By Jen Pastiloff
I just got back from leading a beautiful retreat for Mother’s Day. I feel hung over today. From love. Is that even a thing? It is now. I’m in bed trying to process it all. One of my favorite writers came, Christa Parravani, who is a dear friend. She wrote the book Her. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend it highly. I also partnered with Christy Turlington Burns’ Every Mother Counts and gave away a free spot. It was a remarkable and heart-mending weekend. It is truly a great honor to support Every Mother Counts.
At one point, we were talking about depression and I mentioned an essay I had written last year on my own depression and how I had gone off of my anti-depressants. I said to the group, “I wrote this essay about going off my meds. I’m back on now and I haven’t written about it because it’s no one’s business.” It’s not. I am not ashamed of it but it’s not my job to alert the media of everything. So I said that and then decided that maybe I should make a video about it. Who knew my videos were going to be such a thing. Must be the high production value. (Not.)
So I had a beautiful lunch and went out to sit in the cacti and I couldn’t do it. My hands were shaking and I started to sweat. I started and stopped it five times. I couldn’t do it.
I never get scared to make videos or write. Except when I do. And when I do, it’s usually something that I have to do.
Like I always say, I am afraid I a lot. But I do it anyway. I buy my fear a cup of coffee (or wine) and show it how it’s done.
I thought that making a video about being back on my anti-depressants was like a who the f*ck cares? kind of thing. I mean, I am not curing cancer or saving babies. Who cares that I take meds? But after I shared that I was back on and I was not ashamed five people in five minutes came up to me to thank me.
I had hired a sound therapist to give a sound concert for the people at my retreat with Tibetan singing bowls and a gong. Her name is Fawntice Finesse and she’s magic. For real. Anyway. We went into the yoga studio for the concert. Everyone was lying on their mats with their eyes covered and their socks and I shot up. I knew I had to make the video. I quietly stepped over all the bodies as the sun was setting and, with still shaking arms, made the video below.
I am not ashamed of being on anti-depressants. This is not to create a debate about whether you should or should not be on meds. This is not to discuss which meds I am on or how many milligrams. This is to create an honest discussion about depression, about how it does not define us, about how we must do what it takes to get out of bed. How it does not define us. Just like if you have cancer, you are not your cancer. You are not your job. You are not your depression.
I remember when that essay of mine went viral. I made the mistake of reading a few comments before I realized I was never to do that again. Maybe you should reconsider leading “inspirational” retreats, lady? Maybe you should stop taking people’s money? Maybe you should do more yoga?
I never call my retreats inspirational just like I never call myself an inspiration. If someone says that about me, well, I have no say in that. I do my best to share about my own journey and to have a sense of humor. And to love. That’s it.
My workshops are not woo-woo although Kaisa McDonnall Coppola, from my Mother’s Day Retreat said this, “Loved loved loved the retreat. I can’t imagine how you even describe your retreats other than kumbaya-badassness-where we get to say ‘fuck’ out loud and in our journals. Thank you, Jen…you are sending out ripples of coolness all over the world.”
We do (a little) yoga, we share, we listen, we let the snot fly, we sing, we pay attention. I am certainly not preaching “Positive thinking.”
But there was a little part of me that was afraid that I was shooting myself in the foot by talking so openly about this stuff. I realized, however, that this was precisely why I had to share. I want to take the stigma away from this. I am not encouraging you to walk down the street vomiting your secrets or over-sharing. But I realize there is so much shame and misunderstanding surrounding mental health and depression that perhaps I would be doing a great disservice if I wasn’t forthcoming. After all, I am not ashamed, so why not speak of it?
I have been depressed since I can remember. Then my dad died and that nearly took the life out of me. I left NYU with one year left after being a scholar because of my severe depression and anorexia. And yet, I never did a damn thing about it. When I finally had another breakdown years later at the restaurant I had been working at for thirteen years, I finally went on anti-depressants.
And they saved my fucking life.
Did they make me “happy?”
But they threw down a rope into the well I had been stuck in and I began to climb out, little by little. And my life changed. And I didn’t want to die anymore.
Cut to about a year and a half or two years ago. My life was “amazing” by any standards. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get pregnant but I knew I couldn’t with the particular meds I was taking so I began to ween off because hey, my life was amazing and I maybe wanted to have a baby. Maybe.
The truth: It was terrible being off. My life was amazing amazing amazing just look at her amazing life and yet, I couldn’t even get out of bed to brush my teeth. But still, I stayed off. I weened off slowly.
I would get hundreds of emails a day (yes, a day), and lead retreats and I had a great husband and yet.
I felt flat and like a nothing person.
All the amazingness does not matter when you have something chemically awry in your brain or you are dealing with depression. I don’t need to remind any of us of Robin Williams, do I?
I finally was completely weened off (I went very slowly as I couldn’t afford to go through any serious withdrawal.) The minute I was 100% clear of my meds, we tried to get pregnant. Once.
And it worked.
It was an emotional roller coaster, to say the least, and then, the pregnancy ended up being ectopic.
Here I am, off my meds. Pregnant and then no longer pregnant. I am slowly slipping father and farther drown the rabbit hole. Then, I break my foot.
You would have thought I was dying. It affected me so profoundly and I fell into possibly the darkest place I have ever been in. Continue Reading…