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Role Reversal

Actress Lorraine Bracco plays a psychiatrist on TV. She's also battled depression in her real life.

Physician, Heal Thyself

Bracco desperately wanted change. She confided in a friend, who recommended that she see a therapist. But Bracco resisted. She thought she should be able to control her own feelings. And she worried incorrectly that antidepressants would dull her emotions, making it impossible to do her job.

Finally, she called her friend and got the name of a therapist. Making that first visit was the hardest step.

"Yes, it was very scary. But it was the moment I took charge," Bracco says. "Instead of letting all my problems -- my being miserable, my being unhappy -- lead my life, I realized then I was finally able to let my dreams lead my life."

The doctor gave the TV psychiatrist plenty of time to talk about her symptoms. Despite some initial reluctance, Bracco did agree to try an antidepressant.

In her therapy, Bracco got to the heart of her darkness and eventually, she says, she became more herself. "I felt a huge difference in my everyday life. Getting treatment put me on the road to recovery-to finding myself and being myself," she says.

Bracco was on antidepressant medication for 15 months. She stayed in talk therapy for two and a half years, seeing several different therapists. And her depression did not come back.

She doesn't identify her psychiatrists by name. But Bracco says you can see them very clearly when Dr. Melfi is doing good work with Tony Soprano. "Having firsthand experience as a patient helped me create a good character," she says. "I took the yin and yang of my male and female doctors and rolled them into one for Dr. Melfi. I did a lot of work to create Dr. Melfi.

"I have an understanding of what it is-the caretaker-patient relationship," she adds, to the enduring benefit of Tony Soprano, a roomful of psychiatrists, and Bracco herself.


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