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depression

depression, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, Writing & The Body

A Tale of 19 Wet Towels or How I Failed to Shed My Skin

March 23, 2017
towel

By Ella Wilson.

1. Birth

Every time in my life that I have had the opportunity – that is to say I have been in the presence of a huge coming or going or leaving or starting, a massive adding on or taking away – every time I have had the chance to step out, to leave behind, to shed, to transform, to butterfly, to snake – every time I could have showered off the detritus of some time in my life that lay heavy on my skin. Every time I could have grown, instead I wet-toweled.

2. Starting school

Here is how you wet-towel. You take the thing you might have stepped out of, a skin, a time, a loss, a tiny pair of pants, a hit in the face. You take that thing and you wrap yourself in it.

3. Suicide attempt age 12

You shiver at first because the wet towel makes you cold. The weight of it makes you slow. After a few days you start to smell old and nothing seems like a very good idea.

4. Puberty

Shame is sticky and the antidote to transformation.

5. Losing my virginity

Shame tells you to hide, unfortunately the tools it gives you for hiding promote shame on shame. Shameless self promotion.

6. Leaving school

When you would rather not be seen it is preferable to hide in anything you can find.

7. Leaving home

8. Getting a job

9. My father dying

When my father died I did not notice. This is not because I was not paying attention exactly, in fact I paid so much attention, maybe too much. Nursing him from when I was 13 to 22. But something can become normal, like someone being ill, like thinking someone won’t really die. So I slept on his hospital floor for months. I swabbed his throat with little pink sponges. I knew the nurses names. He died. I wanted to stay on the floor. I wasn’t ready not to have a father. I wore his clothes. I didn’t cry. I did not become fatherless. I just became personless.

10. Moving to America

11. Being hospitalized for anorexia

12. Getting married Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts, Surviving

Depression Stole My Mom

July 24, 2016
depression

By Julie Hoag

“I can do it myself,” I said, I was mad, insistent I do it all on my own.

I wasn’t going to let her fix this for me. I yanked hard to loosen my backpack to free it from a metal bar under my seat when my mom dropped us off at school that day in December. My thirteen-year old sister got out of the back seat, I got out of the front passenger seat. That was the last time I saw my mom alive.

We had tried to start my car before going to school, but I flooded the old black station wagon and it wouldn’t start. I wanted to take the new white station wagon and drive myself and my sister to school, but my mom needed it for the day. I was sixteen and I admit it, I was a brat. I wanted to drive myself, and not be driven by my mom. I could drive and I had a car, I never rode the bus and being driven by my mom embarrassed me.

We went to school, clueless to what horrors would come later in the day. I went through my day oblivious to others because I had the worst problem: my mom was sick. She had been losing weight and spent hours on the phone talking to friends. She saw untruths like my dad looked older and skinnier when he looked the same to me. She was different, not my dad. Continue Reading…

courage, depression, Guest Posts

I Fought For You

July 3, 2016
love

By Robin Rivera

I’m lucky lately when I don’t go immediately back to bed after giving a morning stroll through the kitchen wondering aimlessly.  My hormones are raging, I’m exhausted, and my bed is the safest place for me. I’m a month and a half pregnant, scared, insecure, and experiencing chronic depression, which I previously thought would never happen to me. I thought my darkest days had been left long ago in the beautifully deceptive streets of Beverly Hills. Oh, my glamorous alcoholic porn star days were hellish tainted with sex trafficking, corruption, and spirit crushers. I thought those were my darkest days.

I was wrong. That darkness, that gut wrenching pain, that out of control lost feeling is back, and I am fighting everything and everyone like a cat clawing its way up and out of danger. One day, I literally felt like I was drowning in hell with no one to turn to. While screaming in my car after being turned away from some self-help meeting for being late, I crazily broke my phone hoping the rage would somehow exit my body this way.  I was in overwhelming emotional pain. I was so desperate for relief from the trauma I was reliving somatically. My partner couldn’t support me for whatever reason, and I felt so alone and abandoned. Like what it might feel like to watch your child be murdered in broad day light & your screaming for help and everyone sees you, but no one lifts a finger. Yes, that’s how I felt a couple weeks ago, but about my own self. I’m still recovering from that day with embarrassing scars to prove what I am going through is deep enough to penetrate all layers of my happiness and hope. I’ve been searching for the lesson in this all… feeling paralyzed with fear and exhausted by anxiety. There are people screaming they love me, but it sounds like the faintest pen drop only muffled by my debilitating resentment for this experience.

