So she describes in the midst of a long, fascinating interview with Terri Gross, which I had the pleasure of listening to during a rare long drive last week. (The video above is from Jon Stewart; quite entertaining.) The entire Terri Gross interview is splendid. But a high point — an unexpected stretch amid a conversation with many small surprises — is Maddow’s description, during a short, remarkably chipper exchange about her depression, of several of the black dog’s most defining features. A lucid, engaging concision seems to come naturally to her.
Essentially ever since puberty, every since I was 11 or 12, I guess, I’ve had cyclical depression. That’s, you know, something that has been a defining feature of my life as an adult. And it’s manageable, but it’s real. And doesn’t take away from my joy in my work or my energy, but coping with depression is something that is part of the everyday way that I live and have lived as long as I can remember.
Maddow loves her job, and she’s clearly a confident person. Yet she sometimes labors under the imposter syndrome that many depressive types have — the feeling, as she put it,
that [her success] is going to go away at any moment. People are going to realize that I’m a great fraud and it’ll end, so I better make sure this is a good show because it’ll be my last. Part of me feels that way every day.
GROSS: Does the focus that you need and the adrenaline surge that you get doing your show help with depression when you have it?
MADDOW: No. Depression for me is you can’t distract your way out of it, and I think people can understand the difference, if you’ve never been depressed, you can still understand the difference between sadness and depression. It’s like the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. And the opposite of happiness isn’t necessarily sadness, it’s disconnection. And you know, when you are depressed, it’s like the rest of the world is the mothership and you’re out there on a little pod and your line gets cut, and you just don’t connect with anything, you sort of – you sort of disappear.
This sense of disconnection she describes is a central feature of depression, in many ways its essence, along with the feeling of deadness: a sense of isolation from your own life and from others. You’re cut off even if you’re surrounded by people who care about you. This amazes those around you; they can’t believe that you can’t feel their wish to help you.
That said, Maddow is clearly a pretty high-functioning depressive; she gets the job done (with help from a staff) even when she’s down.
GROSS: Does it affect your performance when you’re depressed?
MADDOW: It affects my ability to focus and my preparation. So because I tend to know sort of – I can tell it’s coming – my depression isn’t all the time, so if I’m coming up on a bout of depression, a few things happen, so I can tell it’s happening. Like I just – I’m used to it. I lose my sense of smell and some other things like that happen. And… you know it’s coming; it has nothing to do with anything else in your life. It’s like a train and you just ride until it slows down enough that you can get off. And if I know it’s coming I will try to schedule my work life around not having to, for example, read a complete book. Because it will be hard for me to – with my schedule I will often need to read a book, as I’m sure you know, in a day and getting a book read plus a show done on a day where I’m pretty low and I can’t focus is a hard row to hoe. And so I try to adjust my schedule around it to accommodate.
GROSS: Well, you would never know watching you.
MADDOW: Oh, good.
GROSS: Never. Never know.
MADDOW: I’m not embarrassed. I’m not embarrassed by it. You know, I mean, it’s no – I don’t see it as having any moral component. I’m not embarrassed by it and I know that a lot of people live with it and cope with and treat depression in different ways. And I’ve been able to be a high-functioning person with depression all my life. And I expect that – I don’t expect it to ever go away. It would be great if it did but in the meantime, I can make a life around it.
I don’t watch any TV, and very little streaming video. But this interview makes me want to make time to watch Maddow work. She comes across not just as highly intelligent but as someone with an extraordinary level of deep empathy and — something really hard to summon — a social and moral courage: the courage to confront people and differ with them, including some people I find intolerable and don’t feel I could be civil with, and treat then respectfully, all in front of an audience of millions. Really quite something. This is a great listen.
via NPR.org » Rachel Maddow: The Fresh Air Interview.