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HomeMental HealthHuma Abedin on Private Pain and Public Struggle

Huma Abedin on Private Pain and Public Struggle

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HUMA ABEDIN: I couldn’t even feel anymore. It felt selfish to have feelings, and just think about that concept. You know that you are that human being that doesn’t believe you’re entitled to feel anything, because that’s how much devastation you feel you have wrought on your world.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I’m Morra Aarons-Mele. And this is the Anxious Achiever. We look at stories from business leaders who’ve dealt with anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges, how they felt down, how they pick themselves up, and how they hope work can change in the future. (silence) There’s a saying in the mental health world, in the past year, you’ve probably heard some version of it. Be kind to people because you never know what someone’s going through, what someone is silently suffering. Today’s guest is someone who’s silently suffered a lot, but her face and her family’s most private business were very much in the public eye. Huma Abedin is a political staffer, but you might know her as the ex-wife of former U.S. representative, Anthony Weiner, who resigned from office in the wake of a sex scandal. And in many ways, that was just the beginning of the struggle Abedin faced. She faced the public breakdown of her marriage and family while also balancing an incredibly powerful and stressful career in politics, having worked for Hillary Clinton for two decades and working closely on her 2016 campaign in which she lost to Donald Trump. I had to know how Huma did it, and what her experience can teach us all about functioning, about keeping on, keeping on through extreme shame, extreme stress, extreme everything. Huma has a new book out, a memoir called Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds. And I spoke with her about anxiety, grief, pressure, the public eye, and our private roles, and so much more. Just to frame it up, this is a show about work. This is a show about leadership and anxiety and managing mental health. And I was a political consultant for years. I’m not sure we’ve ever met. I met Hillary a bunch of times, I knew a lot of people in Hillary land a little bit, although I’m on the digital side of things. And I swear to God, I would think of you as, I don’t know if you identify as an anxious person, but I would be like, how does Huma show up every day? And even before all the stuff with your husband, I’d be like, how does she work those hours and look so good and keep it together? So when your book came out and I read it, I thought, “I have to talk to her.”

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HUMA ABEDIN: I’m so thrilled. So much of what you just said has resonated with me in so many ways. So, I can relate to many of those feelings and moments over those years. And by the way, I am sure we have met.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I think we might have, but here’s my question. Do you identify as an anxious person?

HUMA ABEDIN: I have had anxious moments. And I don’t think I’m an anxious person generally, but I do think the way I overcame my anxiety is by doing the thing that scared me the most. And this is the thing that scares me the most, which is being out in the world, speaking publicly, being the center of attention, which, as you’ve read the book, I never have liked being.

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MORRA AARONS-MELE: Your job was to be invisible. You say that multiple times, your job was to be invisible, your job was never to be in the shot, your voice was not meant to be heard. And I think because of that, you were a cipher for a lot of people.

HUMA ABEDIN: And it was… And my job was not to be heard and that was a self… I haven’t had an opportunity to talk about this in any other interview I’ve done, but that was something I placed upon myself as you may have read in the book as I talk about the chapter, this transition moment when I started working at the state department, and at this point, I had worked for Hillary for over a decade. I didn’t even – I recount an episode where I’m meeting with our chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, I’m preparing for our first overseas trip, I’m doing the manifest for eating, and I have not included myself, even though I am the deputy chief of staff to the secretary of state, I am responsible in part for organizing the trip. And Cheryl says to me, “You have a seat at the table. You’ve had one on the inside for a long time. You need to occupy it in the outside world.” And even in that moment, it just clicked. It hadn’t even occurred to me that that was my space and place to occupy. So, I think I’ve been lucky with the kinds of people I’ve surrounded myself with, the leaders I’ve surrounded myself with. And sometimes we need that in our lives, somebody else to see something in you.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Well, she kicked her butt a little bit. She was like enough already.

