Charlottesville resident Lisa Jakub worked as a young actor and starred in major Hollywood movies. But she gave it all up after an eighteen-year career partly due to anxiety and depression. In her latest book, Lisa embraces her weird to find answers in dealing with mental health.
Lisa will speak at WMRA’s Books & Brews on November 12 and 13, 2019. She recently spoke with WMRA's Chris Boros who asked her talk about her battle with panic attacks.
Lisa Jakub: I was one of those people that kept it to myself for a really long time. I didn’t talk about it. And then when I started being more open about it I had so many people who said I completely know what you’re talking about and so that’s really what got me more comfortable with being more open about it because I’m not just talking about me and what I’m going through. I’m talking about what so many of us are struggling with and there’s no need for us to be doing that alone.
WMRA: Was it anxiety specifically with you or was it also depression, because part of your book is also about depression. Was it a combination of all of this?
LJ: Yeah I have this amazing combination of anxiety, occasional depression and a panic disorder so I get panic attacks.
WMRA: What would happen when you were in one of these really bad panic attacks?
LJ: During most people’s first panic attacks they end up going to the emergency room because it feels so much like a heart attack. You feel really sick to your stomach like you might throw up, so it is incredibly all encompassing and usually they don’t last that long – under ten minutes – but that it ten minutes of hell.
WMRA: In the book you talk about meeting different people who have these issues, PTSD – talk about some of the people we’ll meet in the book.
LJ: I talked to a lot of people to find out what anxiety looked like in their lives but I feel like it comes down to some really core issues which is so many of us are walking around feeling like we’re not enough and so many of us are walking around feeling like we’re just fundamentally weird. And that is where I have come up with this mantra for myself and I talk about it in the book of “embrace your weird.” Everybody’s weird.
WMRA: It’s fun being weird.
LJ: It’s so great being weird. So many of us have that thing that we think is so weird that other people will not accept us. For me it’s this anxiety, it’s this weird childhood I grew up with that was very different because I was working as an actor so these things I feel like I have to hide.
WMRA: Do you think there are actually normal people though? Have you ever really met a normal person?
LJ: I really hope not because I feel like it would be a very boring existence.
WMRA: You mentioned being a child actress. You’re in this little move called Mrs. Doubtfire. And you played the teenage daughter – Robin Williams was your father. Lisa, that’s awesome. Everybody loves that movie.
LJ: I’m recognizing that because I was fourteen when I filmed that and I’m forty now and people are still talking to me about it so apparently it’s a little bit popular.
WMRA: So you write a book about depression and then Robing Williams. That had to have hit you pretty hard.
LJ: It’s still hard to fathom that he is gone. Robin had a huge impact on me and to be quite honest I think a lot of my desire to be very open about my own issues with mental health came from him because he was very open with me about his struggles with addiction, about his issues with depression, and he talked to me a lot about that.
WMRA: When someone reads your book, is there something you hope they get from reading it?
LJ: Well my hope with it was just that people feel a little bit less alone. And so I just really wanted to put together the book I wish I had when I was really struggling telling me here are a whole bunch of other people and how they’ve dealt with it, here are the things that worked for them and here are a whole bunch of options of things that you can try.
WMRA: Well, Lisa, I really appreciate you coming in today and being so brave to talk about this and to write a book about your own anxiety. That takes some guts.
LJ: Thank you. I’m honored to be here.