How to Know If You Have Existential Depression With Melissa Bernstein

How to know if you have existential depression with Melissa Bernstein

Verywell / Julie Bang 

Every Monday on The Verywell Mind Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW, interviews authors, experts, entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, and other inspirational people about the strategies that help them think, feel, and do their best in life.

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Meet Melissa Bernstein

If you’ve ever encountered a Melissa & Doug toy, you know who Melissa Bernstein is. She’s the co-founder of the company who designs all of their amazing toys.

What you might not know about Melissa is that she has also battled depression her entire life. She never understood what was going on with her until she learned about “existential” depression.

When she learned that her struggles had a name, she instantly felt better. And she began meeting other people who could relate to her experience. 

Now, she’s written a book called Lifelines and launched a website to help other people who may be experiencing existential depression.

Why Melissa Bernstein Is Mentally Strong

It takes a lot of mental strength to battle depression. And when you feel depressed, your brain will try to convince you that there’s no hope and nothing will work. 

Melissa chose to talk to a therapist. She also decided to write a book and create a website that offers free resources to other people.

Her desire to keep growing and learning and her willingness to share what she is learning is proof she is mentally strong.

What You’ll Hear on the Show

  • How owning a toy company didn’t give Melissa inner peace
  • The thoughts that fueled Melissa’s depression
  • What it means to have ‘existential depression’ and how Melissa learned about it
  • What she learned about creativity and existential depression
  • What she gained from talking to a therapist
  • How her feelings of loneliness fueled her depression
  • The specific things that have helped her manage her depression
  • What she’s doing now to help other people free of charge

What You’ll Learn About Existential Depression and Mental Strength

You aren’t either “depressed” or “not depressed.” Depression comes in several different forms and severities.

Existential depression isn’t a clinical diagnosis that can be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. 

As Melissa discovered, existential depression is very real. And it was hard for her to understand even though she was living it.

You can still build mental strength, however, when you’re battling a mental health issue like depression. It’s all about the choices you make every day.

Quotes From Melissa

Melissa Bernstein

If you haven't filled the gaping hole within and really accepted yourself for who you are and everything you are—your highs, your lows, your in-betweens, your quirks—you will never truly be at peace.

— Melissa Bernstein
  • So much of my life has come full circle in connecting all these dots that at the time I never realized were these profound dots that were going to give my life meaning. But now I see it really clearly.
  • We have absolutely achieved conventional success in what we now have—a half a billion dollar toy company. It didn't bring me that sense of worth and validation and inner peace that I so craved. 
  • Knowing that I suffered from something that was very common among highly creative people validated my entire experience and made me see that my creativity wasn't without its curse. 
  • You're pretending you're someone you're not. And you're denying who you truly are. So who wouldn't be depressed from that? 
  • We're all looking for that quick fix and doing the work is really hard and really painful and not an immediate quick fix. 

More About the Podcast

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Reviews and ratings are a great way to encourage other people to listen and help them prioritize their mental health too.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.