25

Conversations With Kyle: Living With Depression

Eva Amurri Martino and her husband Kyle hug each other in New York City

A couple of weeks ago, Kyle announced publicly that he has faced a lifelong battle with Depression. I couldn’t be prouder of him for owning his truth, facing it head on, and finally finding his healing process. While this isn’t something that is new for me or for our family (This has been going on for a long time), it was such a relief for me to have him face his symptoms for what they truly are. I know so many people and families deal with this daily, and we thought it would be really helpful to have a conversation together about it here. We would be so grateful if you would share your own stories in the comments below in order to contribute to the community combatting the stigma of mental illness! And thank you to the many people near and far who have offered support to us individually and as a family during this time.

Eva:  Ok.  Here we are to talk about something very personal for you. So– tell everyone why you decided to be public with what you’re going through. 

Kyle: It was definitely one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, and one of the scarier things I’ve done. I sat there before I hit send and asked myself again “do you really want to do this?” And the two things that came in to my head right before I made that final decision was understanding for the first time in my life what I was up against. Like anything I’ve ever done in my life that has taken courage or that was going to need support, I needed to say my intention out loud.  And, you know, not be able to convince myself differently. So not only saying to a close group of people that I suffer from depression, but saying it to the world, was going to in a strange way take the pressure off of living with it alone. 

Eva: I can relate to that a lot.  Because I remember I felt the same way when I went public when I had PTSD and PPA after Major’s accident. And I remember feeling like if I didn’t say it publicly I was going to be able to get away with not holding myself accountable in making myself do the work to feel better.

Kyle: And the other thing that I was really conscious of when I decided to do it on social media was that I wish someone I admired, or someone I knew either personally or not, or someone I followed or supported, came across at some point in my life and talked about it. And said it. So I would have felt less alone and less alienated accepting my depression.  And I would have felt inspired and encouraged by someone I admired or considered successful or creative or loving or all of these things that feel like they can’t live in the world when you’re in a tough point battling depression… I just wish somebody my world had spoken about it. Because I think that if they had I would have been further along in developing tools to live a very happy and full life with depression and I think it wouldn’t have snuck up on me like it did. And my hope was just that even if it’s one person, that I could be that person for someone struggling.  

Eva: I think with men in particular, there is a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness.  Do you feel that way? How do you feel now since revealing with what you’ve been dealing with? I’ve been noticing you’ve been getting a lot of support particularly from Men– and I’m curious if you experience it as a really deep problem in the male community. 

Kyle: For sure, and I think that the scenario of Machismo and having to be a strong man compounds when you play professional sports.  That world I was in for a very long time…I justified the anxiety and tough moments I went through. Now, in hindsight, I can think of three or four times in my life when depression hit me hard, and in those moments I basically chalked it up to a by-product of being in a very difficult, cut throat world where only a few people make it to a certain level.  There was very little invitation to share vulnerabilities and personal experiences in the professional athlete arena. Ostensibly I thought my career ended because of injury, but it’s so clear to my now that I couldn’t live in that world and it was because of my depression.  I essentially gave up on a career I dreamt about my entire childhood and worked so hard to get. And I think that’s the first time my depression got really really bad. Because I didn’t understand why I didn’t care about or love this thing that had been so important to me.

Eva: Mmmm hmmm. I don’t know if it has so much to do with Machismo, but more about society’s preconceived notions of masculinity and what that needs to be.  I think that has come in to our life as a couple in a lot of ways.  Like earning potential across gender lines, and gender roles within the structure of the family and responsibility with the kids, etcetera. And I consider us to be a pretty modern family in terms of our values and morals– and we have even fallen in to a pretty antiquated understanding of masculinity and femininity at times. So I can see that even somebody who thinks of themselves as open minded can think of these themes in antiquated ways. 

Kyle: Yeah definitely. And in terms of educating about Depression, it’s hard to describe what these things feel like. 

