I just watched the season six premiere of Nashville in which Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) addresses her depression. I immediately felt compelled to run upstairs, turn on my laptop and start writing what you see here.
Juliette, I hear you girl. I know what it’s like to have depression and to not have it under control. I know what it’s like for you to have everything you could ever imagine and more to be happy, but to still feel this empty pit inside of you that constantly throbs and aches. I know what it’s like to lose touch with your work, your purpose, your meaning, your friends, your loved ones, yourself. I know how much work it takes to manage depression and how quickly things can deteriorate the second you think you’ve got it under control, that maybe it’s finally behind you, the moment you stop consciously working on it. I know what it feels like every time the immense weight of depression’s fog comes crashing down upon you.
This is why I talk about depression. I think it’s important and brave, and like Juliette, I know there are people out there who might benefit from hearing somebody else acknowledge it. I don’t think being inflicted with depression makes me weak. If people knew what it takes to battle depression on a daily basis they would never dare call another weak. Their heart would hurt and they would find true empathy (not sympathy! A person with depression doesn’t want sympathy!).
I respect Hayden Panettiere for her portrayal of Juliette. She has been open about her own battle with postpartum depression and influence from her experience with it has been written into the script. Hayden is a beautiful, successful, wealthy young woman and her story shows that no one is immune to the wrath of depression.
On Avery and Loving Someone With Depression
Shows like Nashville play an important role in addressing the subjects we’re not always comfortable talking about. A quiet part of the plotline is how Juliette’s husband Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson) supports his wife no matter what. It mirrors my own relationship with my husband, a man I have so much gratitude for. He has done so much for me and has always supported me even when my mental health, or my lack of control of it at times, has resulted in bad decisions and upset on my part. The amount of pain and uphill battles our partners must endure by proxy of loving someone with depression is intense. I can’t imagine what that part must feel like. Being on either side of depression is hard, whether you’re the partner, sibling, parent or friend of someone with depression or the depression person yourself.
What I respect most about people like Avery and my husband is their ability to see their partner separate from their mental illness. Sometimes this is the only thing that helps me see myself separate from depression during those times when it gets too hard to distinguish between the two. If you love someone with depression or another mental illness, I beg you to see the difference and to remind us of it when the time comes. We know it’s not easy for you, we hate that we must ask this of you, and we will never be able to express how truly thankful we are to you for doing it.
On the Importance of Taking A Moment to Breathe
In the episode, Juliette has a mental breakdown on stage and she and Avery decide to get away for a weekend. They stay at a hotel in South Carolina where Juliette meets a man in the hotel lobby one night when she can’t sleep. He turns out to be a self-help guru from the Church of Coherent Philosophy, which Juliette realizes shortly after upon seeing him on a late night infomercial. She checks her phone and it’s 2:02am. He contacts her manager soon after about wanting to work with her and Juliette asks what time he called. He called at 2:02 am.
The coincidence is enough to convince Juliette to visit him at his office and find out what he wants. When they meet, he asks Juliette if she is a good mother. Damn right I am, she says. He asks her to close her eyes and count to 10 before she answers next time and then he repeats the question. Tears stroll down her face. He gives her homework. Tells her that to connect with her authentic self, she must close her eyes and count to 10 before she answers whenever she becomes angry, which is often for Juliette. Once she’s able to do that, he tells her, she’ll be ready for the next step.
A few days later, Juliette does a radio interview so she can tell her side of the story about what happened at her concert the other night. A listener calls in and starts berating Juliette about how sick she is of her behaviour. Immediately, Juliette becomes angry and starts defending herself back, but then she closes her eyes and counts to 10. “Juliette?” the radio producer asks. She opens her eyes and tells everyone that she is dealing with depression, that she is talking about it because she knows it might help someone else out there to talk about it, and that she is going to post-pone her tour so she can deal with it.
Tears stream down my face. I feel her pain so intensely. I do all I can to prevent from sobbing.
On Juliette and Being Ready to Meet Your Authentic Self
I started this blog to talk about yoga, but I started practicing yoga because I was depressed. It is my main tool in addition to regularly talking about, practicing mindful meditation, working closely with my doctor, taking medication, practicing self care, pursuing my individual spirituality, trying to be social even when its hard, snuggling with my pup pups and so on.
I write this reflection to you today because this episode of Nashville reminded me of how yoga allows me to access my own authenticity, and how Shevasana gives me a platform to talk about these things with you. I write it because I want you to know I see you. I hear you. I feel you. I know what you’re going through and you are not alone.
At the end of the episode, Juliette calls back the guy from the Church of Coherent Philosophy and she says, “I’m ready.”
Me too, Juliette. Me too.