Listening to Lena Dunham talk about anxiety is like putting on a cozy sweater

May 4, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. ET
Image: Dennis Van Tine/Future Image/

If there's one lady we can count on to speak the truth about mental illness, it's Lena Dunham. The star was interviewed by comedian Jacqueline Novak for Refinery 29's video series RIOT, and as expected there was plenty of humor and honesty as well as insight into how the two women deal with their anxiety and depression.

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Dunham knows exactly what depression doesn't look like

“I feel like there’s this glamour, when you look at, like, a Tennessee Williams play, where the woman who has a psychological illness is in fur, laid out on a chaise,” she said. “Whereas in reality, a woman with mental illness or a woman who is struggling with her psychological well being is often in sweats and in a T-shirt that used to belong to her dad and is covered in food bits.”

This is so true. Depression stinks — literally. There's nothing glamorous about staying in bed for days or, as Novak reveals, ordering underwear from Amazon Prime because you just can't bring yourself to do laundry.

Anxiety comes in many guises

“I’ve always been anxious, but I haven’t been the kind of anxious that makes you run 10 miles a day and make a lot of calls on your Blackberry,” said Dunham. “I’m the kind of anxious that makes you, like, ‘I’m not going to be able to come out tonight, tomorrow night or maybe for the next 67 nights.’”

Knowing that anxiety and depression are different for everybody is crucial in coming to terms with the illness. You don't have to have panic attacks to have anxiety. You don't have to cry in bed all day to have depression.

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Whatever works for you, do it

Novak, author of the new book, How to Weep in Public: Feeble Offerings on Depression From One Who Knows, shared some of her own coping mechanisms. Because getting out of bed in the morning "to start the day" sounds like way too much of a big deal, she recreates the "darkness" and "warmth" of bed in every stage of her morning routine: a steamy shower in a dark room, a hot cup of coffee in the company of her cats. The visualization techniques Dunham uses to help her manage anxiety each day include imagining "going home and face planting into a bath mat" whenever something stressful happens.

"There's a coldness to the morning, even if it's not cold," said Novak. This will strike an enormous chord with anyone who has ever suffered from mental illness. As Novak and Dunham know, you have to take care of yourself and do whatever you can to maintain the warmth.

Watch Novak's full interview with Dunham below: 


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