Eva: Well, I was going to ask you– I think there’s a misconception about depression, and I think one of the reasons a lot of people were taken aback when you announced what you did was because this stereotype exists of depression as somebody who can’t get out of bed, and is in a really visibly dark place. And that’s what people think depression is, and if their symptoms don’t fall classically within those lines, they think that they maybe can’t get help or can’t feel better from what they’re going through. I think it leads to a lot of feelings helplessness. So I think it would be helpful if you talk a bit about the different branches of depression that you’ve experienced.  Because I felt the same way about Postpartum…I didn’t think I had it because of the misconception I had in my mind. 

Eva Amurri Martino and her husband Kyle hug each other in New York City

Kyle: I’ve had a range of different experiences. I’ve had the struggling to get out of bed, but that was more during a playing career where–

Eva: Where you didn’t have kids? (both laugh)

Kyle: I didn’t have kids…and unfortunately some of the symptoms of depression that manifested themselves during my playing career can be viewed as similar to what we do to our bodies when we run it down. And the disappointment of struggling with injuries and things…there was a demarcation point where I started to self medicate by drinking a lot, which would then perpetuate the fog I would fall in to as a result. Because I would wake up feeling terrible about myself the next day, I definitely wouldn’t want to get out of bed…

Eva: People forget alcohol is literally a Depressant. It does not help people suffering from depression…

Kyle: (laughs)  Not a great solution. And so there was a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy which I didn’t realize at the time. I was feeding it with these attempts to outrun it or keep it at bay. And really it just felt like a mix of anxiety and running myself down. And I think that one of the ways I became a successful soccer player was that way that I dealt with anxiety…I would become very fanatical almost to an obsessive compulsive level where I would work with a ball in order to quiet my anxiety and it becomes a cathartic experience of going down the basement for hours and kicking the ball over and over and over again.  I became successful at outrunning the fog or funk of how depression has manifested itself for me. I just got good at being able to hide internally during low points or high levels of anxiety– and push this soccer player out as a front.  And when my career ended and I didn’t have that anymore, all the worry that I had outrun caught up with me all at once.  And in my retirement I started to feel confused easily, distracted easily, out of nowhere I could be upset or incredibly apathetic about things.  Just very foggy and sad.  The only way I can kind of describe it is that it can be the sunniest day out, but you feel like you’re in a windowless room. The helplessness of that feeling is what became really difficult for me.  Because the depression I suffer from is not really linked entirely to the physical experiences that make you feel sad. 

Eva: Right.

Eva Amurri Martino and her husband Kyle hug each other in New York City

Kyle: Nothing lifts you out of feeling down or feeling alone. And that gets really hard because you begin this closed loop feedback with yourself where you begin to judge yourself and say “why can’t you be happy?” Or “you’re ruining this beautiful day” You don’t know how to enjoy, and look at what it’s doing to people…and I think that’s when I could’t ignore or justify or spin my experience. Because I could see on the faces of my kids and you that there was collateral damage to my depression.  So I feel so fortunate and lucky that you all saw that I was really struggling, and didn’t make me feel worse by blaming me and deserting me and isolating me.  You know? You all stayed close and really helped me understand that you were worried about me. And that was such a positive moment. But now I know that I will live a very happy and fulfilled and full life even with depression, because I want to understand it, I don’t feel I got dealt a bad deck of cards and I’m ashamed or embarrassed– and the beauty of the post comes with telling someone what you’re most scared of and immediately getting that monster out from underneath your bed and seeing it’s not scary anymore.  

Eva: So for somebody who is having similar symptoms or thoughts, what are some things that have been helping you that you recommend people do?