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HUMA ABEDIN: Yes, one hundred percent. Enough already is actually a perfect summary of that conversation. And anybody who knows Cheryl Mills will tell you that when you went into a professional meeting with her, you needed to go and prepared because she asked you 10 questions to everyone, question you posited. But I think otherwise, I was filled in many moments of my life with a lot of anxiety, and no more anxiety than I felt two weeks ago when I sat down for my first television interview having never done this before. I mean, Morra, in the 2016 campaign when they would send me out on the road to do surrogate speaking on behalf of the campaign, I would be shaking, physically shaking backstage. I would… Before one of the Benghazi hearings that I literally went into the bathroom and had to expunge, I was so… It did something to me physically, sort of the mental anxiety and the stress really did something to me physically. But I powered through. And when I got in the moment, again, I think I really do think the biggest summary of my book is do the thing that scares you the most.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Well, if this is your exposure therapy, if this scares you the most, then you’ve been like on the road. But okay. I want to talk about compartmentalizing because I think that that’s… You obviously lived an extreme version. Again, way before the stuff with your husband, from your first times at the Clinton White House when there was a lot of drama and crazy stuff going on with the Lewinsky scandal, you had to like tune it out and do the work. And it seems to me that the lens of your ability to compartmentalize is useful for a lot of my audience. So, I want to dive into that a little bit, because I think you say in the book that you’re good at compartmentalizing, like this is kind of a skill of yours.

HUMA ABEDIN: And I think it’s a skill that I, and I did recognize this about myself, that it was a skill, I believe, if that’s what you want to call it, I’m not sure if skill is the right word, at least—

MORRA AARONS-MELE: …well, I’ll leave that to the shrinks. Yeah.

HUMA ABEDIN: Let’s leave that to the shrinks. But I think I lost my father when I was 17, just before I was coming to the United States for my undergraduate degree. And I was in such, even though he had been essentially terminally ill for most of my life, I mean, when I was two, he was told he had five to 10 years to live. And it’s one of the first lines I write in my book, my father was told he was dying, so he went out and he lived. And this notion of moving forward despite the pain, despite the stress and the… I think often about the anxiety my parents must have undergone. They kept that secret from us. We moved to Saudi Arabia when I was two, talk about anxiety living in an entirely new world, it was supposed to be for one year, every summer, we would explore a different part of the world. And when I was a little girl, 6, 7, 8, my father would say things like we have a guest in the living room, go out and speak to him, call the airlines, see what the flight options are to Jakarta, putting us… Doing things that I didn’t think the average eight-, nine- or 10-year-olds were doing. And at the time, I was really scared about, but I do think it gave me this sort of internal kind of sense of confidence. But when he died, when I was 17, I was in such denial, actually, Morra, that I write my freshman year in college, I walked around my two years in college. I referred to my parents in the present tense, and to me, I think that was the notion of compartmentalizing kind of seeded in me that my dad told me to study hard, I was going to study hard, I did study hard. And I didn’t think about the fact that he was dead because it was too hard. I tell the story of walking into professor’s office weeks after my father’s dead, and he says, “How is your father doing?” And I cannot say the words that he’s dead.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: You lie. You lie.

HUMA ABEDIN: I lie. I could because saying it would mean it’s true. So, that is a trauma. I didn’t recognize it at the time, and in reflection, I realized I could be normal and successful and work really hard and do all the things my parents wanted me to do, but I couldn’t think about that loss. And that translated to my years in the Clinton White House, because I write as a 21-year-old walking into the white house residence for the first time, that feeling I had stepping on that red carpet, walking up those marble staircases, walking past the rose garden, it was nothing less than all inspiring. So, when I was watching on TV back then, 24-hour Cable News was a new thing in the early ’90s, and seeing all the developments in the star investigation, honestly, to me, it was an alternate reality. In our offices, we were focused on the work. I worked for a first lady who was championing women’s rights as human rights all across the world, for a president who was overseeing arguably a very stable, robust economy. We were the sole superpower in the world at the time, championing middle east peace. And it was a different sense of reality from what I saw on TV. And I think it’s one of the ways I made it through. It was a very stressful time, but it is one of the ways I made it through, and then obviously, everything with Anthony and that was, boy, was that next level compartmentalizing but it is how I made it through, in part, how I made through.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I love the quote where you’re like at the end of the Clinton campaign, and you say, I need 15 days, and then I can think about my husband going to prison. I want to talk about that later. But I want to talk a little bit about how growing up in what you call Hillary land and in this extreme work environment, I mean, purposeful and wonderful, but like extreme. Do you think you built up a callous, almost, to certain kinds of stress and an ability to function? I want you to tell the audience like how you got through the days and how you kept it all going.

