WASHINGTON–Sen. John Fetterman, in his first interview since leaving the hospital, revealed the “downward spiral” of depression that sent him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for six weeks.
Despite the ongoing challenges of stroke recovery, the Pennsylvania Democrat had a lot going for him. Supported by his loving family and one of the most successful teams in politics, he had just flipped a Republican-held U.S. Senate seat in battleground Pennsylvania, edging out GOP challenger Dr. Mehmet Oz.
Though he won one of the most closely watched races in the country – and most expensive – that helped to determine which party controlled the Senate, somehow he felt like he lost.
“You may have won, but depression can absolutely convince you that you actually lost,” Fetterman said on CBS Sunday Morning. “And that was the start of a downward spiral.”
John Fetterman opens up about his depression
The downward spiral intensified from his November election to being sworn into office in January. He wasn’t getting out of bed. He wasn’t eating. He became robotic, going from appointment to appointment as directed by staffers, he said during the interview.
It reached a fever pitch on Feb. 15, when he checked himself into the hospital. It was also his son, Karl’s 14th birthday, a thought that made him tear up during the interview.
“It makes me sad,” Fetterman said. “You know, the day that I go in was my son’s birthday and I hope that for the rest of his life, his birthday, it’s be joyous and you don’t have to remember that your father was admitted.”
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CBS anchor Jane Pauley suggested the day marked his renewal and a birthday for both of them to celebrate.
“That’s a good way to look at it,” Fetterman said. “Looking forward to doing that.”
Fetterman will return to the Senate April 17. Between now and then he is spending time at his home in Braddock, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh and making up for lost time.
When asked if the 53-year-old politician has any aspirations beyond the Senate, he focused on family.
“You know, my aspiration is to take my son to the restaurant that we were supposed to go (to) during his birthday but couldn’t because I had checked myself in for depression,” he said, “and being the kind of dad, the kind of husband and the kind of senator that Pennsylvania deserves.”
Candy Woodall is a Congress reporter for USA TODAY. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.