Kristen Bell on Living with Depression and Anxiety | Body Stories | SELF
- I have to know how my brain works in order to catch it from doing bad things. 'Cause the brain is really tricky and it will tell you things that aren't true. And so knowing that I would remember a negative experience more than I'd remember a positive, I would really make it my mission to go, "Okay, but the positive experiences with that person were equal." I'm gonna choose to let that negative experience go. [soft music] It's hard into words, honestly, and it feels different at different times. When my anxiety is high, it feels like an absolute inability to make decisions. Like, I would rather not do something than decide what to do. And it's almost paralyzing which is odd 'cause it seems like it's simple. Do you wanna go on a walk or sit on the couch and watch TV? And I'm like, I can't figure that out. I don't have the brainpower. It feels like decision fatigue. And then depression is different. My version of it feels very restricted. Like, if you're trying to put on like a latex glove that's way too small for your hand. Also, it sort of coincides with this feeling of not being excited about anything, which again, on a day when you feel great or even normal you can get excited about things. Like you're like, "Oh, I'm gonna have pizza today or I'm gonna see a friend today." All of the fun things about life.
And when I'm having depression, it's like none of those things are exciting or seem worth it. So there's this real disconnect because I know logically that should be a feeling that induces some happiness, but it's like, my depression will not let me recognize those feelings. At 40, I don't like to believe anything should be taboo anymore. Like I talked to my kids about sex and yes, they're very young, but they wanted to know how they got here, and we talked about it, and they were grossed out and left the room, and that's fine. But I think that anything that's taboo and hard to talk about should be some of the first priorities you should be talking about with the support systems in your life. I wish that I had known as a person in the public eye to talk about it publicly at an earlier date. I had been acting and doing publicity for a while and I was at the last stretch of two movies of a press tour. And I had done all these interviews and I was lying in bed about to do Sam Jones, which is a long form interview. Like it's like a 45 minute to an hour sit down.
So, you better be prepared to talk.
And I said to my husband, "God I have nothing to talk about. I feel exhausted. Like I've said every story about my life." And he said, "Why don't you talk about your struggle with anxiety and depression?" And it like was a huge light bulb.
I was like, "I've never done that."
I was experiencing the same thing that everyone was which is like, "Well, just don't talk about that." And then I just felt so inauthentic and irresponsible to have been presenting this like a bubbly happy person, which is someone that I cultivate and I nurture and I try really hard to exist as, and I just wasn't being honest with the people, like the girls who may look up to me. And so I was like, "Okay, I'm just gonna talk about it."
And so I don't even think that Sam knew but during that interview, I was like, actually, for a period of my life and periods and often and sometimes just on a random Wednesday, I feel this way. And then we started to get more in-depth and I found myself really happy to be admitting all of it. And the response I got from that interview was like astounding to me. Like so many people saying, "I've felt that way too.
Thank you for saying it out loud. You gave me the courage to say it out loud." Which I did practically nothing other than doing what I should do which is be honest and authentic. It was a huge turning point in my life.
I just felt a huge sense of responsibility.
And so I kept talking about it and I talk about it a lot. And here we are. I started noticing like a feeling of being disconnected when I was probably 18 or 19. I moved out of Detroit and to New York when I just turned 18 I was like two weeks into being 18. And I was so excited. It was all I wanted to do.
I was going to NYU, I was studying musical theater, I was living in this beautiful like melting pot cultural city and seeing Broadway shows each night. It was wonderful.
I just felt like if I wrote my life down on paper I had so many opportunities, so much privilege
so much access to happiness, and yet my feelings were not that. As an 18-year-old, living on her own in New York City, I should be like, "Yes." Like it should be so exciting, but it wasn't.
I felt like I was sort of followed by this weird dark cloud that just didn't allow me to see all the happiness around me. And I was lucky that I felt in my bones that that wasn't how I should... I hate to use the word should, but should be feeling or how I could be feeling, I guess. And I was lucky enough that my mom had sat me down and had a conversation with me and she said, "Hey, just a quick heads up.
I experienced these feelings sometimes, your grandmother experienced these feelings sometimes." She's a nurse and so she recognized that there could be a hereditary component to a serotonin imbalance.
And she said, "If you start to feel any of these things just know there are a variety of ways that you can reach out to people or try to fix it. And you don't sort of having to live like that." It's such a hard thing to about like, I don't like that there's any sort of stigma to it, but I get it. It's a weird thing to talk about 'cause it's not an affliction that you can see. It's like a hard thing to, I guess diagnose and also acknowledge and a lot of families or support systems or anyone in your life, they don't know how to talk about it. Especially if they aren't themselves feeling it.
I think I had an upper hand because my mom had explained it to me in a very medical way early on. And I was like, "Oh, okay."
Sort of armed me with the information about what could happen and maybe it never will, but if it did there's access to help.
I knew that there were all of these ways, like talking to a friend, finding a therapist, talking to a psychiatrist or a psychologist, and just knowing that changed everything for me. Even if you're not experiencing any mental health issues, I would hope that you would walk through life being open and ready to be a shoulder if someone needs you. Because the reality is, we're not all born the same.
Some of us are born with a ton of confidence and then some are born really timid. And I just feel like maybe this is just my maternal instincts talking, but I just don't want anyone to feel like they don't have a support system. So if we collectively as a society, like self-care, this whole idea should also include caring about each other. It has to obviously be on the person to identify the feeling and say, "I need help." But then I think it has to be on the people around them that love them to say, "Okay, let me see if I can support you. Even if that's just checking in one once in a while."