HUMA ABEDIN: I would say two things, one is faith, it’s why I chose to write about being an American Muslim, try to explain to people what it is to be an American Muslim, because I don’t… And it is how it is a whole way of life, and the notion of community, and how central that is to our existence. And what is Muslim prayer? Essentially, it is a meditation. It’s stepping back from the world, calming down, reflecting on your deeds and your actions and your intentions. And it’s a conversation between you and higher power, whether you believe in God or not. I mean, essentially. So, for me, that always centered me. I share some scenes in the book where I sit on my pink chair, I’m actually staring at it right now, and I would pull out our holy text and just the sound of it was so melodic. So, finding a place to center myself, that was one. And two was this, I always felt knowing, and maybe this is because I’m a product of immigrant parents, but knowing that I had two parents who sacrificed for us. For them, education was almost a religion. They told me when growing up, you can be anything you want. I don’t care. I just, all we care is that you be educated. So, I always carried a sense of gratitude for the privilege that I had, always knew there was somebody who had it worse than me always. Even when I was in therapy, I knew there was somebody who had a worse situation than I did. But I’ll tell you, one of the things early on I learned from a therapist was, you shouldn’t like diminish what is happening. You have to, Hillary told me this actually, sitting in her office, you have to recognize what she told me in 2011, “Something is happening to you, and you to process it.”

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Well, it doesn’t serve you. There comes this point it seems where you’re like extreme ability to stay focused and compartmentalized in the thick of it stops serving you.

HUMA ABEDIN: Yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. By 2016, I note I couldn’t even feel anymore. It felt selfish to have feelings. And just think about that concept, that you are that human being that doesn’t believe you’re entitled to feel anything, because that’s how much devastation you feel you have wrought on your world. And really, you’re [inaudible 00:13:26] country.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Why? Tell us why. Let’s go there.

HUMA ABEDIN: Well, that was the Comey moment, that was the moment that the investigation, the FBI investigation was reopened, and the minute it was my name and Anthony’s name brought into it, and I thought, “Wow, this is something, this is a problem I thought I had solved, and clearly, I hadn’t.” And we were in an election 11 days out, that was so close where every little thing mattered, and here was this big thing and we’re on an airplane and everyone’s looking at me as I said, I simultaneously averted and questioning.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Like it was your fault or Anthony’s fault or whatever.

HUMA ABEDIN: I never felt, and I say this very clearly in the book and I’ve answered this in interviews, I never felt either outwardly or from the behavior that anyone on my team, any of my colleagues, anyone in Clinton land, certainly not my boss, ever, ever blamed me ever, in the way they treated me. But it didn’t mean I didn’t feel it. They didn’t have to say it for me to feel it. And I felt, boy, did I feel it.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Right. I can’t even imagine. It also strikes me that, and I picked this up from you in the book, like you’re a pleaser, you like to keep people happy. And that you felt that you had let down your family, you felt you had let down the people at work who you loved, and you felt you had let down democracy, and that’s a lot.

HUMA ABEDIN: Yeah, that’s a lot. And as you read in the book, it’s a lot and it’s not healthy, and it wasn’t tenable, and it took me to a very dark, collectively took me to a very dark place. And the only way I was able to get out, really was seeking professional help and really understanding. I wonder, Morra, since we’re having this conversation, if so much of the decisions I made was because I did have this tendency to compartmentalize, and as somebody who spent her life in control, I mean, that’s who I was, how I was.

HUMA ABEDIN: Somebody asked me the other day, “How is it that you came to the United States and you didn’t go nuts after living in Saudi Arabia? Why weren’t you out partying and drinking and meeting all kinds of men? As you say yourself, your parents raised you in a way to say this is the way we live, it is your choice. We’re not forcing you to do anything. This is just a model.” And I guess I do recognize that myself, I was able to maintain control over my body, over my thoughts, my mind. So, to be in a relationship where you felt, and then obviously in a job where so much was out of your control, how hard that was to understand.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I can’t even, right, because for years, your whole job was to make giant diplomatic trips happen, and like move mountains, and then all of a sudden it stops.