Kyle: So, first and foremost, depression is many things but mostly it’s isolating. And isolation is a trick. It feels like a safe place, it feels like where you’re going to be able to get heathy again and come back– and this is my experience and maybe others have had success with their depression in other ways– but I think therapy is an incredibly important part of finding the tools and having an outlet that isn’t your wife or parent or sibling or best friend. I think it’s good to have a place where you begin to share things that are scary, you begin to share things you don’t understand, with somebody who is trained in understanding how you feel and in helping you cope with it. And so, I think that is the touchstone.  That is where I always will be, and where I’ll go back to, to make sure I’m balanced. And capable of riding the tough moments and enjoying the good ones.  And then next, we spend all this time and money on our physical health– whether that means going in and getting checkups, getting our teeth cleaned, going to the gym, I mean it’s quite remarkable in the investment we make in our physical body– and how much we ignore the mental one. Especially when you consider that it doesn’t matter how fit you are or how clean your teeth are– you can mentally break all of that down. You would think it would be the first place people started…

Eva: Yeah, I know. People are really scared sometimes I think…

Kyle: I know, and it’s understandable, but when you see that how we see how sound and taste and how we receive information– it’s no strange and inexplicable thing that things are better when our mind is in a positive place.  That equilibrium is what puts us on the positive path to succeed and thrive with whatever disorder you’re facing. 

Eva: Yep. I would agree with that. Thank you for sharing.  I love you, Buster. 

Kyle: I love you too, and your support has meant everything to me in this. And I know it hasn’t been easy, and I know it will continue to be tough at times, but there was not getting out of this without you and I appreciate that. 

Eva: Love you.  You got this.

Eva Amurri Martino and her husband Kyle hug each other in New York City

Photographs by Carter Fish

Share this post:

Leave a Comment:

25 Comments

  1. Jen says:

    Hello, I’d really love to read this post and think it’s awesome that you’re sharing your story, but find the font very difficult – is it possible to repost in a more readable format?

    Cheers!

    05.15.19 Reply
    • Darcy says:

      I second this. I love these posts, but the all-caps font always makes them really hard to read.

      05.15.19 Reply
    • Tara says:

      I was sooo disappointed that this was impossible to read on my computer with the all caps and pink/black format… BUT, I just happened to open it up on my phone and it appears normal on that interface! Just thought I would share the good news in case it helped anyone else.

      05.15.19 Reply
  2. Mel says:

    I definitely isolate when I’m depressed and it’s the telltale signal for my friends and family to call me out on it and hold me accountable. You are a good wife for supporting him and making him feel like it’s not an insurmountable problem — which is how most of us feel who have anxiety and depression. Good on you for drawing attention to a serious yet widespread issue. And bravo to Kyle for being willing to share his story.

    05.15.19 Reply
  3. Darcy says:

    Thank you for sharing this! Depression runs in my family, and boy, is it a nasty (and misunderstood) illness. I struggle more with anxiety, but I’ve also had depressive episodes. One thing I always think of is an Elizabeth Gilbert quotation: “The opposite of depression isn’t happiness, it’s vitality.” When I’m depressed, it’s like all the color has gone out of the world, like I’m viewing my own life from behind a screen, or through a fog. It’s disorienting and terrifying. Major props to Kyle, and to you, Eva, for destigmatizing and normalizing mental illness! Thank you.

    05.15.19 Reply
    • Laura says:

      I get the feeling, it feels as if the world went grey. I also have anxiety so what I wonder in the worst moments is if I’ll ever feel better again. Therapy helps a lot for me, mainly it creates a safe space to talk openly without judgement but at the same time being held accountable.

      05.15.19 Reply
  4. Trixie says:

    Kyle is spot on about not finding anyone to relate to esp as a male athlete. I applaud him for being the public support figure he always needed but never had. I also agree that what you drink (and eat) can be critical in your self care.

    While I recognize that traditional therapy methods are valuable I hope that emerging clinical methods such as psilocybin, and ketamine can provide help for those who struggle with treatment resistant forms of trauma, disease, and disorders. Thank you Eva, and Kyle! Love you guys! 💙

    05.15.19 Reply
  5. Jessica says:

    Really important and poignant content, but the all caps format made it impossible to read the whole thing.

    05.15.19 Reply
  6. JD says:

    My husband is suffering from in-diagnosed depression and it is really affecting our family greatly. My hope is that he will read this after I send it to him and find something he can relate to and provide some hope or the thought that depression doesn’t come in a one size fits all box. The stigma for men and mental health is so real.

