Down The Rabbit Hole: My Journey With Depression

Written by Jennifer Pastiloff
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I went off my antidepressants about nine months ago. In the interim, I've been pregnant and lost it (ectopic) but that'll be another post altogether. I'm happy to report it's been many months since I took the last pill, and I'm feeling good being off my meds. Wasn't always great. The beginning was really rough. Having said that, I will never judge myself if I ever need to go back. This is a piece I wrote while weaning off (which I did very slowly). For anyone who is suffering or who has suffered, this is for you.

July, 2013.

I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. It’s murky, wet, familiar. There are shadows everywhere which, like life, can be confusing and soothing at the same time.

Is that someone who can help me find my way out? Is that myself I am seeing? Who is that? Is anyone there? Where are these shadows coming from, since I'm the only one down here?

Once you’ve slipped in you can’t tell which way is up, so keep heading down, thinking that maybe you’re going up after all, until you realize you’ve gone farther down, and that you probably knew all along that you were going down. Rabbit holes are tricky like that.

You can lie to yourself easier down there.

Getting out seems nearly impossible, so here I am, writing this in the dark.

What feels familiar: falling, not knowing up from down, in from out, shadows.

I’ve gone off my antidepressants. I suffered a few rotten days, headaches, some depression, inability to drink wine. For the most part, my coming off my meds wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be based on research I conducted via sites like WebMD and Google. Side note: don’t trust everything you read on the Internet. Especially with medical stuff. Especially comments written by people with names like Spaz77, iHatemyLyfe21 or Depressed4life.

I'm going along in my world, teaching classes, leading my retreats, perhaps a little more introverted than normal, which is OK since I'm writing a book and I need my alone time. I am, for the most part, still a functioning human.

The rabbit hole. I noticed pretty quickly I was back in it.

The thought track. The fear-based soundtrack thumping away in my brain. Thump thump. The bass. The lyrics. The lyrics are what alerted me. The same lyrics over and over. And over. That’s how I knew I was swimming downward. The same repetitive thoughts like cracks in the ceiling, cracks in the ceiling, cracks in the ceiling.

As a child actress, I used to host children’s birthday parties in the costumes I wore for the play I performed in. I alternated weekends with a friend, so we shared a costume. The costumes never got cleaned, so they smelled foul, like body odor and old cake. I didn’t get paid for the birthday parties; it was just something I did to be part of the theater company. I had a "co-host," Mr. Trashcan, into whom the kids were to put their cake plates at the end of the party, before entering the theater.

I’d sweat, and my makeup would run down my face. I looked eternally sad as my character, The Two of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. In my stinky polyester costume and whiteface, I looked like I had two big black teardrops running down my face.

Why should I tell you all of this, as if you don’t have enough cake on your own proverbial plates? I tell you this because I realize how easy it is to fall down here.

I am oddly comfortable. I know this place, the shadows, the cracks in the ceilings.

I tell you this so you recognize the signs of the rabbit hole.

There will not be a caterpillar smoking a hookah pipe. There will be just you and your words spinning ribbons in the air.

What if? Who do I think I am? What if I can’t do it? I can’t remember. I don’t know how. I’m not good enough. What if? Who do I think I am? What if I can’t do it? I can’t remember. I don’t know how. I’m not good enough. What if? Who do I think I am? What if I can’t do it?

Cracks in the ceiling. Splitting, dividing, repeating. The mathematics of crazy. In Written on the Body, Jeanette Winterson writes, “The inside of your body is innocent. Nothing has taught it fear.”

(What about the inside of a brain? You might wonder.)

The mathematics of fear.

The falling, added to the darkness, multiplied by the cracks in the ceiling, and before you know it the equation is solved. Nothing is a mystery.

(X + Y) x Z = crazy repetitive rabbit hole nonsense.

So let’s say there IS a caterpillar down there. Let’s say he IS smoking a big fat hookah. You know what he’d say? He’d say, “Haven’t you been here? Aren’t you tired of this shit yet?”

What about the inside of a brain? Has anything taught it fear?

The caterpillar surely won’t have an answer for that one, but he'll say that although you are indeed welcome to stay down there in the rabbit hole, you won’t like it. It’s full of cracks in the ceiling and lyrics that never change.

Here I am in the rabbit hole, and the only thing I can think of to do is to begin to take the mud and layer it until it hardens. And then layer it again until I have built myself a little igloo-looking hut that I'll stand atop until my head meets that tiny prick of light at the end, and I can see for certain which end is up and which end is down.

My eyes will reject the light at first. That’s what happens after being in the dark for so long. Eventually, however, they will welcome the light and the crack-free sky, and that too will feel familiar.

I did get out of the rabbit hole. Sending love and hope many months later from the writing of this post.

Feel free toconnect with me on social media, or at a retreat where we get very real about things like this.

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