HUMA ABEDIN: Yes. Yeah. Well, Morra, no one asked me the story in the book, which I… And I keep forgetting to mention it, a young woman at one of my… The college events had become my favorite going to universities, I have to say. And she came up to me and she said, “The story in your book that I love the most is the speech story that early, early on, and it’s the heat of impeachment, it’s the first event that I’m staffing Hillary in the city.” She goes up to this, to deliver a speech, there’s applause coming together, she’s about to go to the podium, and she points her finger at me and asks me to come over, and as the invisible staff person, you’re never summoned to stage unless it’s really bad. And when I walk up to her, she says, “I don’t have the right speech.” And in that moment, watching the entire room and all the press on me, my legs beginning to shake, I said to her then what I always say when there’s a problem, which is, “I got it.” And it didn’t mean I had it because I didn’t have the speech. I had to run outside, run to the limo where she left it. But this notion to the point you’re making, and I appreciate you making this point, that when there was a problem, that was my job. I fixed it. I got it.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: You got her clothes out of the east river and she wore the suit and like nobody even knew. Yeah.

HUMA ABEDIN: The east, which by the way, even Hillary Clinton did not know, she was well past her first lady days before she discovered that her clothes were floating in the east river 12-hour hours before she wore them for a speech, or that I would hide clothes from her in the third-floor cedar closet of the residence, so that she wouldn’t be wearing outfits that I thought were less than fashionable. All these things, she discovered years later. Yeah, we were fixers a few of us, and I was certainly on that team.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: You were a queen fixer. But you also say like, you almost kind of like throw it aside that you were always waiting for bad news to happen. I guess that was part of the job of being an advanced person, is to protect against. So, if that was sort of a habit that you got into, like my job is to anticipate and be ready for the bad news, when the bad news, the really bad news happened in your life, do you think it made you more ready, or less?

HUMA ABEDIN: No, I do think, for a long time, this book was called bracing.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Sounds like a plane crash, like bracing for impact. Right?

HUMA ABEDIN: Well, right. So I had… I was being a little, I thought clever about it, because on the one hand, bracing, I was always the bracing, the support for other people, whether it’s my parents traveling with my father while he’s ill pushing his wheelchair through airports, my boss, my spouse. So, that was one. And then the other was I was always bracing. It was… Whenever anything was too good, I was always waiting for that next phone call, the next aha, were accusing you of this, or aha, there’s going to be this story and the tabloid. And every day, I built kind of a wall in front of me to prepare for impact. And frankly, I wonder, even as I write the letter, I wrote the letter to Anthony that I’ve start the chapter about waking up at Buckingham Palace, and even when we were at the top of the world, I mean just this-

MORRA AARONS-MELE: You were pregnant, you wanted to tell him.

HUMA ABEDIN: I was pregnant, and I wrote a letter to Anthony on stationary saying how is it possible for two people to have so much and be so happy? Like we have to be so grateful to God for what he has given us. And four days later, my house of cards came crashing down. And I wonder if even during that period, I was always bracing for this, as it’s too good to be true.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Bracing is anxiety. That’s like the definition of—

HUMA ABEDIN: Yeah. And no one has actually phrased it or framed it in that way. But it is anxiety, maybe just latent anxiety that I wasn’t conscious of. But I certainly lived in that space for a long time. And I wonder if I lived in that space since my father died.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: I want to talk about shame. Shame is so instructive. It’s something as we all of us lovers of Brené Brown know that we all feel and we try to avoid it like the plague. But I can’t imagine something more shameful than a lot of what you went through with your husband and the stakes. Talk about the shame you felt maybe, and then what your relationship with shame is right now.

HUMA ABEDIN: Yeah. The chapter Shame, Shame, Go Away and Elephant in The Room, I, to no surprise to me, have really, I’ve gotten a lot of response from people who’ve read the book on those two particular chapters. And I think for a couple of reasons, one, any immigrant, certainly South Asian, middle eastern culture, there is a… And by the way, I think this is a relic that should be forever banished, but there is a notion that women came, carry the shame for the community, for the family certainly, in a certain way. It’s a cultural relic where you bring shame upon the family based on your actions. And again, not that my family was necessarily that way, I was raised in a very progressive family. But I also think generally, and maybe this is, I’m making this too gendered, but I do think women feel judged for the decisions they make in their personal life, and they do feel shame. And I just need to look at the notes on my phone that I’m receiving from women. What I went through with Anthony, I don’t believe is something only I went through. I just had to go through it on the front page of the newspaper, unfortunately. I think a lot of women go through this same… It’s a cycle, the betrayal, the shock, the devastation, the judgment on the decision, whether it’s staying or going.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: The codependency, right?