I have everything good in my life I thought I’d never have. A really handsome, brave man trying to love me, my chance at stopping the cycle of abuse in my family, a prestigious college degree, a magical relationship with my six-year-old daughter…yet my self-destructive patterns have shown their ugly face again. This time with vengeance. Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts

Sensitivities = Superpowers

May 11, 2016
medication

By Jennifer Ann Butler

I am two weeks into withdrawing off of Wellbutrin (an anti-depressant) and I feel like my skin has little caterpillar legs on the inside and is going to tap dance off of my body.

I had my first date with an anti-depressant when I was thirteen years old. The best way I can explain it is that I was born with the volume turned way up on life. My hypersensitivity made day-to-day life quite challenging. I could hear electricity and people’s bones creaking, feel other people’s emotions, and see things that most said weren’t there. From a young age, I figured death as the only way out.

Since my teenage years, I’ve maintained a love/hate relationship with some form of medication. Most made me feel like a zombie. Others made me twitch. Others, yet, gave me stomachaches and caused hallucinations. I always felt disconnected from who Jen Butler really was. It was as if I was standing in a room full of mirrors; I could see my reflection, but I couldn’t connect with it on a human level. There would always be the piece of glass between us, preventing true connection. This resulted in a numbness that increased the longer I stayed disconnected. I remember times when I was so numb that I would run red lights to see if I could feel anything. I’d drive my motorcycle 110mph+ just to get some form of a sensation. Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts

The A-Okay Team, Owning My Shit & Mile 4

April 24, 2016
depression

Trigger Warning: This essay discusses suicide

By Regina Hastings

When I was a kid, I had two friends, John and Jared, who lived on the street behind my house. In the summer, we roller skated on Thayer Street and in the winter, we ice skated at Scanlon Playground. Racing around corners, passing each other in the rink, we grew well balanced through practice. But we had our fair share of tumbles. Each time, one of us fell, we would pop back up on our skates and yell to the others: “A – Okay” to show that we were not hurt. We were strong, we were the “A okay” team.

I haven’t thought about this memory in a long time until I started thinking about a strong defense mechanism I acquired over the years. I don’t have words for sadness because I don’t allow myself to feel it. I stumble, I fall, I bounce back up in “A – Okay” style.

That seems great because who wants to feel sad? It’s so uncomfortable.

But here’s what I have learned, there’s this protective coating that shields sadness. It is anger. And it can get ugly. Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts, Pregnancy

Not Waving, But Drowning: Pregnancy & Depression

February 25, 2016
depression

By Anonymous

As I idly looked at the prescription bottle of sertraline, I realized that one of the light blue warning boxes on the label read: Third trimester use can cause health problems. Discuss with your doctor or pharmacist. My third trimester started yesterday.

Since adolescence, depression has been a presence in my life. When I say depression, I’m talking about the kind that is clinically significant enough to warrant a low dose of antidepressants, but never interfered with my life to ruin a job or school. When I am overwhelmed with responsibilities or work, I take on more. And fulfill all of my obligations. Well, I might add. But when I got the news about my fertility last January, I went off my antidepressant, thinking I would get my body as “healthy” as possible for conception.

I made the decision to become a single mother by choice after getting the news that my ovarian reserve was very, very low. This pregnancy was planned meticulously. I had always wanted to be a mother, fiercely and desperately.

Things went well, until I started progesterone for the second half of my cycle every month for a luteal phase defect. The progesterone caused dark moods, irritability, and depression. Then Clomid gave me mood swings. When I got pregnant, I had to take an even higher dose of progesterone, twice a day, for the first 13 weeks, in order to improve my chances of keeping the pregnancy. That, along with the stress of not knowing how my family would respond, caused me agonizing, crippling anxiety and depression. Constant nausea and bone-crushing fatigue beginning at 6 weeks only added to my depression.