    Thank you for sharing Kyle’s truth.

    05.15.19 Reply
  7. Tyler Anne says:

    I’m so glad that Kyle decided to share this! I have anxiety and depression and as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that I’m pretty sure my dad has had depression his entire life. But there’s no way he will ever admit it or get help. He has been a good supportive father, but I wish (for his sake) there were more male role models, especially in sports, that talked about mental and emotional well-being! It seems like things are changing (FINALLY!) and someone like Kyle opening up like this is a HUGE step in the right direction! You are both so brave in talking about the difficult things publicly, but truly you are doing such good by doing so! Thank you both!!

    05.15.19 Reply
  8. Jen says:

    Thank you to Kyle for being an example and opening the minds of our communities as to what depression looks like. As a psychotherapist who treats men often, I teach this a lot. Depression doesn’t just look like melancholy low motivation it also can look like restlessness, high anxiety, irritability, poor anger management And distractibility. I have had men tell me lots of times they didn’t feel like it was serious enough to get help but having to stuff their feelings because of societal expectations of men, culminated in things getting worse. Often what I’m finding is that like any human being men are going through a grief process. Whether it’s due to a death in their family or a loss of job or identity in their job. And they need permission to grieve and let go of what they envisioned and re-define what life can be as it sounds like Kyle has done. He is a wonderful example to normalize this human condition. I will be directing the men that I treat to this powerful article! Thank you!

    05.15.19 Reply
  9. Katie says:

    I’m crying. This has really hit home with me. I have a brother that suffers from pretty severe depression and it’s a constant presence in the goings-on in our family. It’s been years but we’re still trying to navigate how to discuss it with him and how to help him in whatever ways we can. I feel like a lot of the stigma with discussing it with him comes from his preconceived notions of masculinity as well. He finally found a therapist he connects with, but she’s just announced her retirement—so wish us luck. My question for Kyle would be what are things that you, his parents/siblings, and friends (or any adults he’s close to that knew) did that felt helpful to pulling him out of the dark.

    05.15.19 Reply
  10. Martina MacKenzie says:

    I am so grateful to both of you for this post. This issue is certainly not discussed near enough and I applaud you for using your platform to help further this message. We’ve come a long way in minimizing stigma but there is so much more that can be done.

    Speaking from experience and coming from a family that has struggled with mood disorders and mental wellness issues this gives me hope that our children will have that much more of a chance to be open and free discussing struggles they may have in order to lead healthier lives.

    Thank you so very much!

    05.15.19 Reply
  11. Robyn says:

    Eva and Kyle, First thank you for posting this. What perfect timing. I have been suffering depression and anxiety for 11 years now. When my daughter turned 13 and we got a puppy something set me off. I am a people pleaser and always taking on other people ANX and apparently making it my own. My incredible therapist said that I could not stuff down anymore ANX and it bubbled over. I have been on medication that calms the storm but still lets me feel for years now. I weaned off once but I also get hit really hard during the dark winter months so I have decided I need all of the tools in my toolbox that will help. When I am not having an “episode” I am active, productive and laugh a lot. When I get set off I “Isolate”. Key word for sure. I am sending you a lot of sunlight. That seems to help me. Just sitting outside in the sunlight. On the screen porch with the sunlight nearby. Reading, especially Happily Eva After. You have touched on a subject that not only do people need to learn more about, but those of us who are having and “episode” won’t feel so alone. Thank you. For all that you do. Much love, Robyn

    05.15.19 Reply
  12. LM says:

    Thank you for sharing this. My husband suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Depression – the latter being more intense when his OCD is in a particularly bad phase. Having a partner with mental illness is hands down the most difficult thing I’ve dealt with my whole life — Especially when there are kids involved (we have a 5yo). So, solidarity to you, Eva! Thank you for bringing this issue out in the open and best wishes to all of you!

    05.15.19 Reply
  13. Colby says:

    Thanks for sharing! Has he checked for Lyme Disease? It can present as depression and anxiety. Your family is precious.

