Browsing Tag

anti-depressants

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, Truth, Video, Vulnerability

The Truth About Depression. No Bullshit.

May 11, 2015

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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?”

No.

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…

depression, Guest Posts, healing

Holding On: My Journey With Antidepressants.

June 7, 2014

By Angela Giles Patel.

The most dangerous time for me are the moments after I remember that I forgot to take my medication. This is the time when I can convince myself that I am on the path to weaning myself from the required daily dose, that I am already hours into a medication free life and can keep going, that there is no time like the present, that I will be okay.

I have been on anti-depressants since I was fifteen and first prescribed a tricyclic. Though I cannot recall it among the string of arguments with my mother, there must have been something I said that jolted her. I was unhappy and articulate which meant that I could tell her with venomous precision just how much sadness I was experiencing. And I did so, on a regular basis, telling her how I wanted to live anywhere else, how I hated school, how I wanted to disappear.

If I felt like I wasn’t being heard, I would stick hand written lyrics to the refrigerator door. Little sad notes next to reminders that we needed to buy more milk. The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Joy Division – they were the soundtrack to my high school years. When it became clear that I was well beyond the realm of teenage angst, or, more likely, when it became clear that she couldn’t navigate my waters in the midst of my father’s vodka tinged storms, she sent me to a psychiatrist. Finding someone else to help me was one of the best parenting decisions she made.

I went willingly.

I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

My therapist was a good fit for me. He took me seriously, listened to what I said, answered questions I had. He also prescribed an anti-depressant. He fed my love of reading, recommending books that would give me a broader perspective than the one I had living in a small town in southern Utah. Soul on Ice, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The books were edgy and expansive. I wrote about how I felt, he read it, and we talked about it. There was never any real discussion of me not making it through my teenage years, it was always a question of how. We set a goal: I would make it through high school and move out to attend college.

I considered my need to use an anti-depressant nothing more than a by-product of living in a dysfunctional home and I never balked at taking it, or at the weekly sessions I had with my therapist. The small white pill made the edges less sharp, and life felt easier. I thought the medication was temporary, that once I no longer lived at home, I would no longer need it.

In college, I let the prescription lapse and found myself sliding back into a space I thought was hundreds of miles away. What I was feeling was so familiar that it scared me and I again began a regimen of therapy and medication. Rather than discussing how to endure my environment, the therapy focused on how to best be me. Among the many things that make me who I am is the fact that I am a person with a clinical disorder.

I’ve been on five different antidepressants since I was a teenager, moving from one to another as I changed doctors or as newer medication became available. The biggest change to the type of medication I was taking came in my 30s. After my sister died, the run-of-the-mill antidepressant wasn’t working, my body chemistry had upped its game and thrown anxiety into the mix. Combinations of medication were tried until I felt balanced. Although I stopped therapy years ago, I continue to see a doctor who helps monitor my medication.

And here I am.

Holding on.

Thriving even.

So nothing pisses me off more than to see someone talk about how they used to take medication for depression or anxiety, but now they don’t have to anymore, because they discovered yoga or running or god. The idea that somehow they have managed a victory that is important enough to broadcast, that what they have accomplished can be outlined and followed is misleading at best. And although they won’t say it explicitly, the implied judgment is clear – if you are not enlightened enough to be able to survive without medication, something is wrong with you.

No shit.

Something is wrong with me.

What is wrong with me is not a bump in the road, or a case of the blues, and it is not something that can be addressed by the right herbal tea. It is not a pothole, it is a fucking canyon – one I can only navigate with help. This is why I have to take two burgundy colored capsules every morning. If I don’t my mind turns against me. It’s not a failure to be enlightened, it’s who I am. The kicker is that I am enlightened enough to know that who I am is someone who’s mind can fail to be her friend.

I hate taking the medication. The idea that I cannot fully function without it breaks my heart on a regular basis, but I can’t. I’ve tried. It wasn’t pretty. I hate my dis-order and my dis-ease enough that I occasionally allow myself to become tricked by depression. I am not sure who said it first, but they are right – depression lies. One of the biggest lies it tells is the one that starts with the idea that medication is unnecessary. Maybe it is optional for someone who just needed a little boost to get through a rocky period, but for those of us who are predisposed to depression, proper medication is critical. To suggest otherwise is a failure to understand the true nature of the problem.

