She gave me a prescription for anti-depressants, and I just lay in bed waiting to see if I felt different. A few days later, I started feeling wildly restless and insatiably hungry, though the weight loss persisted. In the middle of one night, I heard a piercing cry and bolted straight up from a dead sleep before realizing the noise was coming from me. I had started wailing like a banshee. My dog, Banjo, who was asleep next to me, went flying off the bed in a panic. I probably would have terrified myself if I’d considered that disturbing stream of anguish, what it was and where it was coming from. It lasted over an hour. Confusing words erupted out of me unbidden, things like “I was just a little girl; it wasn’t my fault,” and “Why did you leave me at school? I was so little, I couldn’t get home!” and the plaintive refrain of my childhood, “Where is everybody?”
I told my doctor about it the next day, and she said that was something called “freeing of the affect.” Apparently, with the medication beginning to work, emotions that I hadn’t felt because I was depressed were beginning to be released. She said that it was normal and that I would continue to have these episodes, although they would be shorter and less intense over time.
A few weeks later, I made my first trip to Los Angeles in many months. I was feeling a little stronger emotionally and ready to begin re-engaging in my professional life. On the night of the Academy Awards, Valentino came to my hotel room and tied the sash on my Oscar gown, which made me happy, but at the Vanity Fair party that evening, I found myself feeling lonely and isolated in a big, festive crowd and decided to leave early. I was trying to sneak out when an exuberant friend led me across the room and sat me down next to an elegant man with a strong presence and a shock of gorgeous wavy black hair: Bobby Shriver.
We chitchatted; he was drawing little sailboats on his paper napkin, and I assumed that he was one of the idle rich. I asked, somewhat facetiously, with a little aggression, “So do you have a job?”
Bobby, it turned out, is a lawyer, journalist and businessman who cofounded A Very Special Christmas, which makes records with artists like Bono, Madonna and Stevie Wonder to support the Special Olympics, the spectacular organization founded by his mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. (His father, Sargent Shriver, had started the Peace Corps, and his sister, Maria, was then an NBC News reporter.) After he ran down his basic résumé, Bobby asked me, “What’s your job?”
I said, “Well, acting is my job, but it’s not my vocation.”
“So, what’s your vocation?”
I was not up for being coy, so I looked this stranger in the eye and said, “My vocation is to make my life an act of worship.”
He pushed back from the table, excused himself and went to the bathroom.
I was thinking, How’s that for an Oscar-party line? But it was the absolute truth, although perhaps more of an aspiration than a reality at the time. Even if I wasn’t doing social justice work, I was always praying, reading, writing and trying. God was the central fact of my life, the principle around which I tried to organize everything. Bobby later told me he didn’t really have to use the bathroom; he had to compose himself because he was so floored by my response, which he thought was the perfect answer. He came back to the table, and we talked about what the God of our understanding might be calling us to do. By the end of the evening, we knew we had made a deep, lifelong connection. We tried dating but quickly found out we were better at being spiritual siblings. He proved to be a perfect friend and always encouraged me to give more of myself, to be of service to the sick and the suffering, emphasizing that such a focus is not about pity but about justice.