Arriving at my 20 week ultrasound and OB appointment by myself, the tech exclaimed, “All alone?” I said yes, and climbed up on the table. I was more interested in the actual fetal anatomy than any cute pictures – which, to be honest, I didn’t fawn over, nor did I think were cute. In the waiting room, another patient was there, along with her husband, her parents, his parents, and various brothers and sisters, poring over their ultrasound pictures. My pictures were folded up in my bag, and all I wanted to do was go home and sleep.

Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts, Young Voices

Masquerades

February 24, 2016
depression

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 associated with mental illness and depression. Tweet, FB it, send to a friend, Instagram it. Whatever you can do. We need to break the silence. 

Trigger warning: self harm and suicidal ideation.

By Anonymous

“It isn’t true that there’s a community of light, a bonfire of the world.
Everyone carries his own, his lonely own. My light is out. There’s nothing blacker than a wick.”
The Winter of Our Discontent, John Steinbeck

 

On December 13th, I blew out 24 candles with one simple wish—to die. It was the first time that I forced myself out of bed in days, as well as the first day in an even longer time that I ate. I know that people have it worse than I do. I know that my life appears “perfect” from the outside. But at the end of the day, that doesn’t make my circumstances any less significant. It doesn’t change the nights spent researching how to disappear. It also didn’t stop me from fantasizing about ending my life incessantly, even on my birthday. Even the most colorful candles couldn’t compete with the all-consuming darkness. How quickly the fire diminishes.

Depression is not poetic. Depression is not a cry for attention, nor is it a perquisite to creativity. Rather, it is Sylvia Plath had it wrong when she wrote, “Dying is an art, like everything else.” There is no art to feeling desperate enough to end your own life. The real art is endurance; it’s getting out of bed; it’s rummaging up the strength to make it through the day.

This year contained far too many hospital bracelets—too much bleach, too much time spent laying on train tracks in the middle of the night and jumping in front of oncoming traffic. As I type these empty words, I hospital bracelet remains tightly wrapped around my wrist; this particular fashion accessory was placed around my wrist the day after my birthday. I consider it my present to myself, a last resort of sorts. I made a promise to myself that if I walk through these doors feeling the same way that I felt when I came in that I will indefinitely end my own life.

Here, life is sterile. Here, you have to submit a request through your doctor to use saline solution. Here, the windows are shielded with metal. The pink University of New Hampshire blanket on bed is the only hint of color that surrounds me. The doors are permanently. Days flow together like words on a page. This cocoon of fluorescent lights and fifteen-minute checks transports us to a world that is as far away from reality as possible.

*******

Two weeks later and they tell me that I can’t go home. They call this the Short Term Unit, as though one is expected to transform from acutely at risk to “safe” in the blink of an eye. I pretend that I am better—I pretend that I don’t still salivate at the sight of sharp objects or abandoned rooftops. I smile at the doctor who has grown tired of the empty words that flow from my mouth. This purgatory is not my own.

Half of the time I long to be fierce, I long to wake up every day with the vitality and life that you swore that you’d permanently possess. The other half of the time, I’m too tired to get out of bed. I’m too paralyzed with fear to walk across the room. Days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months. I remember the days when I lived off of diet coke and I coddle those memories not for the sake of any outward appearance, but because those were the times when my life had a purpose. Direction. Something.

They look in from the outside and say, “you have so much to live for.” I promise that if I hear those words ever again, I’ll implode. No one teaches you that having everything is dangerously close to having nothing. No degree or G.P.A. or jean size will save me from myself. No amount of medications or shock treatments will lull the daymares of reality.

Everyday is a mental hospital masquerade, a tender seroquel-klonopin-trazadone whirlwind of unspoken words and hidden horror shows.

*******

Two months later I see that I spent June through February and back again fantasying about what life might be like without me in it and so much of that time, I realize now, was a life without me in it, anyway. It was a silent funeral for the unalive, a celebration of unbirthing. When Lux Aeterna becomes your anthem and the hospital becomes your home, you start to wonder what life was like before all of this.

When reading and writing is all together too foreign, you start to wonder if you even really exist. But it’s always right when all your faculties seem amiss that they finally start returning to you—you’re finally able to open a book, and it’s probably the same day that you’re finally able to open a blind.