HUMA ABEDIN: Absolutely the codependency. I mean, the number of interviews I’ve done where people have said… Actually, I want to say certainly on my Cable News interviews, I maybe I’m exaggerating, but I think on 90 percent of the interviews, I am asked, “Why did you stay for so long? Why?” This big, your critics, ask why you stayed for so long. And codependency is a big part of that. And you think about, as you read the story of my relationship with Anthony, I certainly had a partner who was co- in every way. To have somebody who, when you return from five days on the road around the world, there is food in the fridge, there’s hot dinner at the table, the laundry’s done, your child’s doctors, dentists, and playmates appointments are all done, that is co-dependent. Absolutely is co-dependent.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Well, but it’s also codependent to be with an addict and to write in a way just pretend like it’s all going to be okay. And I felt for you as the breadwinner, I have to just say that. I was like, you know what, this woman got judged, but like who else was going to earn the money? And I think a lot of women can relate to that as well. So, I just wanted to say that.

HUMA ABEDIN: I do. And also, and I appreciate you saying that more. And I also think, and I think the point about codependency is important, but I do also think I did not understand what addiction was, what mental health challenges were. For me, illness was physical. I watched my father battle renal failure, then a kidney transplant, I watched all of that. In every case there’s a problem, a solution a fix, whether it’s surgery or medicine. The mind is a complicated place. And whenever somebody says to me it happens fairly often, I just don’t understand. I look right back at them and say you are lucky because you are untouched. You don’t have a partner, or a child, or a parent, or a loved one who is dealing with dependency issues of any kind of dealing with compulsive behavior, battling addiction. You don’t understand. And I envy you. You’re lucky. I was you in 2010, I don’t have the luxury of living in that world anymore because I am with somebody who is the father of my child. And I will be in a relationship with him for the rest of my life. That’s just in its work. And we will, we both have to do the work, but especially him. And now that he’s committed to the work, it’s a different relationship. But I don’t have to live with, as you said, the anxiety and the codependency. It’s nice to not have that, those feelings anymore.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Do you still feel shame?

HUMA ABEDIN: No. No. And it’s why I write. One, I was done with it. I felt I was, again, lucky that I, a lot of people might not remember, I was working in the Obama administration, I was in the state department when all this was happening. And then of course I’m pregnant. And with all these government officials and nobody, should I say something, should I not say something, should I ignore it? It was actually quite funny, but I did feel like the Elephant in The Room, I was the person who walked in and voices stopped, or the furtive glances there in a way, or the worst were people pitting, and some so sorry, and feeling sorry. That was the worst, and I felt shame because I was shamed. And one of the many reasons when people say why did you stay, Anthony, and I really ended up in a bunker together. We had an incredibly supportive family, both of us, we’re here, we love you, we’re here, show up whenever we needed them to his family, brother, parents, my sister. I mean, I write the story of Hillary flying my brother and mother to Abu Dhabi to be that they were always there as were my work friends. But nobody could actually practically help us or talk to us about what to do and how to seek help. Again, how much of this conversation is informed by shame, right? You didn’t talk about those two things. So, we were navigating this on our own. I didn’t know who to trust outside of my family, and even my friends, I didn’t know. When you started reading articles in the paper, I write about not knowing who’s telling people what I’m saying, and then having people say mean things to us on the street and recognizing this is now my family, I have a life growing inside of me. So, I really did become protective of our little family unit.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: So, what’s your advice? Someone’s listening to this show and they are going through their own version of shame. And again, I think all of us fear shame more than we fear lots of things. That’s a lot of anxiety is the fear of being shamed. What’s your advice for someone when they’re grown up and they are going through something that they are deeply ashamed of, and their fear of being outed, of being blamed, of whatever, the looks, but they have to get up and go to work anyway? How do you do it?

HUMA ABEDIN: Well, I, for me, it took time, number one. One thing I always say to particularly young people, it’s okay to not be okay. And I don’t think as I—

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Even when you’re running a presidential campaign and the—

HUMA ABEDIN: Yeah, it’s okay to not be okay. And I really allowed my mental health, which really took a turn. I had to accept that I was not okay and accept that I needed help. You have to recognize that and accept it. Part of it for me is I had my limit, and I think everyone reaches their limit. My limit was when Anthony was about to leave for prison, and this woman coming up to me because I was allowing my son and his friends to be in the swimming pool with Anthony. And she came right up to me and said shame on you. And that was it. That was my kind of no, no, I know I’m doing what the right thing, is my child is about to lose their father for I don’t know how long, and I’m going to do what’s best for him. And the chapter with that line, shame is what we teach our children. It is not what is born of their authentic experiences. And one of the biggest lessons I learn is being shamed often has nothing to do with you, and more to do with what other people are going through themselves, what other people are battling their own demons, their own insecurities, their own betrayals.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Their own husband cheating.

