Michelle Obama Admits She's Been Dealing With "Low-Grade Depression"

Melissa Goldberg
·6 mins read
Photo credit: BET Awards 2020 - Getty Images
Photo credit: BET Awards 2020 - Getty Images

From Prevention

  • In the second episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast, the former First Lady opened up about how she's been taking care of her mental health in the wake of the pandemic, as well as the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

  • "It is exhausting," she said. "And, and it has led to a weight that I haven't felt in my life, in a while."

  • She also shared that—like us—she's learned how to do her own nails and waxing. "Not to put anybody out of work..."

Michelle Obama is keeping it real.

After kicking off her newly-launched Spotify podcast with President Barack Obama, the former First Lady sat down with her longtime friend and award-winning journalist Michele Norris for a candid conversation about mental health and the importance of self-care—especially in the midst of a global pandemic and national reckoning with race.

"Part of knowing yourself is knowing how to replenish yourself with the things that do bring you joy," said Obama. "So for me, my spirit is lifted when I am feeling healthy and when I am surrounded by good people."

Which is why keeping a routine has been crucial, according to the bestselling author. "We learned early on in the White House that in order to stay sane and to feel like the human that you once were, you have to have a schedule," said Obama, who has been quarantining with her husband and their two daughters, Sasha and Malia. That means waking up around 6 or 7 a.m. and exercising, before going off to work on individual projects. Then, around 5 p.m. each evening, the Obamas gather for family dinner and a group activity. "Puzzles have become big," she said. "The girls are into them, and we're all sitting on the floor around the table where the puzzle is now permanently set up." She also revealed that Sasha and Malia have inherited their father's love of the card game spades. “Now there’s this vicious competition,” she joked. "They wouldn’t have sat down, but for this quarantine, to learn how to play a card game with their dad."

As it turns out, Sasha and Malia aren't the only ones who have picked up new skills during quarantine. "Not to put anybody out of work,” she said, “but this time has taught me how to do my own waxing, do my nails.”

Despite her efforts, though, the former FLOTUS revealed—like many of us—she's had some low moments during these past five months. "Spiritually, these are not fulfilling times," she said. "I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression." Not just because of the seemingly endless stay-at-home period—which has been made even more grim by the recent surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United states—but also because of the gruesome, high-profile deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, as well as the continued racial unrest. "I have to say that 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," she said. "And, and it has led to a weight that I haven't felt in my life, in a while."

While taking a break from social media and the news has helped her in the short term ("Sometimes we feel like that's irresponsible to just cut off, and I think it is, if you do it over long term," she said. "But for me, for my mental health, there are some times I cannot look"), she is kept positive in the longterm thanks to the millions of young people who have taken to the streets to protest for what they believe. "I am heartened by the depth, the sustained vigor, the diversity, the peaceful nature of these protests," she said. "That helps me sleep at night. That reminds me of the truth. No matter how I feel or what my lull is, we are making progress. There is that truth."

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