When you see Sarah Silverman on stage, you would never think she was suffering on the inside.
Confident, irreverent and absolutely hilarious, the 44-year-old writer, actress and producer looks like she was born to entertain.
It’s a classic. You can watch it here:
“It happened as fast as the sun going behind a cloud. You know how you can be fine one moment, and the next it’s, ‘Oh my God, I f—king have the flu!’? It was like that. Only this flu lasted for three years. My whole perspective changed. I went from being the class clown to not being able to see life in that casual way anymore. I couldn’t deal with being with my friends, I didn’t go to school for months, and I started having panic attacks. People use ‘panic attack’ very casually out here in Los Angeles, but I don’t think most of them really know what it is. Every breath is labored. You are dying. You are going to die. It’s terrifying. And then when the attack is over, the depression is still there. Once, my stepdad asked me, ‘What does it feel like?’ And I said, ‘It feels like I’m desperately homesick, but I’m home.’”
And, learning that Silverman – a celebrity, a comedian, a successful woman who appears to be living the good life – has depression is genuinely shocking, as hearing that news about anyone often is.
Like the world was shocked when much-loved funnyman Robin Williams took his own life last year.
No matter how many times we hear that mental illness doesn’t discriminate, there’s still a perception that those with glamorous-looking lifestyles would surely not be marred by the punishing and potentially devastating condition.
It’s why celebrities speaking out about their mental health issues is incredibly important. Each time someone like Hayden Panettiere, Cara Delevingne, Ryan Phillipe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow or Ashley Judd openly discusses the times in which they have struggled, others feel less alone. It reminds us to look beyond the veneer of the smiling faces of our friends and family members and search for any red flags that show they are not coping.
The more famous people that talk about mental illness, the more regular these reminders become. And, hopefully, the more people feel able to discuss their own problems with their loved ones, colleagues and medical professionals.
Silverman says years of medication – at one point she was taking 16 Xanax a day – left her like “a zombie walking through life”, before a therapist helped her get off the pills. Now, she says regular therapy and a small dose of medication has helped her learn to live with and control her depression.
“And I still have downward spirals, days when I have to drag myself onstage to do stand-up or I’m just tweeting Morrissey lyrics from my bed. But there’s one thing I know that I used to not know: It will pass. And it does… I wouldn’t wish depression on anyone. But 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.”
If this post brings up issues for you, or you just need someone to talk to, please call Lifeline on 131 114.