The day that things shatter, the day the silence breaks, leaves your ears ringing. Six months later you are back in space and you realize what you thought was a home was a toxic incubator, what you thought was your anthem was a misplaced swansong. The air is so much colder than you remember it, but when you’re allowed to breathe it in again you do so in fierce, greedy gulps, not knowing how much of life is yours for the taking and how much you’ll be able to save for tomorrow.

You wish that you could swallow the sea, numb your limbs, and taste the salt. When there is no place left to wander, you descend to your final destination. Coming home happens in small, unsteady steps. First, it’s convincing gravity to be on your side. This takes a while. They’ll tell you about grounding as though you were meant to find paradise amidst the earth’s soil. Then, it’s convincing yourself to stay there. This takes an eternity. But you laugh, knowing now that you always had the time.

 

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough. Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough.
Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

 

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. This will be her only international retreat in 2016 and is her favorite retreat of the year. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

depression, Family, Gratitude, Guest Posts, healing, motherhood

Ritual

January 25, 2016

By Kate Fries

When my husband travels, my sons and I have pancakes for dinner.

It’s a ritual that transcends space and time. We’ve repeated it in different spaces as my kids have grown up.

I am listening to iTunes in my kitchen, bopping along to Rilo Kiley. It could be 2006 or it could be 2015. In 2006 we are in a suburb of Chicago, my kids play on the floor while I measure ingredients and wash fruit and the cat snakes her way around my ankles. We have just returned from a late summer walk. We talk about the “yucky mushrooms” we saw growing on neighborhood lawns and our upcoming trip to Disneyland. I am tired in this moment, dreading the witching hour without my husband to tag team with me, but we are happy.

Now, in 2015, we’re in Central California and my kids can help make dinner but they’re just as likely to be found lounging in front of the TV. The meal is the same, their requests are the same.

(“Can you put blueberries in the batter? Can we have whipped cream on top?”)

There was another house, another city, in between Chicago and here. There was a too-small kitchen and a window that looked out on the rosemary that grew abundantly in the backyard. I could watch my kids ride their scooters on the deck while I mixed and poured and flipped and sang along with the radio. That was the house I loved, despite its too-small kitchen and aging appliances. It broke my heart to leave.

But here we are in a new city, a new house. I grieve the loss of those former lives and years. I try to embrace what we’ve been given here. I try to heal myself as I come out of a fog that has lasted too long. There’s a dog now, instead of a cat, and I am working outside of the home so these evenings of solo parenting are more somehow more chaotic than they were when my kids were needy toddlers. My kids don’t chatter about Thomas and his friends or roll their Matchbox cars around my feet, they’re absorbed in handheld games, they’re reading Harry Potter and Jurassic Park. They talk about algebra and avoid talking about girls. And I am a little older and a little sadder than I was in Chicago.

I know I will miss these days, too.

I plate our pancakes, do a little shimmy in time to the Rilo Kiley song coming from my computer’s speakers. I sing along to the part I like best:

“You’ll be a real good listener

You’ll be honest, you’ll be brave

You’ll be handsome, you’ll be beautiful

You’ll be happy.”

Caught up in the music, I raise my spatula in the air, triumphant. I sing across time to my Chicago self and my Bay Area self in those other kitchens and tell them all of this will be okay.

My happiness has always seemed precarious and hard-won when others seem to have it abundance. Where we are right now—enjoying this exact moment in my newest kitchen, the one I never asked for but got anyway—is a victory. If my kids are listening to the lyrics I sing at all, I hope they understand I am trying to be my best self for them.

The pancakes are gluten free because that’s how we roll these days. We’re out of syrup tonight so we top our pancakes with Reddi-wip. Things are different and things are the same. Both can be good.Kate_Fries-DSC_5081

Kate Fries lives in Central California with her husband, tween sons, a labradoodle puppy, and a cat who came with the house. A full-time journalist at a mid-size California newspaper, her work has also appeared in Good Housekeeping, Huffington Post, Mamalode, and Club Mid. She can often be found running and listening to comedy podcasts.

