I did everything, everything, everything I could to manage on my own. And then one day, I cracked. It was like an implosion, like something ripped – something resolute and calm, like jumping into thin air.
Since then, I’ve put some words and images to the emotions. It was as if the house I’d been living in comfortably for years, thinking I knew every inch of it, was falling apart.
One day, I figured out that I probably had depression.
Everything had become difficult. Writing, laughing, loving. Everything was pain, and yet everything was hope. I knew all I needed was to get my head out of the deep pit I’d fallen into and everything would go back to normal, but the walls were slippery and each time I finally got my face close to the sun, I’d slip back down again. So the struggle continued.
And the struggle ended up taking up all the space.
If I had to trace back to the roots of my depressive state, I think I could make endless lists of reasons. New York life and its disillusions. Other people. Success, vertigo, pressure. The process of being a mature adult, which was both cruel and fascinating. And of course, my difficulty having a child, which brought back other unresolved pains from my childhood, always there, nagging, demanding my attention.
The list is infinite, but if I had to summarize it, I’d say: I lost contact with myself. I had changed, but I was still living as if I were the same person I was before.
So, convinced it was all just a bad mood, I waited for the person I used to be to come back. Scrappy, positive, confident, laughing about everything.
I was trying to call her back to me. Freshly arrived in LA, nothing and no one could keep me from my quest. Healers, shamans, hypnosis, it was all good for letting others handle my pain. Meditation, journaling, sound baths – I couldn’t stand listening to myself talk about myself anymore.
Through talking about my suffering so much, I had become my suffering.
But I was waiting for my revelation. Oprah culture had gotten into me. The culture of the epiphany, one of the pillars of the American fairy tale.
I even thought about going to take Ayahuasca – the thought of reinventing myself at lightning speed seemed promising. But deep down, I knew I was way, way too fragile. So, I continued to try climbing the walls, slowly.
Then one day, I ran into a little snag with my sister. Nothing serious, it was just a dark cloud that passed in a matter of minutes, but at the same time, it felt like an unprecedented heartbreak. My sister and friends had been keeping me going for months. Emily took over at work when I couldn’t do it anymore. Lolo was there every day worrying about me, probably sensing the abyss beneath my reassuring words and laughter.
But that day, I felt like everything I’d been carrying for years had suddenly become too heavy. I had become the empty shell of the person I was before, and only the people who really knew me could sense it and see it.
I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I didn’t think about dying, no. But I could see the thought out of the corner of my eye. It presented itself to me like a curtain had been lifted and suddenly you say “ah, I hadn’t thought of that before.” I’d never, ever think of that. Never! I said, lying to myself.
But thanks to that passing of death, I finally realized something wasn’t right with me. Suddenly, I was able to recognize my obsessive thoughts, my magical thinking, my general exhaustion and my anxiety attacks, which no amount of CBD oil was going to fix.
And finally, like a parent crazy with love and worry for their child, I got afraid for myself. I was afraid for my mental health. I realized I was passing through to the other side and it was dark.
I called the people close to me right away to tell them about my idea.
I’d need a good therapist, and a big dose of humility. But I had to do something. I wanted to go on antidepressants.
That shocked some people. Antidepressants? Chris was the first to say no. You can’t do that. You won’t be the same. No, no, no.
But I kept talking about it and little by little, I discovered how many people in my entourage were on them. They were surprised I was speaking so frankly about my fragility and thrilled to finally be able to share their experience openly. Everybody is on them, no one talks about, they said. And I got the impression that was true.
That reassured me. But it also scared me. Are we living in a society that puts us over the edge?
If that was the case, I had also fallen prey to all the pressure, and I was admitting defeat: I wasn’t strong enough to fight it alone.
I decided to find a serious doctor and that’s exactly what I did. I went back to therapy, where I cried rivers, and I went to see a fantastic psychiatrist who asked me millions of questions and together, we decided on a very low-dose treatment plan.
Thanks to him, I discovered I had a real problem with insomnia. Sleep quality is one of the first things that influences mental health. Thanks to him, I learned the overwhelmed feeling I’d had for years was a sign of depression. He pointed out millions of details I’d thought were insignificant, but to him, they told my story and defined my pain.
I’d been letting all these small imbalances come into my life and progressively get worse for years.
I started my treatment the week Anthony Bourdain died. Anthony Bourdain, who I often cite as one of my idols. Anthony Bourdain with the marvelous life, just like me. Anthony Bourdain who was in love, a young dad, admired by everyone.
