Sarah Silverman may be known for her acerbic wit (and fantastically voicing Vanellope von Schweetz) but her recent role in I Smile Back is not only a departure from her usual comedy, but it echoes some of her own experiences — like her battle with depression.
In an interview with Glamour, Silverman opens up about her struggles, which started when she was 13. She describes coming home from a camping trip — where she had to hide her secret of bed-wetting from her classmates — something shifted inside her.
“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,” Silverman recalled. “Only this flu lasted for three years. My whole perspective changed.”
She went from class clown to not being able to be with her friends. She didn’t go to school for months and began having panic attacks, two words she doesn’t throw around lightly.
“People use ‘panic attack’ very casually out here in Los Angeles, but I don’t think most of them really know what it is,” she described. “Every breath is laboured. 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.'”
Wow. Anyone else take a big breath in while reading that? That’s one heart-wrenching description.
Silverman says she saw therapists and took large doses of Xanax, until a new psychiatrist got her off meds completely and she no longer felt like “a zombie walking through life.” She was back to herself for the next six years — until another bout of depression hit during her run on Saturday Night Live. That time, a friend helped her get through it.
A new medication, Klonopin (which blocks panic attacks), saved her life, Silverman says. She weaned off the drug but “to this day I have a bottle of seven pills in my backpack that I never touch because just knowing that they’re there is all I need.”
Since then, Silverman has lived with depression and learned to control it. She’s on a small dose of Zoloft, combines that with therapy, and she says that’s enough to keep her healthy but still allows her to feel “highs and lows.”
Silverman adds that while she wouldn’t wish depression on anyone, she does have words of hope for those who do have it: “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. The tough times, the days when you’re just a ball on the floor — they’ll pass. You’re playing the long game, and life is totally worth it.”