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Beautiful, Talented & Brave: Living with Anxiety & Depression

My beautiful friend Kate Mansi bravely shares her story to stop the stigma of depression

I remember the first day I met Kate Mansi, who would soon be my dear friend, when she joined our cast at Days of Our Lives. Truly such a vibrant, beautiful girl – inside and out.

Over the years together on the show, I have watched her grow so much as an actress and a young woman. Whenever her scenes came up on the monitor in the makeup room, I always made a point to turn up the volume, stop and watch, because I always knew they were going to be something extraordinary! She brings such depth, heart and soul to every scene.

actress Kate MansiShe does the same in real life as well … she is so thoughtful, complex and passionate. And just being in her presence makes me want to pay more attention to the details of my life … look deeper into subjects, and certainly characters.

Last year her work was so amazing on the show! I thought for sure she would have won an Emmy. I am keeping my fingers crossed for this year, no one deserves it more!
Kate was so kind to let me share with you her amazing blog, which she originally shared on Bring Change 2 Mind.  She is so brave and incredibly eloquent, and I hope through her sharing, people who feel this way can see you are not alone!

DYNAMIC DEPRESSION
by Kate Mansi

November 20th I was lucky enough to watch through a window into the delivery room, as my sister became a mother to two tiny twin boys. What I witnessed will forever be one of the most powerful moments of my life. Without even looking into their eyes, holding them or even smelling them yet, it felt like they shattered my heart into a million tiny pieces in the best possible way. I didn’t know I could love that BIG! The world felt like it froze perfectly still and I had this slice of pure joy. I was stunned in awe of life and of my sister, and of all mothers. Just days before Thanksgiving, my family was given the greatest gift of all.

The next morning (and every morning since), the first thought to flutter through my mind upon waking has been, “The boys – it’s real! I’m an Aunt!!” I couldn’t shake this sheer awe and excitement. I felt an unexpected sense of purpose and strong surge of empowerment to take the best care of myself possible for the sake of my nephews and my sister’s new family.

actress Kate Mansi demonstrates several yoga poses with a mountain in the backgroundIn between visits to the NICU, I snuck in a yoga class. Fitness, specifically yoga, is a big player in my practice of good mental hygiene. In life altering moments, I’ve had yoga classes I’ll never forget. This was one of them.

Tears streamed down my cheeks and onto my sweat stained mat as I moved through my practice that day. With my eyes closed, I moved through each pose and failed several attempts to keep myself from smiling ear to ear. It was the first time I was alone to really pause and sit with the emotions that came with the arrival of our new family additions.

As we settled into savasana I closed my eyes and again felt tears stream down my face. I knew I was crying for all the good things in my life at that moment. I can’t remember the last time I felt that happy, that whole, that complete and peaceful. I wanted it to last forever.

A few minutes in, the instructor offered up a quote for us all to think about as Thanksgiving approached, “It is impossible to feel depressed when you feel true gratitude.” Immediately my gut reaction was resistance. I noticed the drastic switch of emotions swirl up inside me and then started judging myself before even questioning why I was so irritated.

“It’s a simple concept to encourage gratitude, can’t you just move on?” I thought. So I inhaled deeply, refocused on gratitude for my nephews and worked on getting back to my ‘happy place’. Boom, there it was again, right in the forefront of my mind like a giant stop sign I kept seeing and hearing her words: 

It is impossible to feel depressed when you feel true gratitude.” 

Next thing I knew we were directed to “bring life back into our fingertips and start waking up the body” – I missed it! I wasted my entire savasana contemplating what was wrong with me that I couldn’t just inhale and exhale the simple message of true gratitude, when ironically, I was feeling consumed with gratitude that day!

Feeling defeated, I rolled up my mat and drove straight back to the NICU to check if the spell of my sheer elation had been broken. I felt like Clara in ‘The Nutcracker’ not wanting the party to end. I was relieved it all came back to me the instant I was in their presence.

Seven days have passed since the yoga class, and I still can’t stop thinking (okay, fine, obsessing) about that damn quote. Finally I did something I should have done about seven days ago. I gave myself permission to challenge my thoughts. Permission to take inventory of my inner resistance instead of pushing it away (God knows that’s an ever present lesson).

Here’s what I’ve come up with:
Undoubtedly, I believe the instructor was well intentioned in offering that quote to her class. An inspirational gesture to encourage her students to embrace gratitude. In my opinion, I have to honor that I found it to be inaccurate, insensitive and a prime example of the stigma surrounding mental disorders. While I see her point in the great impact gratitude practices can create, it cannot completely absolve depression for someone who struggles with it. Her perspective was confusing, conflicting and isolating. Confusing because for me, someone who lives with anxiety and depression, that is not the world I live in. It is imperative to my mental health that I remember, nothing is impossible with depression, or anxiety.

This doesn’t mean we have to be white knuckling our happiness and preparing for disaster around any corner. Though the reality is, for those who struggle with depression, nothing is impossible. Expecting that you can pluck out your depression and ‘solve’ it, is a trigger-some set up for disappointment.

