Recently I wrote a piece on depression that went viral.

In Andrew Solomon’s beautiful book, The Noonday Demon, he says, “Depression is a condition that is almost unimaginable to anyone who has not known it.”

So the article I wrote, as well as my honesty on the subject, is for anyone who has known it, maybe you will feel a little less alone knowing that I am struggling. And it is for anyone who has not known it, you lucky dogs, may you understand a little more about the evisceration of joy and how depression feels like you’ve been disemboweled and even breathing feels like something you’ve forgotten to do. And it’s for anyone who has felt like they need to hide it and post cute photos on Instagram instead because depression is ugly. And this is for anyone who has judged someone or asked, “what the hell do you have to be depressed about? Your life is amazing.”

I guess this is for everyone, all humans, because what is real is what is human and what is human is this – empathy.

The piece was scary to write- in it, I was transparent and blunt. I talk candidly about my struggle with depression and anxiety. The essay went viral so I pretty much wanted to hide after I sent it out into the world. Ultimately, I am glad I did send it out into the world. My best friend of twenty-five years, Jeremy Sunkett, read it then wrote me the email below. The quotations are my lines, he’s repeating what I wrote in the article. It moved me so I wanted to share. He’s a gift.I hope we all have friends like him when we need it.
Dear Jen,
“I’ve carved out a beautiful life and love what I do, but sometimes, especially lately, I feel the old tug of depression, that magnet of sadness which is buried somewhere next to the grief of losing my father at such a young age, but not relegated to that grief.”

“Let’s talk about how hard it is to be inspiring when you can’t move, when you want to get down really low to the earth and see if you can hear it hum and when it does, you want to stay there — all flat like that, pressed to the floor.”

I’ve been lingering over these two passages since I read this. I love the image of literally carving out a beautiful life because it reflects the sometimes tedious and exhausting work of living the life that you want and being who you want to be in the world. The image of depression–again, literally–tugging at you is also powerful because I can see how that works. Identifying your father’s death as the root of your depression but not the sole cause of it is an extremely honest and intelligent diagnosis.

When I was reading this I was seeing you down on your knees pressing your ear to the ground in an attempt to hear the earth hum, searching for the comfort and safety of the womb. Your candor is beautifully expressed in your writing and this combination makes these pieces all the more powerful.

Although it pains me to hear about your suffering, I truly appreciate the opportunity to understand it better through your writings. What’s amazing about writing is that you’re expressing yourself in a way that you would never express yourself in a conversation with me. Even though there’s nothing you can’t say to me, you’d be very unlikely to talk about not brushing your teeth, eating in your sleep or wanting to fall to your knees and hear the earth in a conversation–what a gift.

I’m so proud of how you literally changed your mind, then your life. You’ve made sure that all of your pain means something and you continue to give it meaning through your writing–for yourself and many others. This is what Oprah would call “the highest expression of yourself” and, as much as I like to make fun of Oprah, I think she’s got it right. I would call it God’s work, or being a person for others (in the Jesuit tradition). Your suffering has become your purpose, and you have gone from suffering alone to serving others (not that you’re suffering has completely ended). You’re expressing yourself, being mindful and connecting with the world and your spirit; perhaps this is what Marina Keegan meant when she referred to the opposite of loneliness.

Love ya! JRS


I will leave you with this: the response I got to the piece was overwhelming in the best possible way. It made me realize that:

Oftentimes the thing we try to hide or change about ourselves is the thing that draws people to us. @JenPastiloff (Click to Tweet!)

I am not saying people are drawn to my depression, but I think people want to feel less alone. I think they want to bear witness to truth-telling.

See you in Los Angeles June 7  & July in London at my Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human! xo , jen

Jen will be leading a Manifestation Retreat in Ojai, California in May and a four day Labor Day retreat. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this Positively Positive post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you (Dallas, NYC, Seattle, Atlanta etc,). Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Jen will be back in London for another workshop July 6 but book soon as the last one sold out fast with a long wait list!

*image courtesy of