Sarah Silverman has wit in her voice, an infectious smile and the ability to make a room of people laugh out loud. She's also proof that depression has many guises.
In a candid essay for Glamour, the American comedian and writer has spoken about her long-standing battle with the mental illness for the first time.
“It happened as fast as the sun going behind a cloud,” she writes, speaking about when she first experienced depression when returning from a school camping trip at the age of 13.
“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,” continues Silverman, 44.
“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.””
Sarah Silverman as a child with her mother Beth Ann O'Hara
She talks about being prescribed 16 Xanax tablets a day before meeting a psychiatrist who weaned her off medication. “I remember taking that last half pill at the high school water fountain and finally feeling like myself again.”
Then nine years later, the depression came back when she was watching an episode of 90210. At the time she was hired as a writer-performer for Saturday Night Live and turned to Klonopin which helped to block her panic attacks.
“Since then I've lived with depression and learned to control it, or at least to ride the waves as best I can. I'm on a small dose of Zoloft, which, combined with therapy, keeps me healthy but still lets me feel highs and lows.”
Silverman on Saturday Night Live in the 90s.
“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. Usually after 24 hours or so of wallowing in depressing music and being the Sylvia Plath of social media, a friend will reach out: “Are you OK? I saw that tweet.” And I'll sort of snap to it, brush myself off, and get back to life. I've learned that keeping busy is a good thing for me.
“Like my mom always said, you just have to be brave enough to exist through it.” It's this advice that she followed when she went back to a “very dark place" when playing a bipolar, self-destructive housewife in upcoming film I Smile Back.
“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.”
Read the full essay at glamour.com.
Images: Rex Features