For example, while I was feeling extreme joy for my family’s experience that day and words like depression could not have been further from my mind, it did not change the fact that it was still a part of me. Sometimes it’s present, sometimes it’s dormant, but it’s always there and I am learning to take ownership over it equal to all the other parts of me.

actress Kate Mansi in yoga wear poses in front of mountain

I’ve lived the majority of my life with anxiety and depression. I’ve never embraced it, never spoken about it, never wanted it to be part of my story. Until recently. The truth is, depression and anxiety are a part of my story, and I want to make it one of the great parts! That goes along with all the other wonderful parts I have to be grateful for – including my new nephews. I want those boys to grow up in a world that is honest and truthful about mental health so that they never feel alone and will know how to comfort those who do. I want to create momentum to elicit change instead of staying silent and perpetuating stigma.

That’s why these last few months, I’ve hosted a series of workout classes to benefit BC2M in a campaign I’ve titled #SweatToStopStigma. With partners such as Open Sweat and The Know Collective, we’ve been raising awareness, support and donations one workout class at a time.

BC2M has a difficult task. They are not fighting for something tangible like delivering clean water to underprivileged countries, or building homes for people in need. You can’t necessarily measure the results of this fight. It is a change that has to occur from within and spread and spread and spread until we’ve changed the world.

The last week has given me so very much to be grateful for. It brings me to tears (again) just reflecting on this moment in my family’s life. It’s truly beyond me how blessed I am. And even in that great depth of gratitude, I acknowledge that my depression and anxiety are also a part of me. I won’t take that away from myself. I will learn to work with it instead of against it. I will be mindful that it can always reappear and coexist within other emotions, and that I’m not alone in that.

Just like my interpretation of Clara in ‘The Nutcracker’, it’s possible that we can dance with dark demons and also experience the purest sugar plum moments in the Land of Sweets.

If this post has resonated with you, please join in spreading awareness for #sweattostopstigma.

17 Comments

  1. Dedra Davis

    Thanks for sharing💓

  2. Thank you for sharing iam alone with my struggles no support really no purpose in life i have health issues anxiety and depression with no one around. Stay strong like you are for sharing much love

  3. Thank you both for sharing. After suffering with bulimia and anorexia for the last 28 years, I was finally diagnosed as Bi-polar and receiving meds that have made a world of difference in my life… The past year has been a slow awakening to a new life. Tasha

  4. Michelle Gray

    Thank you Kate for sharing this story with us, and you too Mary Beth for posing it on your blog. Like many others i suffer from anxiety and i believe i will most probably do so for the rest of my life, it is comforting to know that i am not alone.

  5. Carly Cauthen

    Thanks for sharing this story. As much as it pains me to learn of other people’s struggles,it also is comforting to know that there are other people who know what I’m feeling. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression since I was 14. Attempted suicide at 16, and have had to be hospitalized 3 times for these issues in my lifetime,the last of which was back in April. Sadly,these issues have become so severe that I developed what is called conversion disorder or “psuedoseizures”. They are non-epileptic seizures brought on by stress,depression and anxiety. I am currently on 3 different medications to try and keep it under control as much as possible,but even with the medicine,there are some days when I have between 15-20 or more a day. The doctors no longer keep me in the hospital because it doesn’t help. I had one so bad one night it took the paramedics probably an hour or longer to wake me up. I could hear everyone around me,but I couldn’t wake up. I know there is probably a lot of you out there who don’t believe in this kind of thing and that’s ok,but what it took to bring me out of it was my aunt who I was very close to and who is now in Heaven telling me to wake up. I still have my good and bad days,but I’m sharing my struggles as well in hopes that someone knows they aren’t by themselves and that I still believe there is hope. And maybe God is somehow trying to tell me that what I’ve gone through hasn’t all been for nothing,that it will help someone to get well someday,and perhaps it’ll help me get well someday too. God Bless you Kate and thank you for sharing your story and thank you Mary Beth for all you do as well. Love and peace to you all. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    • Stacey AKA BraveWidowMama

      I am so glad that you are still here Carly. Keep fighting the good fight. You are beautiful and brave!

  6. As a person who has struggled with anxiety and depression since childhood but not diagnosed til early adulthood since my born in the 40’s parents (whom both suffered I see now) just always told me to suck it up. It is a very real and present thing. I manage mine as best I can, but know I have damaged my kids with moods and depression. I still struggle daily but say I’m sorry ALOT. Working with special education kids I know that mental health is very under-funded. If it was taken more seriously there would be significantly less funding needed in other practices. I appreciate Kate sharing her story.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Always try to put a positive spin.
    💚Life is a gift💚

    “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

    One of my favorite inspirational quotes

    I also have anxiety and depression. My anxiety was an OCD that was in my thought process. My mind doesn’t shut down, I used to use that as an asset. I worked as a nurse in an Intensive setting. My thoughts allowed me to anticipate and be prepared for any critical changes in my patients. My disorder helped me do my job better. Currently having some health issues, where the anxiety and depression is coming into the forefront again. I was on Meds, but because of the transplant I had to come off of them. I now see a counselor, We are always evolving. Trying to be our best self. Always dancing in the rain.