 

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016.
Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was?
Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty.
Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

 

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough. Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough.
Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

depression, Guest Posts, Yoga Classes, Young Voices

Sometimes Smoothies and Yoga Aren’t Enough

January 20, 2016

By Emma Faesi Hudelson

I suffer from depression and lately, my mat has felt like a life raft. Not in a “yoga is saving my life” way. Not even in a “my practice is the only thing keeping me sane” way. It’s a life raft because I feel like I’ve been shipwrecked in the middle of the ocean, and if I don’t hang on to my raft, I’m going to drown.

Depression feels like roadkill looks. Unless I’m in the middle of one of my sobbing spells, I may look OK, but internally, I’m flat and messy as that raccoon I saw on my way to the grocery store this morning, all bared teeth and gaping guts.

When my brain gets like this, my practice changes. Sometimes, it becomes the only bright spot in my days. I look forward to it, even if everything else sucks. My mat is a place of refuge. I may not know if I’ll make it through my day without snapping at my husband or crying because I got hummus on my shirt, but I know I can inhale, exhale, and take a goddamn vinyasa.

More commonly, practice becomes a chore when I’m depressed. It’s another dreaded task on in infinite list. When brushing my teeth feels like an impossible effort, spending ninety minutes jumping around, folding, and twisting seems laughable. Even on those days, I’m sometimes able to force my way through it all, and I usually feel better for it, even if my body is so knotted with emotion that I can barely touch my toes.

The physical part of yoga does help. Working up a sweat means that exercise-induced endorphins release into my bloodstream, giving me a temporary mood boost. Breathing deeply soothes my nervous system. Backbends energize my emotions. The three closing lotuses give me a chance to consciously open a channel to God.

I know all this, but sometimes, I still can’t force myself to practice. Those days are the worst. Not only do I feel so bleak inside that I’m praying I get T-boned by a semi on my way to work, but I can’t do the one thing that I know will make me feel better. It’s hard not to beat myself up. Continue Reading…

Christmas, depression, Eating/Food, Guest Posts

Winter

December 18, 2015

By Nicole Gibbs

I pulled my dirty, fifteen year old mom van into the farthest corner of the parking lot. The same spot where years ago I’d waited for my connect, and later where I’d waited for people who were willing to buy my bad dope at a jacked up price. I turned the car off and glanced around, those old instincts on full alert. I reached down and brought the brown paper bag into my lap. I pulled out the greasy “Siracha Burger,” the box of curly fries. I made sure no one was looking and I tried to ignore the tendrils of guilt that teased at the edges of my consciousness as I bit into the spicy, salty burger.

Halfway through the guilt won out for a few moments and I paused, taking some deep breaths, my throat tight with food.

What was I doing?

I was a vegetarian!

I was on a diet!

Oh jeez. Quit being so uptight, I told myself. It’s one goddamn burger. It’s not the end of the world.

I didn’t want to keep eating it. I hated myself more with each bite. But it tasted so good! I couldn’t stop.

What was wrong with me?

What was the difference between this and the drugs? I mean, of course I wasn’t going to abandon my kids and go live on the streets so that I could eat Jack in the Box all the time. That would be ridiculous. But really, at the core, what was the difference? I used to sit in this same parking lot, watching the same city bus roll by, the Mexican families sitting at the Mc Donald’s across the street with too many kids running around, the same dirty street, the same fear of being seen, the same war going on inside of me, the same self-loathing afterwards. On a scientific level it’s all the same too, I suppose. I put this stuff into my body that’s really bad for me and it lights up all those dopamine receptors and I feel good for a minute and then I feel bad and want more. Continue Reading…

courage, depression, Grief, Guest Posts, Miscarriage

After The Miscarriage: A Letter to My BFF about my PTSD

December 14, 2015

Trigger Warning: This essay discusses the trauma that can come with miscarriage.

By Jessica van Alderwerelt

There is so much I’ve wanted to say but haven’t been saying because it is hard for me to talk to you about what I’m going through, writing seemed easier. There are a few important things I have to communicate to you that have been going on because not saying them, I think, has created expectations that I am doing better than I actually am.

