Battling Depression

WebMD Live Events Transcript

An estimated 19 million American adults are living with major depression and most never seek treatment. Actress Lorraine Bracco, famous for her role as Tony Soprano's psychiatrist on the hit HBO series The Sopranos, was one of them. After a year of misery, she finally talked to her doctor and got the help she needed. She joined us to share her story on May 3, 2005.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

MODERATOR:
Welcome to WebMD live, Lorraine. Thank you for joining us today.

BRACCO:
Thank you for having me.

MODERATOR:
You talk about losing a year to depression. What do you think started your slide into depression ?

BRACCO:
Well, I wish I could give you one specific instance or moment, but I can't do that. In retrospect I describe it as being very insidious. You know something is not right but you really can't figure it out yourself.

I think that I went through a couple of very hard things. One big thing was that my daughter was sick and finally diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. That was very frustrating for me as a mother. I also went through a big custody battle and I went through Chapter 11 to figure out all my finances. And as things were starting to pull themselves together, meaning as everything was getting better in my life -- The Sopranos was doing really well and Stella was doing extremely well health-wise -- I was putting everything together and I could not understand why I was joyless.

At this juncture of my life everything was really, really going well. Why was I not jumping for joy? I finally just said to myself in the mirror, "There's something really wrong here."

A friend of mine about a year before had said to me, "Loraine, I think you should go and talk to someone, I think you should go on medication." I said, "No, I'll be fine, I just had a really bad week, things will be better. I'm exercising, I'm eating well, I'm getting into this yoga class." I said everything not to really deal with it. That's why I call it my lost year.

"I thought that with an antidepressant, I would stop feeling -- that I would never feel anything. I had every misconception about medication. I thought it was a happy pill and the next day I was going to feel great."

MODERATOR:
What was it that finally pushed you into acknowledging to yourself that it was something more than just being down?

BRACCO:
The length of time of not being happy. I felt stagnant. I felt that I was not moving forward. It was like I couldn't move, like I was in a vortex. And as I said, everything was going really well. Why wasn't I jumping for joy? Then I finally realized that something is really, really wrong here.

I called my friend and went to the doctor the next day. The doctor put me on medication.

I had 50 questions. I'm exaggerating about the 50, but I had tons of questions to ask. I was so misinformed about medication. I thought you would have to be on medication forever once you started an antidepressant. I thought that with an antidepressant, I would stop feeling -- that I would never feel anything. I had every misconception about medication. I thought it was a happy pill and the next day I was going to feel great.

So I went through all of those things with my doctor. He told me no, you're going to feel everything. No, you don't have to be on the medication forever. No, it's not a happy pill and it's not going to work tomorrow. He told me that I was going to have to wait about five or six weeks for the medication to kick in, which is exactly what happened for me. That medication changed everything for me. I was so grateful to go on medication.

MODERATOR:
Have you also done talk therapy?

BRACCO:
Absolutely. I did talk therapy at the same time.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I am a painter with chronic mild depression. I admire high-functioning artists who seem to find continuous success despite their condition. As an actress of your caliber, how do you function during your down phases? Are you able to work? Do you believe that you have lost artistic opportunities due to your depression?




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