Ellen DeGeneres Reveals Depression Struggle

By David Konow 12/19/18

The week of the release of her new Netflix stand-up special, Relatable, Ellen DeGeneres is speaking openly about her struggles with depression.

Ellen DeGeneres on Hollywood Blvd where she was honored with the 2,477th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Ellen DeGeneres spiraled after her show went off air. Featureflash | Dreamstime.com

The talk show host and comedienne told USA Today that she was depressed and felt alienated after she famously came out of the closet, and she fought back against it through “meditation and being quiet. For a long time, there was a lot of fear that (being gay) was going to influence people’s opinions about me and so I didn’t ever have the confidence I should have had. Because whenever you carry shame around, you just can’t possibly be a confident person.”

On the Armchair Expert podcast, DeGeneres said, “Because there was so much talk about [coming out] . . . Even Elton John said, ‘Shut up already. We know you’re gay. Be funny.’ I had never met him and I thought, ‘What kind of support is that from a gay person?”

When her show, Ellen, finally went off the air, DeGeneres spiraled deeper. “I was looked at as a failure in this business. No one would touch me. I had no agent, no possibility of a job, I had nothing.”

DeGeneres said, “It took a while to shake off that judgment and the attacks I felt . . . I was fully honest with myself and that gave me confidence. I think that helps with depression. Depression eats away at your confidence and you get lost in that, and forget that you’re enough just as you are.”

When she moved out to the industry town of Los Angeles, DeGeneres felt more isolated and reluctant to reach out to others for help. “If you ever have experienced depression, you isolate yourself and don’t reach out for help. You don’t say, ‘I’m hurting, I need help’ – you kind of crawl further into that dark hole, so that’s where I was for a while.”

In addition to meditation, DeGeneres told Good Housekeeping she “started seeing a therapist and had to go on anti-depressants for the first time in my life . . . I slowly started to climb out of it. I can’t believe I came back from that point. I can’t believe where my life is now.”

DeGeneres says her new special is called Relatable because even though she’s a celebrity, “we’re all relatable. I didn’t have money for a long, long time. I’ve been doing this (talk) show for a long time and now I do have money, but I’ve always been the same person. Just because we have different experiences, at the core we’re all the same.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.