There have been a handful of times where I have stopped taking my prescription on my own, always after missing a dose. The immediate onset of withdrawal symptoms coupled with a careening mood were enough to snap me back to my senses within a few days. I have stopped my medication under supervision twice. Making it past the painful withdrawal period and becoming fully engaged with my depression felt perilous, and I was quickly placed back on medication after articulating my concerns. Even so, if I could trade the fact that my pharmacist knows my name before I open my mouth to ask for the prescriptions my doctor has called in, I would. I don’t need that kind of recognition.

What I do need is space to be me. I need quiet and time to reflect. I need room to be still and recollect. Truth be told, I occasionally do a bit of yoga and I regularly run my heart out, but neither of those is a panacea. I also need my friends. They accept that my disposition is a part of me, nothing more and nothing less, just another feature I have, like my messy red hair. Above all else, they understand what it is to be gloriously unique. And I need a reliable pharmacist, preferably one who genuinely smiles when she sees me walk through the door.

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Angela Giles Patel has had her work appear in The Healing Muse as well as on The Nervous Breakdown and The Manifest-Station. She tweets as @domesticmuse, and when inspired updates her Air Hunger. She lives in Massachusetts where she conquers the world, one day at a time. She is one of the editors of this site.

 

 

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station, is a writer living on an airplane.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2016 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff  and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

Join Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

loss, love

Modern Loss.

December 11, 2013

I have a piece up on a new and amazing site called Modern Loss which has candid conversations about grief. It’s truly beautiful.

Here’s an excerpt of my piece:

I’m in a yoga class with my forehead pressed into the mat — this cheesy orange mat with a giant sunset and a backlit tree branch — and my friend Steve Bridges is saying “Hi Gin.” A transplanted Texan, Steve says my name, Jen, like I’m booze. And he’s talking to me during yoga.

The thing is, Steve is dead.

“Steve, it’s Jen, not Gin. I hate gin. At least call me Wine.” We used to laugh at that.

Click here to read the rest.

Click photo to go to Modern Loss and read the piece.

Click photo to go to Modern Loss and read the piece.

Beating Fear with a Stick, Fear, Jen Pastiloff

There Is Never A Right Time For Anything.

December 5, 2013

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Jen Pastiloff.

My grandfather’s mother was raped by her stepfather or uncle (no one can really be sure) when she was fourteen. They lived in rural Illinois, and, at fourteen years old she had her first baby, my grandfather’s brother Sonny. A year later she had my grandfather, Donald. I’m sure it wasn’t a good time to have a baby, either one of them, yet she did, and my grandfather is still alive, plugging along. No one was any worse for the wear. She then had another son, George, a few years after my grandfather.

Never a good time.

There’s never really a good time for anything. There’s always going to be something. Something in the way, someone coming to visit. Someone leaving, someone showing up, the weather, the football game. your mother. Death. Whatever it is, there will always be something saying Wait! This isn’t right! Do it later. Not now. Now is not a good time. Now is bad.

And yet. And still.

She was fifteen and a mother to two babies in Effingham, Illinois and I am sure she didn’t say This is a good time to be a mother. She was raped and no longer a child. It was 1925 and what was she supposed to do? My great grandfather married her, a pregnant fourteen year old, and they started a life.

And they started a life.

That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Starting a life. Sometimes you find yourself in the midst of one and you think I don’t remember starting this, yet here I am and sometimes you literally have to wake up and say It’s time. Despite everything pointing south, I must go north.

People keep asking me how I did it. How I went from A to B, from waitressing and being stuck for so many years to doing what I do now? I woke up and decided I’d had enough and despite the timing being utterly horrible, I was going to go for it. And even though I had no idea what it was, and some days I am still not sure, I kept rising to the coffee pot and looking into the cup and you know what? It spoke. It said things like What are you doing? Who do you think you are? And you know what I did? I gulped it down quickly and drank cup after cup until it stopped talking and I no longer had to hush it. If it did decide to speak again, I would ask it Who do you think you are, asshole? I am bigger than you. You don’t exist. You don’t get to tell me what I can do. I created you in my imagination. And then finally the coffee started agreeing with me as if it saw the sense in what I was saying. Sometimes it was the eggs who spoke or the wine or the customer at the restaurant but always it was I who got to choose who I listened to regarding my life and my own personal clock.