HUMA ABEDIN: Thank you. I mean, their own environments, whether it was their father, their mother, their… There is always something. But when it’s happening to you, you think, “It’s because of me. I’m the person, I have done the wrong and I deserve to be shamed.” But you have to get there. And I think, number one, again, my biggest lesson is to recognize you’re not okay, and that to accept you’re not okay and it’s okay, and to get help. I needed help, I needed to professional help in the end to really get through on the other side. I was pretty closed or at least didn’t understand it for a while. I had to let go. You do have to let go of some of your own misconceptions or your own perceptions about what other people believe. How many times you go into a party and you think somebody looks at you wrong? And oh my God, they’re mad at me, and you’re trying to think through all the reasons, all the things that you did to them and you don’t know. I’ve become very direct in my conversations and communications with my friends. And I’ve also, I didn’t listen to the interview, but I heard Oprah said this the other day, “I think you also have to find your family. You don’t need to have 150 friends, you have three friends, four friends, two friends, one friend, a space and a place where you feel accepted and loved and not judged.” And I have certainly found that two of my tribe, we call ourselves the three musketeers, hosted a book party from her yesterday, and that is the one thing I said I took friendships for granted most of my life. I don’t do that anymore. I cherish the friendships I have because they’ve really carried me through and helped me through some hard times. But I have to do the work, to get a text from somebody to say just checking in to see how you feel, you need to reciprocate. It’s you have to participate in that relationship. I do that now.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: How did you keep going, also with the shame, but I would imagine the anger? I would imagine that there were times that you just thought the thought of Anthony, the thought of it just made you both so angry, and then you had to go to work and be on the street and deal with the shame. When you were in the thick of it, did you have like a mantra that you told yourself? Did you just look at your schedule and think I have to just do this? Like literally, how did you get through the day?

HUMA ABEDIN: Well, Morra, I think for me, a lot of it was I had the benefit of having a job that I loved, that was always purpose driven, that was all encompassing. So, I always had a place to go, a thing to do, a mission. There was always a mission. Even people are often surprised when they finish some part of the book and they’ll say, “I don’t…” Or actually before they’ve read the book, and they said, “How is it possible that things got worse for you after 2016? Wasn’t those last two weeks the worst?” I said, “Well, yes. But it was a mission. Our mission was November 8th, it was getting her elected, we were a team, we were in it together.” It’s when you feel the isolation, the loneliness, that everything, at least for me, started deteriorating. But the way I got through it was having a purpose driven life. Having a child, the reality is, yeah, you will want to stay in bed for days maybe, but if you have a five-year-old, that’s not actually possible. I had become a single mother for 18 months, which I have to say, I believe single parents are heroes, she-roes, and they-roes. It was really hard when Anthony was away. So, to have these things you had to do got me through, and I guess I have to say my faith it’s the only other thing I think really, really carried me through. And at some point I was kind of unapologetic. I was no longer willing to retreat into my shell and say I’ll take it. I had reached my limit.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: You reach your limit.

HUMA ABEDIN: And the anger and the bitterness got… I mean, I found, and you now know, I found that I was so angry and I was so bitter and I didn’t understand for years. And all it was doing was damaging myself. I mean, I was basically just torturing myself, this term that I learned from Anthony who has been much more deeply involved in therapy than I have, which is pain might be necessary but suffering is optional. Really, I was suffering. I was suffering, deeply suffering, and it almost killed me, I think. I believe so I had to find a way out.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: And was therapy that way out? What was the way out?

HUMA ABEDIN: Yes. We had to do it together. It was confronting things that were the most painful. And we went through a process together, we met with professionals to do it. And for me, that was understanding and knowing the whole truth, and doing the work, you have to commit to the process. Some people do it, and some people do it and they it actually repairs their relationship, repairs their marriage, even, in cases. But for me, as Anthony and I would discuss, for us, secrets had become cancers. So, we really had to approach this from a therapeutic process, and it took a while and I thought, boy, there were some really, really bad low days. But everyone who’d been through it had said you need to stop pain shopping as they called these things, and I was trying to figure out and understand the behavior and understand what was happening.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: What does pain shopping mean?

