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Michelle Obama Speaks Out About Her ‘Low-Grade Depression’ In Candid New Podcast

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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.”

Obama confessed:

“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.

Obama explained: 

“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.

Obama confided: 

“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.

Obama reflected: 

“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.

Obama explained: 

“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.

Obama said: 

“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. 

Her followers were incredibly candid about their own experiences with depression and how they’re trying to deal.

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.

McKenzie Lynn Tozan

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.