It’s been a year since the world first shut down in response to the global coronavirus pandemic and a lot has changed for everyone as we try to adjust to the “new normal” in America and process the weight of a rapidly changing world. It was a dark year for most, and If you experienced mental health struggles as you coped, you weren’t alone. Even Former First Lady Michelle Obama can relate.
In an interview with PEOPLE, Obama opened up about how her family passed the time over the last year and how they grew and changed. Obama shared that the challenges of 2020 left her feeling a “low-grade depression.”
“That was during a time when a lot of hard stuff was going on,” she told PEOPLE. “We had the continued killing of Black men at the hands of police. Just seeing the video of George Floyd, experiencing that eight minutes. That’s a lot to take on, not to mention being in the middle of a quarantine. Depression is understandable during these times. I needed to acknowledge what I was going through, because a lot of times we feel like we have to cover that part of ourselves up, that we always have to rise above and look as if we’re not paddling hard underneath the water.”
Despite battling her changing emotions, Obama says she remained positive and encouraged her daughters, Malia, 22, and Sasha, 19, who were attending college remotely, to do the same.
“This is what mental health is. You have highs and lows,” Obama said. “What I have said to my daughters is that one of the things that is getting me through is that I’m old enough to know that things will get better.”
Obama, her husband (former POTUS Barack Obama) and their daughters split their time between their homes in Martha’s Vineyard and Washington, D.C. but they remained together, which was not something the empty-nesters ever thought would happen.
“Our girls were supposed to have emptied out of my nest,” Obama said. “I was sort of celebrating that they were out building their lives and allowing me the emotional space to let them go. Well, they’re back!”
Found family time Mrs. Obama told PEOPLE she and Obama have very much enjoyed getting back.
“This time has allowed us to get some stolen moments back with our girls,” she continued. “Those recaptured moments have meant the world to us and I think they’ve made our relationships with our children even stronger.”
Her daughters got into cooking during the quarantine, she reveals, while Obama taught herself to knit and be a better lap swimmer.
The Obamas…they’re just like us!