Glenn Close: I’ve lived with low grade depression a good portion of my life

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Glenn Close keeps gifting us with such beautiful nuggets from her life. Last week, it was announced that Glenn will be participating in Oprah and Prince Harry’s AppleTV series about mental health, The Me You Don’t See. Now Glenn is opening up more about her lifelong mental health struggles. In a conversation with People, Glenn and her younger sister, Jessie, talk about their lifelong struggles with mental health. This was in conjunction with People’s Let’s Talk About initiative and Glenn’s mental health organization, Bring Change to Mind. Glenn told People that depression and mood disorders run in her family. However no one in her family talked about it. She also said that she has suffered from low grade depression. Glenn hopes to destigmatize mental illness. Below are more details from People:

“On my mom’s side, there was a lot of depression,” says Glenn, 74, of her family’s history with mental illness. “Her uncle had schizophrenia. Nobody ever talked about. I did know that her half brother had committed suicide and that her own mother was depressed. She was also depressed and took meds for it.”

“It wasn’t even on the radar when I was growing up,” adds Jessie, 67. “No matter how I behaved, no one could ever imagine it was a mental illness. It just wasn’t part of our conversation.”

That all changed by 2010 when Glenn cofounded Bring Change to Mind, (BC2M) a nonprofit with a mission to raise awareness and end the stigma and silence surrounding mental illness.

According to Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley and the scientific advisor for BC2M, mental illness results from a complex interplay of genes and environment. “With anxiety and depression, genes contribute about one third of the risk, for schizophrenia, about two thirds and for bipolar disorder, above 80 percent,” he says. Environmental factors, he adds, also play a part, such as “early trauma, life stress and positive vs negative mindsets.”

Knowing this, says Hinshaw, “can help us see that mental illness is not a ‘character defect.’ Most of all, we need humanization through the telling of real life stories of coping and recovery.”

Along the way, she has learned how we are all affected by the health of our brain. Over ten years ago, Glenn notes, “I went through a series of tests at Columbia and they said, ‘You’re depressed’ and I thought I would not label myself as a depressed person but I think what I’ve lived with, probably a good portion of my life, is a low grade depression that can sometimes feel like a mist or a veil but you’ve gotten so used to living with it — that it’s not something you think of much. I take a daily dose of anti- depressants, not a huge dose, and it helps.””

[From People]

I am loving all the talks around mental health and fitness during During Mental Health Awareness Month. However mental health should be a topic of conversation all the time, not just during the month of May. I come from a family with a genetic history of depression and other mood disorders. It is wonderful to see people talk about their struggles as it normalizes these conversations. I get even more excited when Black celebrities talk about mental health as these conversations are can be taboo within the Black community. I love how Glenn and her sister Jessie said that having mental health issues and mental health disorders has nothing to do with your character. Mental disorders are connected to not only our environment but to our genetics. The more people understand that there is nothing to be ashamed of, the less isolated they’ll feel. I, like Glenn, have suffered from low-grade depression since I was a kid. It took until my late twenties to be diagnosed and come to terms with it. For the longest time I was in denial, which led to me making poor life choices and isolating myself.

The more we talk about an issue the more we can shine a light on it. This is the only way we can heal and stop our familial cycles. I look forward to hearing more about Glenn’s and People’s Let’s Talk About It initiative. Until then, please take care of yourself Celebitches and don’t be afraid to reach out if you are not feeling well. Let your friends and family help you as much they can, and allow yourself to be surrounded by love and support. Seek a professional who can help you identify the issues and build a tool kit to cope with them.

photos credit: Getty and via Instagram

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16 Responses to “Glenn Close: I’ve lived with low grade depression a good portion of my life”

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  1. SarahCS says:

    Go Glenn! We absolutely need to keep talking about these topics all of the time. I’m in a similar situation, I’ve recognised this in myself since I was a teenager and it only got to the point of a medical diagnosis and some treatment a few years back in my late 30’s. My mother went through a whole range of stuff when she was bringing me up (as a broke single parent to add to her stress) but it never got talked about, I just knew she’d be a bit weird at times and maybe not speak to me for a week or two.

    As an aside, we watched Inside Out at the weekend and I need to have a conversation with my boyfriend about it as he never really understood what depression is or how it affects me (or anyone else). I thought it was such a great portrayal of how you feel when there’s just nothing there anymore.

  2. Piratewench says:

    “A mist or a veil that you’ve gotten used to”, yes that’s exactly how I feel about having an anxiety disorder. I’m just used to it and it’s only when the anxiety kicks up to a high level that I even pay attention to it. But it’s very draining to live with a low level of mental illness symptoms at all times. It takes a lot from you and you don’t even realize it’s happening most days.

    • Southern Fried says:

      It is so exhausting. Simple, simple daily tasks require huge amounts of concentration. My saving grace was my job that was so hectic that it kept my total focus the entire day which freed me up from any other thoughts or feelings. My depression has been situational and therapists have helped immensely. I don’t continually go and after the death of my son tried meds, several, which had too many unpleasant side effects on me. Being aware of the possibility of slipping into depression has me pull out and practice the strategies I’ve learned to curtail it. I’m very fortunate in this respect.

    • Case says:

      It really is exhausting. You become used to having no motivation or having racing thoughts or having OCD rituals before you leave the house, and it takes so much energy. I can go days and sometimes weeks without really getting anything done around the house and doing the bare minimum at work and it’s the worst feeling knowing that your brain is your own worst enemy. But when it’s not “serious” depression or anxiety, you tend to just let it slide and that’s not good.

  3. Anony83 says:

    I also appreciate seeing someone Glenn’s age talk so publicly about it. I feel like so much mental health awareness stuff falls on Gen-X and Millennials but Boomers frequently aren’t part of the conversation. I was raised by a Boomer clinical social worker so my household was an exception, but I find that with a lot of people my parent’s (and Glenn Close’s) age have this same issue with having really deeply internalized shame about mental health from their youth and it just rarely gets discussed in the same way.

