Our first guest, Sara Benincasa, is a talented writer and comedian. Her new book, Real Artists Have Day Jobs (available April 26), is a collection of essays on topics like self-care, depression, and finding good friends.
“Real Artists Have Day Jobs is a bunch of fun, sad, funny, silly, smart, ultimately uplifting essays about how to be a grownup—which I'm still figuring out,” says Sara. “I'm pretty sure that I'm over at least one credit card limit as we're sitting here right now.”
Several of the essays in the book focus on how Sara managed her mental health struggles while simultaneously writing and creating art she is proud of and believes in. It’s a book that manages to be both optimistic and realistic, noting that success is never simple, nor is it a salve for life’s more difficult problems.
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“What I find is that when you get what you want, you realize that it's not paradise, and that you're not just happy all of the time, and that you still have to pick up your dog's poop,” she says.
Sara notes that dealing with life’s unhappiness isn’t just a matter of going to a therapist, but thinking about how your actions and choices impact future generations. “If you don't deal with your issues, whatever they may be, and they manifest in the next generation and the generation after that, you won't have the tools to assist your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. You won't be able to say, ‘Hey, I went through this. It was really hard, but I'm managing it. I know you can too.’”
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As Sara points out, mental illness is often hereditary, but as our second guest this week proves, the stigma surrounding it can be broken.
Chamique Holdsclaw is a 6x WNBA All Star, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and the star of Logo’s new documentary, Mind/Game (premieres May 3 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Logo), which follows the journey of how Chamique came to terms with her struggles with mental illness while simultaneously becoming one of the most respected basketball players of her generation.
“I grew up when women's basketball wasn't popular, so I worked really hard to make a name for myself,” says Chamique. “I overcame a lot, including parents who had addiction issues (they battled with alcoholism) but I was still able to stay the course, get a scholarship, win four state championships, and go on to be a number one draft pick, all while dealing with issues of depression—issues that I kept secret for so long.”
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For Chamique, a large part of her struggle was coming to terms with the fact that even though she was very successful, something about the way she felt on the inside was just not healthy.
“You hear a lot in sports, ‘only the strong survive.’” she says. “I was always afraid to come forward and say, ‘Hey, this is something I struggle with,’ because I didn't want the coach to think that I was mentally weak. So I just kept it to myself, and it was eating me up inside. It was just something that was just really, really tough to deal with, and I felt like I couldn't tell anyone.”
Eventually—after experiencing worldwide notoriety, as well as several devastating personal events—things came to a tipping point for Chamique, and she could no longer suffer in silence.
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“When I opened up my mouth that first time, and I got the courage to speak out about it, I realized a lot of people were going through the same thing,” she says. “And that's when I was able to form my community, a community with other athletes, a community with other African Americans going through it.”
Chamique isn’t playing professional basketball right now, but she is spending her time teaching future stars of the game how to better communicate about their own emotions. She works with the JED Foundation to raise awareness around mental health, and she mentors girls through a program she runs called Mentally Driven.
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“We bring kids in and use basketball like a disguise—because they love basketball,” says Chamique. “But we also bring in psychologists to really do fun games with them so they can talk about themselves. At the end of the day, they've realized that they've opened up to each other, and that everybody's going through the same thing.”
The Women Promoted in This Episode:
“Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams have a new podcast based on their comedy show, Two Dope Queens,” says Sara. “They try to always book women, book people of color, and to book people of different kinds of orientations, and gender identifications. Basically they try to book people other than just white dudes. Although they have white dudes on too.”
“I love Oprah Winfrey,” says Chamique. “I just think she's such a giver to people and a very strong woman. And I also like Ellen DeGeneres, because I think she embodies the same thing—but she’s also just really funny.”
Follow These Women on Twitter:
Women's Health: @womenshealthmag
Caitlin Abber: @everydaycaitlin
Sara Benincasa: @sarajbenincasa
Chamique Holdzclaw: @chold1
Uninterrupted is produced by Caitlin Abber, with audio production by Paul Ruest at Argot Studios.
Editorial and public relations support from Lisa Chudnofsky and Lindsey Benoit.
Our theme music is “Bullshit” by Jen Miller.