Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here. Please share this essay as I feel it is tremendously important that we begin to shatter the stigma of mental health. Tweet, FB it, send to a friend, Instagram it. Whatever you can do.
By Haley Jakobson
There is something about New York City that makes me feel like I could die at any second. Then again, that could be the depression.
How are we gonna talk about it? Should we speak in scientific terms: the levels of serotonin in my brain are depleted, it can’t make them go up on its own, so I have to create them with chemicals? Or should I explain it in poetry: my skin with gaping holes sucking in the sadness of the entire island of Manhattan, find a stopper plug me up so I can breathe again? Which works for you?
I’ve been on this medication for four weeks now and it works, and it’s a miracle, and I’m still a mess and I still cry in public and I’ve written more than I have in months. I’m kissing boys in screenplays I wrote for myself and sketching poetry like a map of my twenties. My brain isn’t betraying me on every street I turn onto and I don’t look at my dogs and wonder if the human race has deceived an entire species out of their happiness. Now I can see that my dogs are actually pretty fucking happy.
So here is my Drug Manifesto: thank you tiny white pills for tweaking my wires back into place. For letting me laugh and put sparkles around my eyes, and thank you even more for letting me fall to my knees and cry. I started medication the week before you broke up with me and hallelujah for that because some force of light let me heal three days into my new prescription, not the 4 weeks I was told to be patient for. Three days and brightness shone. And then you broke up with me. And then wrenching devastation. But as I cried up and down the streets of New York fucking City, the day of the marathon, with thousands of people on my literal block, I was only heart broken. I was not depressed. I sat on a police barrier and sobbed. But I was not depressed. I bought a tiny plant and put it in my pocket and cried harder when the dirt spilled, but I was not depressed. I impulse booked flights to Aruba and I cursed the adrenaline coursing through me because I knew it was masking the sadness, but I wasn’t depressed. I was just heartbroken. I couldn’t get to my apartment because the road was blocked but I didn’t think I was dying. Because I was only heartbroken and not depressed. I celebrate this. I would have taken neither but I’ll take heartbreak this time. I’ll take feeling my own heart, mine, over the desperate unknowingness – the loss of my intuition, I’ll take it over depression. If those are the cards I’m dealt, I’ll take them.
Sarah Silverman says depression is feeling homesick except you’re already home. Losing the home inside myself will never ever be something I choose. That is mine and if a tiny white pill needs to remind me of that, then praise that glorious silver angel and the holy water that helps her sing.
I will not suffer for my art. I will demand a safety to spill my art into many containers of raw and red and full of discomfort but I will not suffer and you don’t have to either. If this speaks to you remember that your brain can lie when it is very very confused. It doesn’t want to lie to you but it can and its not your fault. Your throat doesn’t mean to be sore but when it is you coat it with honey. I’m coating my brain with honey, too.
I am still a writer and an actor and a lover of love and a spiritual being. I am still a certified yoga teacher even though I don’t need a certification to prove that, and I also don’t need a record of medical purity to be a full-feeling person. I’ve never been on birth control, I don’t drink coffee, I’m mostly vegetarian and I say please and thank you. I am enlightened for every scar I have to show. I’ll wear this battle like a badge on my forehead. I am an active participant in my own healing.
I’m still sad and scared. I still don’t want to leave my bed. I ate Chinese food that was bad for me and I really like donuts these days. I am sometimes rude at work. I am bummed when a boy doesn’t text me back. I spill my guts on the Internet because it’s better than texting and I am learning self control the hard way. I have tremendous anxiety and I am really afraid of dying. Sometimes I have to take different medicine for that. I talk to my therapist twice a week. I take a lot of baths. I write like morning prayers and night time ones too. I do yoga and I try to meditate. I listen to my friends and my parents. I pet my dogs. I am kind to my coworkers. Healing comes in so many different ways. I embrace my depression but I will not succumb to it. I worked as hard as I could to try and heal before I couldn’t move from the couch. I asked for help and I am glad. When your brain is sick it is sick. When a child has a cold they have a cold. There can be many reasons why, but first try the chicken soup, the warm compress, the toast with peanut butter. Then ask the questions. Ask when there is time to reflect. Do not ask when breathing is compromised and you are shivering. Cover yourself in blankets. Suffering is not your prescription, healing is.
To my friends who don’t have depression, don’t ask us what to do. It’s hard to answer. But I say try. Try hugs. Try listening. Try hikes in the park with us and eating lots of vegetables. Try embracing who we are when we are depressed but remind us of who we are when we are not.
To you, I just wanted you to accept me. And then I wanted you to hold me. I wish you had watched that whole video. I wish you came to visit. Instead you left me and I am angry and sad but I know you were the last thing I was scared of letting go of so I had to. I’m not scared of losing anymore. It’s a relief. I can go to bed tonight with my intuition to hold me. I can write without losing my train of thought. I can grieve fully because my brain and my heart are back together again. My truth is my truth and the lies are shrinking in the corner. I am not ashamed of asking for help. I am an active participant in my healing. There’s a revolution under foot. I am beginning it.