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The Offhand Comment Michelle Obama Said at Dinner That Made Me Feel Less Alone


I’m a voice teacher and I taught Sasha Obama when she was in 6th grade both in her private school and in private sessions. I met the whole family (even Grandma!) during a very small, family-only performance where Sasha got to show off her singing skills. Even though it was a small gathering, there were still snipers on the roof and bomb-sniffing dogs and helicopters circling above us.

I was depressed at the time, but I hid it behind a well-rehearsed veneer. No one knew I walked around every minute of every day wanting to die. No one knew my internal dialogue was working overtime to convince me I didn’t deserve this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. No one knew I cried first thing in the morning, every morning.

Even though I know it was not my fault, my deepest regret in life will be that I was not able to fully absorb all the joy inherent in a moment like that.

Depression does not care if you are experiencing the highlight of your career.

The thing I will always remember is Michelle sitting across from me at the dinner table, talking about how all she really wanted was to exercise with other people, to take a Zumba class. What she exposed to me in that moment was something that went far beyond the desire to break with a boring fitness routine. I saw it in her eyes and I will never forget how intimate it felt to know even the First Lady of the United States — someone I thought had everything — felt lonely and craved connection just like me.

Even though depression put a dark fog between me and the pleasure of teaching Sasha and meeting the first family, there were enough cracks that allowed me to see their enormous lights shining, to hear their laughter and sense their boundless love for each other.

I miss the Obamas, but I will not miss the lies depression tells. If only mental illness had term limits.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Photo via Michelle Obama Facebook page.