    05.15.19 Reply
  14. Keek says:

    I don’t see an all-caps font, but I do see weird words that have leading capital letters – “Machismo,” “Men,” “Postpartum”. Agreed it makes it distracting to read with weird capitals.

    05.15.19 Reply
  15. Isy says:

    I`m sending you both the biggest `THANK YOU` for being so honest about this topic!
    I`m 31 years old and I’ve started my first therapy when I was 10. I have depression, PTSD, an anxiety disorder and OCD. I’m having a really tough time right now and it helps me personally to know that there are other people who struggle with mental health issues too. Of course I know that there are many people with different problems and I would hope that nobody has to struggle with all these things but sometimes it just help me to feel not that isolated. So thank you again!
    I`m sending you both bis hugs and a lot of strength! Isy xxx

    05.15.19 Reply
  16. Clare says:

    Love your honesty and braveness is posting this. I, at times, have suffered mild depression & as the old saying goes, you can be in a room full of people and still feel incredibly alone. I wish Kyle a healthy and happy future.

    05.15.19 Reply
  17. Lily says:

    Thank you so much Kyle for sharing your story There is so much more effort into de stigmatizing mental illnesses, anxiety and depression. I am grateful for courageous people like you who share their journey. My dad suffered depression and anxiety for so many years. He was the first to stigmatize his illness. He never accepted our help and didn’t want to talk about it. He was so active and tried to fight it on his own that his colleagues never thought he was suffering from that. At last, the depression and anxiety was so heavy on him that he committed suicide. That’s why we have to talk more about mental illnesses as well as providing many ressources and treatment methods so it is no longer a taboo and less and less lives are taken.

    With appreciation

    05.15.19 Reply
  18. Pamela says:

    An honest account of human struggle. Thank you for speaking out about your personal journey. I am confused about why HEA blog constantly has pictures of your kids every waking moment it seems. The blog and Instagram are just a series of head shots with drawn out affected commentary. Always promoting more and more $$$ products. Is there an inner journey to balance this consumption. I understand that you chose this as a career but will you ever achieve harmony?

    05.15.19 Reply
  19. This is truly awesome. Thank you both for discussing your own experiences with mental illness, as well as helping to erase the stigma surrounding it. I have been a very vocal supporter of mental health awareness since I lost my father to suicide in 2001. I suffer from PTSD and anxiety. Some days are harder than others. Thank you for being brave.

    05.16.19 Reply
  20. Allie says:

    Just wanted to say thank you, Eva & Kyle, for your vulnerability. So many in my family, myself included, have struggled with depression. My father- the most brilliant, hilarious, loving, wise, generous, kind man I could ever dream of knowing- has struggled mightily. He’s had to be hospitalized several times and even suffers through the nightmare of regular ECT treatment because he loves his family so much that he will do anything to maintain his ability to forge strong relationships and be present with us. Depression is very much a disease, not a weakness or just feeling sad. Prayers, peace, and strength as you guys continue fighting the good fight. Xo

    05.16.19 Reply
  21. Dan Woog says:

    What an amazing, insightful conversation. Thanks, Kyle and Eva, for starting it, and taking it public. You have no idea how many people you have helped by this. It’s profoundly important.

    And on a completely side note, Eva, you rocked it last night as MC of “Fashionably Westport.” Thanks for all you do for our town!

    05.17.19 Reply
  22. Anon says:

    Thank you for sharing. My husband definitely suffers from anxiety and depression and it’s taken years for me to convince him to go to therapy. He’s finally going, but will only go every other week (not enough in my opinion) and we have a 5 month old, so there is a lot of stress and tension at the moment. I want to help him feel better but I am also being crushed under the weight of being a full-time employee (went back to work about a month ago) and full-time mom (he’s super sweet with the baby and helps if I ask him to but I’m definitely running the show). I do feel that the stigma is what prevented him from addressing the issues sooner – he is a master of burying his feelings. Anyway, sending solidarity!

    05.23.19 Reply