No one understood. “But he had everything to be happy!”
Me, I cried about it, but I totally understood.
Antidepressants take time to start working. A few weeks, a few months. It happens slowly, without you even realizing it. You keep living as best you can, then suddenly, you turn around and realize the dark cloud has dissipated.
In the meantime, I decided it was time to take some time for me, some real time. I called Emily the day everything fell apart and told her about my pain. She knew. She could see how much I was struggling. She said, “drop everything, we’ll take care of everything.” Gah, I love her.
I called her a few days later and explained my plan: for the month of August – zero. Nothing. No travel, no work, no Instagram (FYI, my psychiatrist told me he often recommends that his famous patients take a break – social media is REALLY dangerous for mental health), nothing. I was going to exercise, sleep as much as I wanted, go to the beach, eat good salads, and make zero professional or personal decisions until further notice. And if I needed to take September too, so be it.
I managed to handle my latest professional obligations thanks to my team, with whom I was very honest. I’m not okay, I need help. It goes without saying they were absolutely wonderful. It was hard, really hard. Working and smiling when you’re dying inside, you have no idea what’s wrong, and all you want to do is cry, is…
And then one day, I was getting ready to go to sleep and Chris and I were joking around in bed. I was light, joyful. I realized I’d spent the entire day laughing and being silly. I pointed that out to Chris and he said: “Yes, you’re back to being the woman I first met.”
Little by little, I got my joy back. I was no longer feeling strangled by my narrative. I rediscovered the pleasure of the moment, the joie-de-vivre I thought I owned but I now realized was such a fragile gift.
Most of all, I lost my attachment to my own suffering. It was like suddenly my suffering released the claws it had around my neck and flew away. I was seeing things from a different angle and I could finally laugh about all the stories I’d been telling myself. Instead of seeing problems, I could see all the solutions offering themselves to me. Instead of suffocating, I could breathe. Finally.
I fell back in love with myself, with my life and everything in it.
Breaking your wings is a shocking experience. Getting lost in darkness also means understanding it’s always there, not far, waiting for us, and that you have to take care of your joy.
The person I was before doesn’t exist anymore. The one I was clinging to as I went deeper into the darkness of my depression had been dead for a long time. I finally managed to let her go. Today, I’m getting to know the new me.
Softer, more fragile. So much humbler about the mysteries of life. So much less self-assured, but so much more open. So much more loving, so much simpler.
I know I haven’t found a magic formula. I don’t plan on taking antidepressants my entire life, but who knows? If I need them, so be it. I don’t have any lessons to teach anyone. Our paths are so fascinating, and those journeys are what make up our lives. I wouldn’t go backward for one second.
I’ve completely reinvented my concept of success and replaced it with a happy faith in the moment, in emotions, intuition, sensations.
In other words, I’ve finally learned to live, to live in a way that no book could have ever taught me.
It’s important to take care of our health, and our mental health. I have a lot to tell you about what I’ve learned these past months. My sleep still isn’t ideal. It’s hard, but I’m working on it. You can’t repair years of insomnia and anxiety attacks in a matter of weeks – it takes a lot of patience and self-love and self-respect.
As you know, I’m wary of happy endings. Life is a work in progress and while antidepressants work for me, they aren’t necessarily for everyone. You have to be careful and choose a very good doctor.
But it’s important for someone like me to speak out, someone whose life might seem like a dream to some people. Mental health and perceived success, money, and love have nothing to do with one another.
On the contrary, it’s the moment when you think you have it all that your foundations are more likely to crumble, because if you have it all, how can you possibly have the right to be suffering?
That’s why the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade were so upsetting. If the people who have it all want to die, what are the rest of us running after?
If you’re suffering, talk about it. Don’t wait. Take your pain seriously. Try to listen to any physical signs of discomfort you might have. Me, for example, when I spend too much time on social media, my pulse accelerates, and my throat tightens. That should be enough of a sign for me to put my phone down and rethink what I’m consuming – just like how after two glasses of alcohol, I know it’s time for me to take a break.
I still have so much to tell you, but I tried to make this short. I want to keep talking about mental health so we can start to be more uninhibited about it and not hesitate to ask for help. Don’t hesitate to share your stories and questions with us. Talking about it is already such an important step.
Translated by Andrea Perdue