my meditation has fallen off when i need it most (I will fix that) and I'm isolated & angry. I try not to think about the future.
— mandy 🐺 knows Trump is lying to you (@mandyinSeaLA) August 6, 2020
but the lack of a stimulating routine with no end in sight, is very frustrating.
Personally, I'm on disability, and nothing has been done to help people like me.
— Mia Savarese (@M618034) August 6, 2020
Lately books are friends helping me through this time. Presently reading “Begin Again” by @esglaude. In introduction are words of beloved James Baldwin. As I read them, thought of you & Mr. O, but especially you bc words matter. Your voice calms & your choice of words ring out. pic.twitter.com/wGEK0jPJWW
— Alison 😂 at You know nothing about my energy (@afdinhouston) August 6, 2020
We find comfort in discussing the movie "The Shack", featuring Octavia Spencer and Sam Worthington. One of my favorite lines in the movie is, "I can work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies, but that doesn't mean I orchestrate the tragedies."
— Gramemaw (@Gramemaw1) August 7, 2020
I just cannot believe this is happening. I mean I am sure I am more in touch w reality than the current occupant of the White House. But the daily abuse and the trauma are just overwhelming. Everyday I wake up and think “Is today the day I get this virus?” What about my family?
— Michelle Swearingen (@MichelleSweari9) August 7, 2020
Mrs Obama, enjoy a fav food from the past daily, read a new genre, plan a trip for next year—don't worry more than necessary, and do some fun new things– yellow nails type things at home. Buy a top not you and enjoy lounging in it—just take care–that helps me this wild yr.
— Blue Skies (@RedVelv87704478) August 7, 2020
The quarantine part has been okay. What I’m nervous about is school starting. I teach kindergarten and want so badly to be in the classroom but I’m scared too. Seventeen 5/6 yo in a room. Not knowing boundaries yet. Love my job. Nervous what the future will bring for all of us.
— Stephanie Scierka (@stephscierka) August 6, 2020
There really isn't anything about my Bipolar disorder that my husband understands so I just suffer in silence. It had gotten a lot worse. And because of being unemployed I am now uninsured and my prescriptions are so expensive. It's all just a huge messm. I'm being consumed.
— Lisa🌈⭐🛶🎼🇺🇸 (@shadowlovesong) August 6, 2020
You aren’t alone. Sometimes the only way out is to go through. God be with you and your beautiful family, and may He keep you strong enough to shut out the hate and focus on continuing forward. 💕
— Mina78 (@Mina7815) August 6, 2020
My grown kids discovered that you can have voice conversations on your phone. Us older folks discovered video chat. All my kids have been in the protests. My daughter is feeding the homeless and the protesters. I love just listening to them, they give me hope.
— cebundy (@cebundy1) August 7, 2020
With the rise in depression and anxiety, as well as what may appear to be lasting psychological effects for those who tested positive for the virus, it’s more important than ever to have these moments of reflection and self-assessment.
According to Obama, not only is it important for us to keep striving for those moments of joy in our lives, but we should allow ourselves to feel our most difficult feelings, as well.