Rachel Maddow opens up about her depression: 'I still can't tell when I'm depressed'

Rachel Maddow opens up about her struggles with depression. (Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Rachel Maddow opened up to comedian Marc Maron on a recent episode of his popular podcast, "WTF," about her depression, describing it as "cyclical" and stating that “when it happens, I sort of lose the will to live.”

Maddow, 46, credits exercise and the support of her partner, Susan Mikula, with helping her manage the days where she experiences depression, according to the MSNBC host.

"My depression is cyclical, so it's not every day,” Maddow told Maron on the podcast, which was released on Monday. “And so what happens is, I get it for a throw of a few days every few weeks. And when it happens, I sort of lose the will to live. Nothing has any meaning."

While many people with major depression recover from their first depressive episode, recurrence is common: 50 percent of those who experience a bout of depression will have one or more additional episodes in their lives. For those with a history of two depressive episodes, 80 percent of them will have another recurrence.

Maddow revealed to Maron — who has also openly talked about depression in his standup, podcasts, and on talk radio — that she has experienced depression since she was 10 years old.

The political commentator went on to tell Maron, whom she worked with at the former radio network, Air America Radio, that while she experienced "manic" episodes when she was younger, they have since lessened.

"I used to have a pretty even balance of mania and depression, and now I have very little mania. One-sixth of what it used to be," Maddow said. "I can't predict it, I can't recognize that’s what it is [mania] when it's happening, but I wouldn't give that up."

While Maddow has never taken medication, she has found other ways to combat the mental health disorder — one of which is exercise. According to a 2017 study, even one hour of exercise per week can help with depression.

Mikula, an artist and photographer, also helps Maddow realize when she may be entering a depressive episode.

"Susan can see it like a light switch,” Maddow said. "Even after living with it for 36 years, I still can't tell when I'm depressed because part of depression is not being able to have emotional cognizance."

Maddow goes on to explain that, while she is unable to realize when she is entering a depressive state, Mikula is able to remind her to exercise, sleep, and make sure she doesn't "do anything dumb."

This is not the first time Maddow has discussed depression and how having an aware partner has helped her.

"It's hardest when I have forgotten that [depression] happens to me, and so I don't know what it is and I feel like there's something wrong with me, and I'm broken,” Maddow said on “CBS Sunday Morning” in 2016. “[Mikula] can tell when I'm depressed, and she will say, 'You are depressed.' And just being able to identify it and then knowing that — it's not going to be forever and that it will pass and that it will ease at some point — helps."

Maddow, who was raised Catholic, also said that prayer has become "helpful in my own life" and that she considers herself religious.

"The act of stopping what your brain is otherwise going to do to do a deliberate thing, which is based around giving thanks, I think is a reset that's like a psychic pause, but I also think it helps you get your head on straight," Maddow said. "It makes me not a better person, but it makes me more the person that I want to be."

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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