Sarah Silverman Reveals Lifelong Battle With Depression In Candid Essay

Sarah Silverman remains one of the funniest people on the planet.

A stellar comedic ability has seen her forge a very successful career in the industry for over two decades, stretching back to her breakthrough (albeit short) stint on Saturday Night Live for the 1993-94 season.
But beyond that, like so many others in the business of comedy, Silverman has endured a very private, lifelong battle with depression, anxiety, and mental illness.
Her latest film, a stark, powerful dramatic turn as a mother suffering from bi-polar in I Smile Back sent her spiralling back into some dark emotions for the role.
Silverman opened up about her struggles and coping mechanisms in an extremely open and frank essay for Glamour magazine.
In it, she recalls the precise moment she first felt the clutch of depression take hold – at just 13 years of age.

“I first experienced depression when I was 13. I was walking off a bus from a school camping trip.”

“My mom was there to pick me up, and she was taking pictures like a paparazzo. Seeing her made the stress of the last few days hit home, and something shifted inside me. It happened as fast as the sun going behind a cloud. 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. Only this flu lasted for three years.”

Over the ensuing years, Silverman attended a motley crew of therapists, including one that committed suicide, and another who put an entire pharmacy’s worth of pills into her.

“I went through several therapists. The first one hanged himself. Irony? Yeah. Another one kept upping my Xanax until I was taking 16 a day. Four Xanax, four times a day! I saved all the bottles in a shoe box because I thought, Well, at least if I die and they find this, they’ll know what happened.”

And despite several good years, it came back – as it always does. It returned when Silverman was 22, and a writer for SNL.

“I knew the feeling immediately: depression. Panic. I’d thought it was gone forever, but it was back. My friend Mark helped me get through it. He found me a therapist at 2:00 A.M. and informed me that no, I would not be quitting SNL in the morning and moving back to New Hampshire. Instead I got a prescription for Klonopin, which blocks panic attacks. It saved my life, even when I was fired from SNL at the end of the season (as it turned out, I didn’t know myself well enough to make a real impression). I eventually weaned off Klonopin, 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.”

To this day, Silverman still suffers from the occasional bout. But a lifetime of dealing with it has lead to her developing coping mechanisms and the kind of positive mental reassurance necessary to navigate them.

“I do have sorrow about the possibility that I may never have my own children. And I still have downward spirals, days when I have to drag myself onstage to do stand-up or I’m just tweeting Morrissey lyrics from my bed. But there’s one thing I know that I used to not know: It will pass. And it does. Usually after 24 hours or so of wallowing in depressing music and being the Sylvia Plath of social media, a friend will reach out: “Are you OK? I saw that tweet.” And I’ll sort of snap to it, brush myself off, and get back to life. I’ve learned that keeping busy is a good thing for me. Like my mom always said, you just have to be brave enough to exist through it.”

And that, ultimately, is the message Sarah Silverman wants to pass on. That the clouds do clear. That bright days will exist again. That it does, believe it or not, get better.

“I wouldn’t wish depression on anyone. But 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.”

The trailer for I Smile Back is embedded below. The film is scheduled for release in the US on October 23rd. No word of a local release date just yet.

Read Sarah’s essay in full over at

If you think yourself, or someone you know, might be experiencing a mental health issue, please visit BeyondBlue or give them a call on 1300 22 4636.

Photo: Neilson Barnard via Getty Images.