In hopes that you’ll understand me better, I’m going to share some pretty dark shit with you that I’ve been working on in therapy. I’m chipping away at making sense of my trauma but it’s a process that takes time and I will never be the same as I was before. I wanted to die. I wanted to stop the pain so much I was considering killing myself to make it stop. It was the scariest. Not only was it the immediate trauma related to my pregnancy loss but it dredged up so much past trauma, like my rape and my parent’s divorce, and my mom’s cancer (and my cancer scare), and my dad being absent for all those years. Trauma (and PTSD) is like that. It brings up all the stuff that felt the same, every time I felt robbed, scared for my life, abandoned, etc. Some days I physically cannot get out of bed because there is 2,000 pounds of weight bearing down on me. I can’t lift my arms or head. If I don’t have plans or obligations and no one is watching, I literally do not get out of bed to eat or shower or see the sun. Often for days at a time. I am debilitated.

Here is something I wrote in therapy. Maybe it’ll give you some insight into what I’m going through:

I wasn’t supposed to get too excited about my positive pregnancy test or tell anyone until I was sure and because so much can happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. For me, I experienced 12 weeks of sweating every night, hugging my belly, dreaming about my new future, celebrating to myself that I was finally pregnant.

I was so excited about what motherhood would bring– making plans for vacations to Iceland (where I honeymooned) with my little Olive and her daddy. I bought things for her room– my favorite being a beautiful, small hand-carved and painted wooden elephant that opens with a little latch securing a tiny hiding spot. She would have it on her dresser as a baby with a love note from me in it, she’d hide her diary key in it as a kid, put it on her desk as a teen to store her forbidden lipstick, and she’d move it with her to her dorm room to stash some pot– she would always have Ellie the elephant as a tether to home. Continue Reading…

depression, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts, Young Voices

A 15 Year Old Girl Reminds Us: “I Am Not My Mental Illness.’

December 11, 2015

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. We are very proud of Giana!

By Giana Masso

When we think about mental illness, we too often picture the horror movie images: straight jackets, padded rooms, electroshock therapy, insane asylums.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why these portrayals in horror movies are entertaining, and chilling. We look at these characters as monsters, because they’re often violent, delusional, or dangerous in general. However, this caricature of mental illness is not entirely harmless in its value as entertainment.

What we see in the media changes the way we perceive real experiences. For example, if someone constantly sees news reports on how violent pit bulls are, it would be easy to make assumptions and develop a fear of pit bulls. This applies to the way we discuss mental illness as well. We only talk about mental illness in a time of tragedy. It makes these illnesses into characters, almost. Depression is associated with acting unreasonably, Anxiety is associated with rushed decision making. Bipolar disorders are associated with displays of moody, angsty reactions. We don’t see people with mental illnesses as people anymore: we see them as the illnesses themselves. Continue Reading…

death, depression, Grief, Guest Posts

Dead Space

November 15, 2015

By Betty Jo Buro

I chew the inside of my right cheek while I loop from closet to suitcase.  Jeans on the bottom.  Pajamas next.  I’ll save the dress for last. What a relief it would be to sob and fling my clothes in a twisted heap.  To keen, like the Irish women in the novels I used to read, to work my way through an entire box of tissues, soaking them with tears and snot.  But my mother, whose funeral I’m packing for, had no appreciation for spectacle, and has passed this trait on to me.  Perhaps it’s because she had four teenage daughters at one time, and intuitively knew, that if allowed, girl drama plus high levels of hormones could combine and possibly blow the roof right off of our house.  Our upset was never rewarded with her attention, and thus suppressed. And now, when I could really use a bout of hysteria, I can’t even cry. Instead, I run my tongue over the shredded skin on the inside of my mouth.  I carefully count out the appropriate pairs of underwear, roll and tuck them into the corners, filling the dead space, the way my mother taught me to pack.  The eulogy is placed in the carry-on.  Just in case.

There are shoe issues.  Emma, my oldest, has been charged with carrying her father’s dress shoes in her luggage.  He is working in Missouri and meeting us in Boston. She has plenty of room, but resents the idea of those big shoes in with her things.  Alice, my younger daughter, disapproves of my shoe choice.  She’s scandalized, actually, by my blue Louise et Cie closed-toe sling backs with the 2 and ¾ inch heel.  They match the design in my dress perfectly, and even though they’ve had two sleepovers at the shoe repair shop to  stretch the toe-box, I love them.