The timing is never right.

Don’t believe me? Go ahead and name some perfect times for things. There’s always going to be a something in the way and it’s always going to be up to you if you swallow the coffee or just stare into it like it has something to say about this or that.

There will be people, too. People will remind you how bad things are and how bad of a time this is. Much like the coffee or the eggs, you have to look those people in the eye and say You may be right but I am going to do this anyway. And if you decide not to, which is ever as much your right, just make sure it’s because of what you want to do and not what the coffee and eggs want you to do. Sometimes you have to think of the other people as coffee and eggs or you would never get anything done, you’d be so busy listening to their mouthless, albumen, over-caffeinated voices.

I have often thought that the timing of the earth is off. Maybe I have just experienced too much death for someone so young and the only way to justify such loss is by explaining it away with a problem in the earth’s rhythm and cadence.

Maybe it’s like everything else. Maybe it’s the coffee and the eggs and everything else.

Maybe the timing is always just right and it’s up to us to decide if we keep going or not. I’ll take mine sunny side-up, please. Coffee black.

My grandfather’s youngest brother George had a wife named Bernice who had been a longtime employee of General Electric. George, in the words of my grandfather, had been a con artist. Of course my grandfather clarified that he was joking. Duly noted Pop, I said. Got it. A joke. Bernice got a nice pension from GE when she retired and with it she bought George a new Dodge Dakota pickup truck. This was in 1997. I had just moved back to California and dropped out of college, although at the time I was calling it taking a semester off even though I think I knew somewhere in the knowing part of me that I would never return to NYU. Something would always come up. The timing was never “right” to go back.

Bernice bought George the truck and he’d decided to take it out onto the country roads. My grandfather specified country roads, not highway which made me think of that James Taylor song, Country Road.

I guess my feet know where they want me to go

Walking on a country road.

Take to the highway won’t you lend me your name

Your way and my way seem to be one and the same, child

Mamma don’t understand it

She wants to know where I’ve been

I’d have to be some kind of natural born fool

To want to pass that way again

But I could feel it

On a country road.

My grandfather’s brother George had been at a stop sign in big new truck when some other guy in a truck (they knew each other, it was a country road and all) plowed into him and sent his new Dodge Dakota into an embankment. His neck snapped and he died. Just like that. Six months later Bernice died when she had a hemorrhage in her groin and the hospital couldn’t stop it.

Never a good time.

Although I think it might have been. Probably better that she went right after him and, most likely, inevitable.

My grandmother died two years ago and the last year of her life she spent on a used hospital bed in their dark living room in South Philadelphia. She couldn’t walk up the stairs to go to the bathroom so she and my grandfather spent nearly a year without moving from that front room off the kitchen.  All the bathrooms in the old South Philly row houses are upstairs, which I find oddly private- you’re walking in on something holy like dirty laundry and toothbrushes. These rickety old stairs lead up to the bathroom and the whole house watches you go like you’re leaving for a trip. I’m just going to pee guys. It’s okay.

After she died, my grandfather still kept that makeshift hospital bed in the living room and used it as storage for over a year. Never a good time. There’s always something getting in the way of getting rid of it. He finally did get rid of it, sold it for twenty five bucks, and what small amount of light that room allows for returned as if it was the start of something.

She was probably better off if she’d never recovered from the stroke because what life did she have for that year or so in that bed with all her sores and darkness? But hey, she didn’t get to decide. She didn’t get to say This probably isn’t a good time for me to stay alive. She just did it without question, and, without much grace.

There will always be something to stand in the way. To tell you No, absolutely not. This is not right. You mustn’t. If you wait for things to speak, they will. Even the eggs. Even the coffee. Everything has an opinion. You know what they say about assholes and opinions. Everyone’s got one.