    Plus, Glenn Close is the best, and this interview actually made me curious about the Oprah/Harry show (since frequently I find stuff like that pretty tedious but maybe they can make it work. We’ll see!)

  4. Esmom says:

    Glenn could have been describing my family. So much mental illness, so little discussion. My mom equated reaching out for help as the first step towards institutionalization (which, to be fair, did happen with her aunt in Europe) so even when I begged her to see someone when I was 19 and home on break from college, she said something like I would have to find a way to deal with whatever was bothering me on my own. I spent a month on the couch sleeping and crying, basically burned my bridges with high school friends, unable to function. This was on top of a lifetime of anxiety that caused so many physical ailments, headaches and GI issues.

    I finally got treatment in my early 30s when I had my son, realizing I couldn’t be a good mother if I couldn’t even take care of myself properly. Interesting how treatment for anxiety and depression made all my GI issues disappear completely, after getting no solutions from my primary care doc and GI specialists in my 20s.

    One of my sons has Type 1 Diabetes and no one bats an eye at his insulin, which he needs to survive. I feel like we need to get to that point with psychiatric meds. The brain is an organ, just like a pancreas, and it can malfunction just like any other organ. I feel like we have come such a long way but have so much further to go in erasing the stigma around seeking help for mental health issues. We also need more people to go into psychiatry, especially child and adolescent psychiatry, as the shortage of providers is alarming.

    • Call_me_al says:

      Yes, we need more psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners. Some states have paths to prescribing privileges for psychologists.

  5. FHMom says:

    Depression and anxiety are exhausting and they affect everyone around you. My daughter has both, and I’m on meds to deal with the stress of her issues. She will call me from 1000 miles away in the middle of the night because she can’t sleep. She’ll say, “Mom, I have a problem.” The problem can be any thing from how do I get a restraining order against my ex to I’ve run out of laundry detergent. I swear I have PTSD from those phone calls because I never know what is going to come out of her mouth.

    • HoofRat says:

      I’m so glad you made this point, FHMom. Mental illness absolutely spreads out to families and communities. It’s so hard on caring parents; I experience anxiety and depression, and one of my siblings was hospitalized for depression. Things are stable for both of us now, but I think my poor mother slept with one eye open for decades. Many hugs to you!

      • FHMom says:

        She’s home from college now, and it’s a relief to know she is safe. Thank you for the kind thoughts.❤️

  6. Apple says:

    I think we have come a long way with normalizing mental health. The pandemic has shone a light on it also. Being isolated and alone for the last year brought me pretty low. I didn’t even realize it until my boss was worried about me. I was not my regular self and he brought it to my attention. I realized I needed to take steps to improve things and did. It’s like my brain was just sitting in mud and any effort seemed herculean to do. The vaxx has helped me since now I feel safer in doing things. Like seeing other vaxxed friends and going to a gym (mask part sucks) a few time a week. Like a poster said above no one blinks an eye at insulin for diabetes. Medication and therapy for depression and anxiety should be treated equally.

  7. jferber says:

    I’m so glad she’s talking about this. I suffer from this, too.

  8. ce says:

    I’ve made this comment here before but I’ll repeat it again:
    I’ve gotten into the habit of being almost casually forthright about my mental illnesses at work and in settings where that information may not have been seen as ‘appropriate’ to disclose, because I think it’s important for people to see that it comes in all forms. I’m very high-functioning thanks to my years of therapy, medications, and support from my family. People might not believe someone like me has so many mental health issues, which is precisely why I make it common knowledge. Not all of us are shooting drugs or having our lives fall apart, and many of us put on a brave face simply to live a normal life. Don’t be afraid to talk about it openly, I’m hoping it makes people feel more brave or understood.

    • Sister Carrie says:

      I, too, have sought to normalize meds/therapy by openly declaring my depression to my students (HS) and colleagues. If I’ve even helped one person feel not alone, I’ve done my job. I got slammed with depression from both sides of my family, and have never been one to shy away from social disapproval, so when my students are like, “Did you take your meds yet Ms Smith cos you are getting short” I can laugh as I realize they’re right.

  9. AmyB says:

    THIS ^^^^ I am always so happy to see celebrities use their platform to speak about this vital and important topic! Mental health issues are so prevalent, and I am beyond grateful an honest dialogue about them is becoming less stigmatized – and well known celebrities such as Glenn Close speaking about it is wonderful xoxo

    As someone who has suffered from severe (at times) depression since I was 22, (I am 52 now), I understand depression can be genetic, and also very situational as well, or BOTH. I, am someone, who was born into a family with a strong genetic component to it. As my long term psychotherapist told me, there is simply a chemical imbalance in my brain that doesn’t function properly as others do. That coupled with stress, like divorce, eating disorders, dysfunctional relationships, abuse, will certainly push you over the edge. I think even people without the genetic component, can fall prey to depression and anxiety – without a doubt !! People may suffer from situational periods of depression, stemming from a specific traumatic events – death in the family, sexual/emotional/physical abuse, loss of a job, divorce etc. However, both genetic and situational depression look the same. Loss of interest in everything, lack of motivation, no appetite/or eating everything, isolation, hating yourself, guilt, shame…and left untreated, can lead to suicide. Of course the pandemic of 2020 lead many to struggle with the effects of mental health disorders.

    Fortunately today, there is a better dialogue about these mental health issues, and I am so grateful, which is why I am so vocal about my own struggles with it, and my own journey with depression/and my recovery from anorexia. Help is available. You are not alone! Sometimes, it is literally one moment, one step, one day at a time.