HUMA ABEDIN: Well, pain shopping is when I was the two periods of my life where I started going through Anthony’s emails trying to find out what he was doing and what he was saying and who he was communicating with. And the first time I did it in 2009, I found nothing. There wasn’t that anything to see. And by obviously 2000 and… I guess it was 19, I did find some very painful things. But more than that, I processed all of it with Anthony. And that’s the only way we’ve been able to move forward to have open honest, direct conversations. I think people sometimes they’re just surprised at how okay we seem, but it was work to get here, and he continues to do the work on himself. I see him continuing to do the work on himself.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: My last question is about your relationship with time because I feel so deeply, I worked on campaigns too, and after a losing campaign, there was a sense of just, oh my God, what do I do now with all this time? My entire purpose in life has… So, I would imagine for you for like 20 plus years, you probably never had a spare minute, which is very helpful when you want to compartmentalize.

HUMA ABEDIN: Absolutely.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: So, that must have been scary. And then like now, do you have free time now? What’s your relationship with time?

HUMA ABEDIN: Now, my father always told me that a good life is a balanced life, and I did not follow that advice. I write a chapter in the book about being in a family wedding 25 years ago, my proverbial folk fork in the road, and I got a call asking if I wanted to go to Argentina for the first lady, and I took the call. I always took the call and I always left. And as I wrote, a 22-year-old and always in a hurry to get somewhere, I rarely thought about what I was leaving behind, and that was always the case. I was always leaving, always busy, always working, and it affected everything. Affected my relationship with my family, certainly my friends, and my physical health. But I had the benefit of doing a job that I loved. I mean, really was obsessed with frankly, work came first, even when I met Anthony, I write it was great to meet this very charismatic Congressman, but nothing was coming away in the way of my job. And we sort of fell in love by accident by happenstance. It’s only when I was forced to get off the treadmill, which really Hillary helped me rebalance, and I share the scene of doing an event with Charles Strait in 2017, and Hillary says, “It’s okay. Go be with your son. You don’t have to be here.” And sometimes that you can do that self-correcting and sometimes other people do that for you. She definitely did that for me. My relationship with time is much healthier. I mean, I know what weekends are now, I didn’t before. I love to go out and be in nature. I’m whole and happy and just most at peace when I’m in nature and with my son, and just… So, I like to notion of having rebalance in my life. And for me, this is the next chapter, I think about the fact that my father was my age when he was 46, when he was told he had five to 10 years. And I think about what he did in the years he lived after that, and it was extraordinary, traveling the world, starting a foundation, giving speech. I mean, just extraordinary. So, it gives me a lot of hope and possibility for my future. So, I’m not going to stress about it, at least not right now. I don’t have anxiety. But-

MORRA AARONS-MELE: You’re not bracing?

HUMA ABEDIN: I’m not bracing. I’m not bracing. And that is a very strange space and place for me to occupy because I’ve been embracing for as far back as I can remember.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Thank you, Huma. I wish you good health.

HUMA ABEDIN: Morra, I have so enjoyed this conversation. It has felt as though this was therapy session. Was that intentional? Because—

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Well, you’re not the first to say that.

HUMA ABEDIN: I’m relaxed, I now want to keep talking for hours, I want to look at my clock saying, “What do you mean time is up? Already?”

MORRA AARONS-MELE: That’s funny. Well, thank you for that.

HUMA ABEDIN: Well, you can charge a lot of money, just mentioning that. You would do very well.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: Okay. I’ll tell my producer to keep it in.

HUMA ABEDIN: Tell your producer.

MORRA AARONS-MELE: That’s it for today’s show. Thank you to my producer, Mary Dooe. Thanks to the team at HBR. I’m grateful to our guests for sharing their experiences and truce. For you our listeners who ask me to cover certain items and keep the feedback coming, please do send me feedback. You can email me, you can leave a message on LinkedIn for me, or tweet me @morraam. And if you love the show, tell your friends, subscribe, and leave a review. From HBR presents, this is Morra Aarons-Mele.

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