TODAY   |  November 26, 2013

Richard Dreyfuss: I don’t know anyone ‘normal’

The actor talks to Matt Lauer about his battle with depression and bipolar disorder and why he doesn’t use the word “stigma” to describe the way society deals with the conditions.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> november campaign focussing on health issues that effect men. one area that gets overlooked. richard dreyfuss is shining a light on bipolar disorder. thank you for being here. how are you doing?

>> how are you?

>> i'm good. you talk about your childhood and say you went through a huge portion of your life extremely happy going from thrill to thrill in a manic state.

>> i didn't know it was a manic state. i just thought i was really happy and everything that was bad i turned to good.

>> how did you do that? i think a lot of people would love advice on that.

>> well, i was in love with a girl for 20 years and she wasn't in love with me. so i turned that loss into romeo and juliet and i was in love with the loss.

>> you felt normal. did the people around you think you were behaving normally?

>> most of the time, yes. but then every once in awhile when i was talking i would find myself getting up and talking louder and faster and louder and faster until my friends would say okay, okay. let's get the big circus cables and throw them around his ankles and pull him gently back to earth.

>> at what stage in your life did you receive a diagnosis? somebody put a label on what you were living with?

>> that experience of jumping out of my chair and talking and talking well was not in my control. so when i was about 19 i went to therapy. which is a misnamed thing. she should have called it counselling because therapy shares the dea scares the death out of people.

>> did it shock you or did you like finally having a reason for some of your behavior?

>> it took away all of my guilt because i found out that it wasn't my behavior, it was something i was born with. so i didn't feel shame or guilt, it's like being ashamed that you have -- you're 5'6" or something. it's just part of me. so it took away that. and i hadn't felt any depression except for the depression that you feel the night before a test when you haven't read the book.

>> right.

>> that i felt. other than that, nothing.

>> in reading about you, one thing jumped out at me. there was a time you were on a medication and it was working extremely well for you and the company that made the medication stopped making it.

>> yes.

>> i can only imagine the anxiety that would create.

>> i remember because they didn't tell anyone that for the last three years the pharmacists had been getting it out of ware houses and then one day they said they didn't make it anymore. so i wrote the head of the company, the most sincere letter he has ever gotten and he called me and he said i know we have left 3,000 people hanging in midair but there was just no profit in it. and i said do you hear what you're saying? and that was that. it was gone.

>> you've since found, it took awhile i know, a medication or a combination that works for you. any side effects of those medications?

>> no.

>> i'll set them up, you kick them through. what do you want people to know? you talk about stigma. you say there shouldn't even be the word stigma associated with this.

>> stigma is silly. stigma is stupid. stigma is what other people think about you and i first of all don't know anyone who is normal. everyone has something. and i come from hollywood, so no one even argues the point. so stigma is a word that should be kicked away and shame and guilt because it's a condition. and what they should do is do more research, of which right now there is very little, and the organization that brought me here is called -- it's called the depression research foundation and they do innovative really cutting edge stuff. but for the most part there's no research going on by the government or anybody and so i'm personally not in a hurry to get rid of my condition but most people are.

>> but the fact that you're speaking out about it is going to do a lot of good for a lot of people.

>> or it's going to be very bad because i might be known as the actor for a mental illness in which case i'll never work again.

>> i doubt it. richard dreyfuss , it's always good to have you here. thank you for being so frank.