“You can’t wear those shoes to a funeral,” Alice says.

“Why not?”

“You just can’t,” she says, shaking her head.  I know she’s referring to the pointy toe, the ankle strap.  She thinks they are too sexy. She throws her hands up in a gesture that says, Mothers.  They never listen, and walks away. I turn the offending footwear so they are facing in, heel to toe, and place them in my luggage.

The next day, I wrestle the girls out of slumber and into the car for the long drive to the Ft. Lauderdale airport. Twenty minutes into the ride, Emma’s voice from the back seat, “Mom, I forgot my sandals.”  She means the ones she needs to go with her dress for the service. If we go back, we will miss our flight. I keep driving.  Inside my mouth, I taste the metallic tang of blood.

***

I am three days into my new routine of waking an hour before the sun rises to meditate, pray and write, when I call someone an asshole.   I am walking my dog Misty, and we have paused at the top of our street, under the shade of a Banyan tree to greet our neighbor-friends, Karen and McDuff.  I have been up for so long the day feels solid, as established as the blacktop under my sneakers, and it’s only eight am.   The orange grove across from us and the remnants of night-blooming jasmine carry an almost sickly sweet scent through the air, already thick with heat. Continue Reading…

depression, Divorce, Guest Posts, Marriage, Relationships

Construction Season

November 14, 2015

By Patti Carlyle

Summer seems an incongruent time to ponder life’s harder questions. Long and brutal winters in the Rust Belt present a more fitting time to look inward, everything thickly coated in Suicide Gray. Thoughts deepen and even darken, and it makes sense. By contrast the warm, sparkling days of Cleveland’s early summer are arguably the most beautiful, demanding a certain carefree hubris. But instead of fish tacos on patios, gin and tonics, afternoon sex or campfire lazing, I slid into a dizzying circular conversation with myself. Depression or divorce?

Orange barrels rush past the window, a translucent blur of stout, gaudy grandmas. Squinting into the distance looking for some broad blinking arrow, I try to predict lane changes. Sit up straight, hands at ten and two. The speedometer needle sinks left and I sharpen my focus. Rumble strips hyphenate the road mid-lane, a startling warning of a new traffic pattern. A driver for over 20 years, I still tense up in construction zones, still roll my eyes when the barrels begin gossiping in medians each spring.

And as the work begins each summer, I find myself muttering ‘didn’t we just do this?’

Depression or divorce? For two summers, this alliterative question worried a groove into my journals and tortured my therapist. Amused at my binary thinking and familiar with my white knuckle grip on a fanned deck of pessimistic options, he suggested that I refrain from applying intellect and instead feel my way through. Deep thought and analysis might not save my marriage, and I may still need clinical intervention. Worst case? Both. That’s how I saw it: terrible options all.

Predictive pessimism doesn’t protect me from much, though. I need to do before I know much of anything. Lowering myself into the tides of experience, sometimes the water is fine and frolicking like a four-year-old is the only appropriate response. But sometimes the relentless and punishing waves are frigid and teeming with jellyfish. Bystanders can hear me screaming from shore.

Ending my marriage to experience divorce is an obviously myopic move. Eyeballs deep in the struggle, I flailed and clawed for a cognitive buoy. The goal was simple: tease out which was cause and which effect. Is my marriage foundationally broken, resulting in situational depression? Or is my fundamental problem clinical, my relationship merely its casualty?

The gaudy grandmas have waddled off. Concrete lane dividers stand shoulder to shoulder in their place. The effect is menacingly close. My phone is face down on the console and I poke a finger at the dash, silencing the radio. Any distraction could have me trailing sparks along the barricade wall or sliding onto the gravelly shoulder. Adjust the mirrors and glance back.

I started circling the drain a few years ago. The well-received launch of my alternative health practice had me so certain. This was my calling. I might have been suspicious when the aspects of entrepreneurial adventure I enjoyed most turned out to be designing the website and writing the blog. After shuttering the business in 2012, I tumbled into a shame vortex. Struggling to make sense of how I had misread myself so terrifically, I cocooned. It took months of shame and denial before finally deciding to close, abandoning years of training, the encouragement of friends and family and a lot of invested capital. Continue Reading…