I have started to go off all anti-depressants. I am still on a small dosage because the timing had never been right to go off 100%. That 30mg keeps me affable enough; it stops the train wreck inside my brain, the flatness of mornings, the circle walkings, the scribblings. There was always something in the way of me going off sooner even though I talked about it often. I’m going to stop taking my meds soon, I’d announce as if people cared. But I didn’t- I was always busy or I was going somewhere, I was leading some retreat, I was in a class, I was tired, I had headaches.

I’ve finally realized that timing is an invented thing, an inherited trait, and that along with your native American roots and your penchant for sleep and for coffee, you will have inherited the ability to create the life you want for yourself.

You think that when my great uncle George was cutting down logs to sell to the whiskey companies to make their barrels that he thought what a great time it was for him to be splitting open wood, to crack into black walnut trees? No, he just did what he had to and kept going until one day his truck rolled into an embankment and even then he thought to himself just before he died I have had a good life.

Don’t wait for the coffee or the eggs or the shmuck in the front row to tell you how it is. You’ll wait your whole life and then end up in an embankment with a heart full of sorrow and I could have done it betters.

I don’t know what time could have been better for me to embark on this weaning off my meds adventure. Perhaps next year. Perhaps last year. Maybe never.

My grandfather jokes and says that his brother was a con artist, but the way I see it, time is the con artist. The con artist telling you that this isn’t a good time, that you should wait. The right time will never exist. Like so many of the things we think are perfect and in the end turn out to be just some scrambled eggs and a hot cup of coffee.

Join Jen at a writing retreat in Mexico this May!  Jennifer Pastiloff is part of the faculty in 2015 at Other Voices Querétaro in Mexico with Gina Frangello, Emily Rapp, Stacy Berlein, and Rob Roberge. Please email Gina Frangello to be accepted at ovbooks@gmail.com. Click poster for info or to book. Space is very limited.

Join Jen at a writing retreat in Mexico this May!
Jennifer Pastiloff is part of the faculty in 2015 at Other Voices Querétaro in Mexico with Gina Frangello, Emily Rapp, Stacy Berlein, and Rob Roberge. Please email Gina Frangello to be accepted at ovbooks@gmail.com. Click poster for info or to book. Space is very limited.

 

All of Jen Pastiloff’s events listed here. Next up: Dallas, Miami, New Years Retreat, Kripalu in The Berkshires of Massachusetts, Tuscany Retreat.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the sunflowers!

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the sunflowers!

Click to order Simplereminders new book.

Click to order Simplereminders new book.

Beating Fear with a Stick, depression, Owning It!

Stop Judging So Much. By Jen Pastiloff

January 4, 2013

I wrote this a year and a half ago but it felt timely to repost. ~ Jen Pastiloff

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Click to order Simplereminders new book. simplereminders.info

Click to order Simplereminders new book. simplereminders.info

 

The layers upon layers of judgments we hail at people all day. At ourselves. Morning and night.

I can’t believe you would do that.

I would never do that if I were them.

My family wouldn’t do it that way.

What are you wearing?

She is a good person.

I am ugly.

I am not smart enough.

Maybe you don’t do it.

I do. I judge all the time.

As I click clack my boots down the sidewalk in a hurry. As I waste time on Facebook, or sit on a plane, as I am now, my mind is full of misgivings and they did it wrongs. Its full of I am doing it wrong, I look fat/bad/ugly, I am stupid, this woman is walking so slow, that man looks like this, she looks like that, they must be a nice person, they are rude, a cacophony of noise all at once, and in between it all, moments of I feel good/happy, I am safe, I am not my body.

There are many parts to me. To all of us. We know this. There is the me that teaches my workshops, a combination of a Jewish/Baptist preacher in a Revival tent who likes to sing and dance and downward dog and read poetry and who knows damn well that we can manifest the life of our dreams if we change our thoughts and is spiritual and knowledgeable in the ways of the body, the heart, the mind. And then there is the other me who is also me, here and now. Drinking a shit ton of wine and wearing glasses and reading like I may never be able to read again.

Continue Reading…