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Rachel Maddow opens up about her 'cyclical' depression

The MSNBC host spoke with Marc Maron on his podcast about having cyclical depression for decades and how exercising has helped her work through it.
/ Source: TODAY

Rachel Maddow says that she has cyclical bouts of depression and can "lose the will to live" during those times, but she has found exercise and the support of her long-time partner to be effective ways of working through it.

The MSNBC host spoke with comedian Marc Maron about her experiences with depression on his popular "WTF" podcast that was released on Monday.

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MSNBC host Rachel Maddow opened up to Marc Maron about what helps her get through cyclical bouts of depression. NBC

"My depression is cyclical, so it's not every day, and so what happens is I get it for a throw of a few days every few weeks,'' she said. "And when it happens, I sort of lose the will to live. Nothing has any meaning."

Maddow, 46, said she has lived with depression, "a different thing than unhappiness," since she was about 10 years old.

She used to experience more highs and lows, but that has lessened over the years.

"I used to have a pretty even balance of mania and depression, and now I have very little mania,'' she said. "It's like one-sixth of what it used to be.

"I can't predict it, I can't recognize that's what it is when it's happening, but I wouldn't give that up."

Those feelings of mixed emotions, of seemingly feeling happy and sad at the same time, are rare but possible, according to experts.

Maddow said she has not taken medication for her depression, instead finding other ways to combat it.

"There are things that are good for me,'' she said. "Exercise is good for me."

The positive effects of exercise in lessening depression have been backed up by science. NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar noted how a 2017 study showed that even one hour of exercise a week can help fight against depression.

The support of her long-time partner, artist Susan Mikula, also has been crucial for Maddow. Mikula has learned to sense when she is entering a cycle of depression.

"Susan can see it like a light switch,'' she 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.

"Having a partner who can tell me that's what's going on, even if I can't emotionally process it, like I can't hear it, it can remind me to make sure you exercise, make sure you sleep, make sure you don't do anything dumb."

The political commentator also talked with Maron about her early days in radio, her AIDS activism, her television career, and the role that prayer plays in her life.

"I consider myself religious now,'' she said. "I find prayer to be helpful in my own life.

"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. It makes me not a better person, but it makes me more the person that I want to be."