    I had an occupational therapist once, lovely person, she was also a yoga instructor. During rehab they had such a problem with me and my anxiety she became the yoga instructor teaching me how to breath again. Learning again how to dance in the rain. During the yoga, that is the perfect time to see your unpolished self. Yoga and meditation, helps with my anxiety.

    Thank you again.

  8. Mary Beth and Kate,

    Thank you both so much for sharing this. I have been dealing with anxiety for the last few years. It took me a long time to recognize what it was. It took me longer to feel open about discussing it with others. I would always wonder why I would freak out about the smallest things, things that I knew were not a big deal but that felt like the biggest thing in the world at the time.

    My continued increasing focus on creativity and physical fitness has helped me make massive inroads in managing my anxiety. It is still a work in progress, but I have learned how to manage it most days. And when I need to have some alone time, it’s OK to do that.

    Thank you again for all of your work to spread the word and #StopTheStigma

  9. Mary Sivak

    Thank you for sharing. I also deal with anxiety and depression and have for many years. I have been on anxiety meds for more years than I care to remember. I was able to retire from my very stressful job in the health insurance industry in 2014 and I was on my way to being medication free–when I was told I needed Open Heart Surgery– and just like that– the depression hit like a ton of bricks. I have since reduced to just the anxiety medication because stress and worry is one of the toughest things on the heart. I asked to be taken off the anti-depressive and so far I have managed it– although it is never really more than a stones throw away.
    Excellent read and I wish Miss Mansi all the best and thank you for sharing.

  10. Stephanie Cantrell

    Mary Beth
    Thank you for sharing Kate’s story as I sit here with tears streaming down my face I can tell you that as someone who has suffered from depression for most of my life and has tried to end my life on two separate occasions I can relate to her story on so many levels. It is a fight that I fight every day of my life and will never give up fighting. Kate is an amazing woman and I am grateful for the work she is doing on spreading awareness on anxiety & depression. For so many years I fought to hide my feelings and it took me to a very dark place in life and I know that it has to be talked about and is nothing to be ashamed of any longer Thank you so much for sharing you have touched my heart xo

  11. Susan Nolen (Suzzy1969)

    Mary Beth, thank you for sharing Kate’s powerful story. Hopefully it will help others that have depression and anxiety to hear her story….I deal with depression and anxiety daily in my family. Reading and sharing stories like Kate’s will hopefully help
    #StoptheStigma
    So, thank you Kate and Mary Beth!

  12. I love that you are bringing awareness to something as important as mental health. It is true there is such a stigma that is attached to mental health that people shy away from getting the help they need. As I have gotten older and worked in this field, I have realized a lot of what I experienced as a child was anxiety. I think of all the children and adults out there who are living with depression and anxiety and not getting the support that is so readily available to them. Thank you so much for bringing this out in the open and making more people aware of it.

  13. Holly Carrico

    Thank you for this wonderful story. I have the same problems anxiety and depression. No one understands what I go through. I do go to a psychiatrist and am on medicine for it, but it seems to be always there . Thank you and miss you on the show.

  14. Stacey AKA BraveWidowMama

    Mary Beth;

    Thank you for sharing Kate’s blog. She is doing important work. Mental health issues have such a stigma in our society, especially for men. Our husbands, fathers, and sons often suffer in silence and sometimes don’t survive their silent battles.

    I began my personal battle in a Kohl’s department store while shopping for a dress to wear to my husband’s funeral. It had only been a few days since I’d discovered him in a closet. I looked at the rows of clothes in that store and had a visual flashback so real that I ran into a changing room terrified and confused. When my best friend found me, I was ashamed to tell her what had happened.

    The flashbacks and panic attacks continued for years until therapy, medication, and connections with other survivors helped me to gain perspective and a sense of purpose. PTSD is a real thing. It changes you. But, it does not have to destroy your life.

    The one thing I refuse to do is hide. I know SOS widows who lie, to their kids, to the world, about how their husband died. From day one, I have been honest about how I was widowed. My children will not see me hiding in shame. Depression kills. Shame kills. Scary things happen in the dark.

    I’ve found my purpose. I do all that I can to support my Sisters who struggle to raise children in grief. I want parents to know that it is their responsibility to take care of their mental health because not doing so can cause so much misery.

    Kate is right about yoga and exercise. I used to lift, until my spine had other ideas. Now, I find yoga and meditation, along with writing so centering.

    The day after Jeff died, I was so shocked to see the sun had risen. My life was over. How could the fucking sun come up? These days, “tomorrow is another day,” is my favorite thought after a shit-storm of a day. Everything passes…and boy, do I love my kids. God is good.

  15. Kelly Pietrangeli

    Yes I feel your words so deeply sometimes I feel guilty for the sadness that follows me around even when I have great things in my live! I try so hard to be positive but it’s like pushing a heavy rock or the waves of the water back, Impossible, frustrating and lonely. I really believe there are more people that suffer from these thoughts and feelings than we all know. Thank you for being brave taking a stand. Let us all here we are not alone and there isn’t anything wrong with us ! This is our truth and what we live with daily. Kelly P

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