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Michelle Obama Gets Candid About Dealing Quarantine Depression: ‘This Is What Mental Health Is — You Have Highs & Lows’

Even First Ladies experience depression. 

With the recent admission that our Forever First Lady Michelle Obama experienced depression during the pandemic, a glimmer of hope exists that more women across the country would give themselves permission to openly admit that they, too, have experienced it. 

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Now that the world has collectively experienced the adverse mental strain and emotional toll brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more important that women, who statistically have a higher prevalence of MDD, not hesitate to seek and receive the necessary mental health interventions that are so desperately needed. 

Adjacently, there is a silver lining in that federal acknowledgment and support of the concurrent mental health crises will be given in the form of funding for future programming which will be disseminated to states and territories via a $2.5 billion dollar grant by the Biden Administration. 

In the interim, over the past year to support her mental wellness, Michelle has taken matters into her own hands and feet, if you will, as she has found positive outlets to help alleviate her depression. 

During the quarantine, Michelle taught herself how to become a lap swimmer, a low-impact form of cardio she shares is beneficial as she [gracefully] ages, like fine wine might we add. Physically and metaphorically, this served as the perfect way to release her emotional burdens. 

In a recent interview with People, she explained, “Depression is understandable during these times. I needed to acknowledge what I was going through, because a lot of times we feel like we have to cover that part of ourselves up, that we always have to rise above and look as if we’re not paddling hard underneath the water.” 

“This is what mental health is. You have highs and lows. What I have said to my daughters is that one of the things that is getting me through is that I’m old enough to know that things will get better.”

Swimming proved to be beneficial as it prevented her from emotionally drowning. Remarkable. Additionally, she shared what it was like within her home as dynamics shifted with family members transitioning to working and attending school virtually from home. Like many families, Michelle also welcomed her two daughters back home, Sasha and Malia, albeit earlier and longer than expected. 

After temporarily adjusting to the empty nesting period, she had to quickly shift into mothering young adults who’ve made it back to the nest. If we could title a book to summarize this experience, like her bestselling memoir Becoming, we could adequately entitle it “Recapturing” as she was quoted during her aforementioned interview.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

She revealed, “This time has allowed us to get some stolen moments back with our girls,” she added. “Those recaptured moments have meant the world to us and I think they’ve made our relationships with our children even stronger.”

This sneak peek into the behind-the-scenes of our Forever First Lady has given us a lot to learn and apply as we continue to navigate this next phase of pandemic life as we know it. Firstly, it is the power of vulnerability and embracing that it is perfectly okay to not be okay.  

Admission of depression or any mental or emotional health issue opens the door to receiving much-needed support, especially when experiencing multiple stressors like isolation,  grief, sickness, or loss of routines.  

Secondly, identifying new hobbies or revisiting old hobbies can prove to be an incredible new outlet to release any pent-up emotions that may momentarily begin to plague us. Lastly, embracing ever-evolving family dynamic shifts can help us reclaim lost time with loved ones and gain new memories that will last a lifetime even amid the hardest of times.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, is struggling emotionally, or has a mental illness, there are additional ways to get help. Use these resources to find help for you, a friend, or family member (NIH). 

  • Call 911 in an emergency
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454
  • Crises Text Line: Text “Hello” to 741741 
  • Veterans Crises Line: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746
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