Oprah Winfrey Opens Up About Her Struggle With Depression, Helping Others Remember They're Not Alone

"I felt like I was behind a veil. I felt like what many people had described over the years on my show, and I could never imagine it."

Depression is the most common mental illnesses in the United States and it affects an estimated 15.7 million Americans. In an interview with Vogue for their September issue, Oprah Winfrey revealed she's one of them

The 63-year-old told the magazine that her first experience with depression happened after Beloved —her film adaptation of Toni Morrison's novel of the same name — premiered at the box office in 1998. She purchased the rights to the book, starred in the film, and was one of the producers. 

Despite positive critical reception, the film, which had an $80 million budget, failed at the box office. Upon hearing this news, she began to spiral into a depression. 


"I got a call from someone at the studio, and they said, 'It's over. You got beat by Chucky. And I said, 'Who's Chucky? What do you mean it's over? It's just Saturday morning!' I knew nothing about box-office projections or weekend openings," Winfrey told Vogue. "It was ten o'clock in the morning, and I said to Art, "I would like macaroni and cheese for breakfast. And soooo began my long plunge into food and depression and suppressing all my feelings." 

"I actually started to think, Maybe I really am depressed," Winfrey continued. "Because it's more than 'I feel bad about this.' I felt like I was behind a veil. I felt like what many people had described over the years on my show, and I could never imagine it. What's depression? Why don't you just pick yourself up?"

Her description is one many people who struggle with depression can relate to. As much as they may wish they could "just get over it," it's often not that simple. A person living with depression can experience a myriad of symptoms that can negatively impact their daily life, such as a persistent feeling of sadness and changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, or self-esteem.

Winfrey's bout of depression in 1998 lasted for six weeks. She stopped going to movie theaters to buy tickets to Beloved in an effort to boost sales, and focused on self-care. 

“That’s when the gratitude practice became really strong for me because it’s hard to remain sad if you’re focused on what you have instead of what you don’t have."

The experience was difficult, but it's one Winfrey has learned from. "It taught me to never again—never again, ever—put all of your hopes, expectations, eggs in the basket of box office," she said. "Do the work as an offering, and then whatever happens, happens."

Depression affects people differently, and while Winfrey was able to practice gratitude and self-care to help combat her depression, other's may not have the same experience. For some, depression lasts a lifetime. But it's stories like hers that help to show people that mental illness doesn't discriminate. Anyone can get it regardless of their social status, race, gender, or economic background. 

Living with mental illness can be an isolating experience, but the more open we are about it, the more we'll help to change that. Winfrey joins many other celebrities in the fight to reduce stigma by sharing her story. Her account may just inspire hope in others who are suffering. 

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with mental health issues, there are a number of resources available to provide support. Check them out here.


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