You know her as the delightful chief meteorologist for ABC News. And she is delightful! But Ginger Zee’s life isn’t always Instagram-perfect: She deals with depression and once attempted suicide.
I know Ginger from my days as Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Health, when she hosted the brand’s annual Run10Feed10 10k in conjunction with FEED. She is an incredibly kind, funny, and warm person who speaks her truth in the hopes of busting stigma.
I spoke with Ginger about what it was like when she checked herself into a mental health facility, the question she asks herself on down days, and why she’s started therapy again.
You can read more of her story in her inspiring book, Natural Disaster. I Cover Them. I Am One.
Amy Keller Laird: You checked yourself into a mental hospital for depression seven years ago. Can you explain what prompted your depression and why you finally decided to do the check-in? Had you been seeing a therapist but it wasn’t helping?
Ginger Zee: Yes, it’s been seven years since I finally took the critical step of taking myself to an inpatient facility. My mom had been urging me to do this since I struggled with anorexia in my early teens. I had seen a half dozen therapists over two decades but we weren’t a good fit or I wasn’t ready to improve. I knew I was starting my dream job and I needed to get to the bottom of the depression I had been dealing with for so many years so that I could be the best me for ABC. I was flirting with suicidal thoughts just before I moved to New York and just knew with the pressure of a new job and the transition I always struggled with that it was time to commit to getting healthy.
AKL: There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health in general, and even more so around being in a “mental hospital.” Can you explain what it was actually like? How did it feel being there? How long did you stay, and what do you feel was accomplished by being fully immersed in treatment that way?
GZ: There is a reason there is a negative stigma surrounding mental hospitals—they are frightening! At least the one I checked into was. I was so fragile, and my cousin came to pick me up and take me to the hospital. I handed over my cell phone and clothing, changed into the gown and socks, and immediately wanted to turn around. It was cold and sad, so many sick people. It was a reality check. My time there was less than a week, but the work we did and the demons I was able to get out were so healing. Most importantly, I met the therapist that fit me best, and he has made the way I live completely different. He was the first person who was ready to help me overhaul my relationship with myself and with other people—the first therapist that helped me learn about boundaries. Life has never been the same in the best way thanks to simple exercises he taught me and I committed to practicing.
AKL: Do you still have depression? What measures do you take to keep your mental wellness functioning?
GZ: I don’t think depression ever goes away. I think we learn new ways to live with it and identify it before it spirals. That’s where I’m at. I’ve had the healthiest seven years of my life, and so many great life experiences have come from being a mentally healthy person. Just because I’ve had an unbelievable career and life stretch doesn’t mean I haven’t had low moments. Now I know how to deal and who to go to if I don’t think I can overcome it alone. It is so empowering, that self-control is like a buoy that keeps me up. I also have just started going back to therapy. I started writing my next book and realized I wasn’t over everything in my life.
AKL: Anything specific that helps when you’re having a particularly down day?
GZ: I always ask myself the question: Will this matter tomorrow? Most of the time, it is no. If it will, I ask myself if it will matter next week, a year from now? If it will matter a year from now, then I allow myself to give it my energy and attention. If the answer is no, I let it go.
AKL: You’re in a public role with GMA. Were you nervous about speaking openly about your mental health?
GZ: Absolutely! The night before my book about my suicide attempt and depression went to print, I freaked out and told my husband I wasn’t sure. He assured me that being scared was a good thing. It meant I could make a difference with my story.
This story originally appeared on @Club_Mental.