Michelle Obama says she felt “low-grade depression” during the pandemic

The former first lady is opening up about her mental health and her changing relationship with her daughters.

Michelle Obama depression pandemic
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Michelle Obama is getting candid about life in the pandemic. The former first lady gave a wide-ranging interview to People, where she opened up about her mental health and her changing relationship with her daughters.

Mrs. Obama says that the challenges of the past year really impacted her mental health, describing her feelings as "low-grade depression."

"That was during a time when a lot of hard stuff was going on," she explained to People. "We had the continued killing of Black men at the hands of police. Just seeing the video of George Floyd, experiencing that eight minutes. That's a lot to take on, not to mention being in the middle of a quarantine."

"Depression is understandable during these times," she added. "I needed to acknowledge what I was going through, because a lot of times we feel like we have to cover that part of ourselves up, that we always have to rise above and look as if we're not paddling hard underneath the water."

"This is what mental health is. You have highs and lows," she said. "What I have said to my daughters is that one of the things that is getting me through is that I'm old enough to know that things will get better."

The last year has been tumultuous, to say the least. We're grateful for Mrs. Obama's honesty in discussing her mental health. It's okay to not be okay. It's okay to admit that you're struggling. No one was prepared for the past year—not even Michelle Obama.

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Former President Barack Obama, Mrs. Obama, and their daughters Malia and Sasha isolated together during the pandemic. Malia, 22, is in her last year at Harvard University while Sasha, 19, is a sophomore at the University of Michigan. Both women are attending classes online, which means Barack and Michelle have gotten to spend more time with their adult daughters.

"Our girls were supposed to have emptied out of my nest," Mrs. Obama joked. "I was sort of celebrating that they were out building their lives and allowing me the emotional space to let them go. Well, they're back!"

"This time has allowed us to get some stolen moments back with our girls," she added. "Those recaptured moments have meant the world to us and I think they've made our relationships with our children even stronger."

Mrs. Obama also revealed that as her daughters mature, so does her relationship with them.

"There's something about witnessing your children become adults and developing a different relationship with them," she says. "They didn't come back into the house into the same set of rules, because I didn't want them to miss out on independence. They came back as young women and our conversations are more peer-oriented than they are mother-to-daughter."

When you're in the thick of parenting young children, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. It can be hard to remember that they won't always be little and clinging to you for safety and reassurance. You won't always be the center of their world.

When we look back at the past year, a lot of things went wrong. But at least one thing went right: we got more time with our kids, just like the Obamas.

You can read more of Michelle Obama's interview with People here.

Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.

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