Being vulnerable and transparent is one of the most difficult things to do, and yet, I have found over the course of my life that our past holds so much wisdom and power, and if we're brave enough to share it, it has the power to impact the lives of others in a profound way.
With that being said, I'm going to take a little dive into my journey over the last two years, which have been two of the hardest years in my life to date. My hope is that it will resonate with you if you struggle with mental health, and that if it does, it'll give you hope & motivation to get help.
It's March 2020. I had recently parted ways with my business partner, leaving all money, transactions, etc. to her, and asking for only one thing in return: the brand. Rockstar.
She named Rockstar, actually. I brought the pineapple to the partnership, but my 2 person team was called "The Sciarretta Collection", and that wasn't going to work.
While deciding on a name, my business partner jokingly said, "We could call it anything we want. We could call it Rockstar Real Estate Group!"
I remember I stopped laughing and paused... "Wait.... there's something there...Rockstar Real Estate & Media Group." We looked at each other with that look that doesn't need words. We had our name. It just stuck.
When we parted ways, the money didn't matter to me and I knew our clients were very well taken care of with my partner. She was (and still is) excellent at what she did. I just wanted the rinky-dink brand I had begun building, because it was more than just a pineapple to me. It had a vision and a mission and a purpose behind it. My purpose.
FUN FACT! I actually couldn't have cared less about the name Rockstar, but I didn't want to change it for the 3rd time, so I kept it and worked with it. #THEMOREYOUKNOW
So here I was just starting off to try to make it on my own. Just me and Lex. Alexis (Lex) was my very first hire in 2018. She became my first executive assistant, then became an Agent, and she is still with me today as my top producing agent! She has stuck through me in every season, and whoa, we have had some wild seasons. Anyway, it's just her and I and wide open spaces. (cue the song)
One Sunday morning, I'm drinking my coffee with my husband, Andrew and he says, "You know, there's a major sickness going around right now and its turning into a pandemic right?"
He was totally being a smartass, because he knows damn well that I do not watch the news. EVER. NEVER. I looked over at him confused.
"Huh? What's a pandemic?" I say. (Seriously, bless my heart)
We all know what happened next, and I want to pause here to say that: Because it happened to all of us, it seems we are looking at the Covid-19 Pandemic as though it was just this thing that happened- a happenstance of life. I think this Pandemic caused deep trauma in all of us that some of us can already see and others will eventually see, if you look deep enough.
Out of nowhere, the entire world was shut down, we were forced into our homes for weeks on end, terrified of even going to the grocery store, and people were dying all around us. Grandparents. Wives. Husbands. Sisters. Brothers. Uncles. Aunts. You were afraid to visit Grandma, afraid to send the kids to school, afraid of what your partner might bring home from work, afraid to GO to work, afraid your business would collapse.
Do you know what happens when you experience fear? A physiological response in your body. There is a stress hormone, called cortisol, and it courses through your veins when you're stressed. It's what makes your heart race, your skin hot, and what puts you in a state of fight, flight or freeze.
That's known as your survival instinct. You needed that adrenaline back in 749 B.C, because when a freaking dinosaur came knocking at your cave, you had to be able to launch into action and protect yourself and your family. Since we haven't evolved out of that instinct as of yet, we still experience that same physiological response to small minor 2022 stresses, and it is killing us slowly.
Fear is stress. Your body puts you into a state of hyper-alertness or hyper-vigilance and guess what? It takes HOURS for that cortisol to leave your system, wreaking havoc on your mind and body.
How often did we experience this fear in 2020? How often did we feel stress? How long did we experience that fear and stress that often? Let me tell you... a LONG ASS TIME, Y'ALL. That stress response took a massive toll on a huge portion of our world, and we're only now just starting to talk about it. The effects of Covid-19 on mental health is far more than we realize.
In the midst of this inner turmoil, I had to make some massively impactful decisions, strategies, and plans in my business. I had to rework and rebuild every system I had from the ground up, move things to virtual, hire more help, figure out how to run a virtual team, and keep Rockstar not only going but GROWING. Remember, I left my partnership without a dollar. We literally had to start at the bottom with $0.00.
I pushed through because I had no choice but to pivot. It was pivot or get left in the dust, and ... yeah, in case you don't know me yet, quitting just isn't in my vocabulary. So pivot, I did. I got into action.
And then in October 2020, my Dad suddenly died.
The moment everything changed:
I'm at my office, and my phone rings. It's my brother, Michael. I stop everything and answer.
"Sis...", he says, then he explodes into tears "Dad died!"
"What? What?? No. No, Michael. Where are you?? Where are you? I'm leaving my office and coming to your house right now." I said in a panic. Everything went black. I couldn't think.
Lex heard me on the phone and came running in, "What's going on?? Are you okay?"
"My dad is dead. I have to go", is all I remember saying, as I ran out of my office.
Cirrhosis of the liver. That's how he died. On the sofa in my brother's condo. He was there one minute and he was gone the next, and suddenly, Michael and I had to make funeral arrangements, and decisions and our lives were dramatically changed.
I hadn't spoken to my Dad in years. There were so many awesome memories that we had. And... there were so many painful, traumatic memories as well. I remember a night where he picked my brother and I up wasted, drove us to his apartment in Margate, swerving everywhere. He didn't have a license, because he had had too many DUIs. And here we were. In total danger. I was 16.
His battery ran out, so he left my brother and I at a gas station for what seemed like an hour, while he walked to buy a car battery. When we finally returned home, there was not one thing to eat in the apartment. He had Crown royal in the freezer. That's it. He walked into his bedroom, slammed his door, and passed out. We had no dinner and no money to buy dinner. We went to bed starving.
Fast forward to 3am, and I was woken up by my Dad beating on the drums. He was so messed up that he woke up and decided to play the drums at 3am in his apartment on Atlantic Ave in MARGATE. IYKYK. After an hour of loud drums while trying to sleep, I was angry and crying but terrified to say anything. I had school in the morning and 4 hours of dance after. I needed to sleep. He walked out, sat on the couch, cracked a beer and looked at me.
The details are a little blurry, but after suggesting that I drive my brother to school in the morning (because I knew he would be drunk still), I remember him cursing me out, throwing his hot metal weed pipe at me, ripping the phone out of the wall when I tried to call my Aunt, and eventually coming after me. I ran into the bathroom and locked the door. He beat on the door screaming what a "dramatic bitch" I was and a "fucking loser", and all of these horrible things. I slept on the bathroom floor that night.
In the morning, I had to get up and get ready for school, pretending like nothing happened. It's no wonder I learned how to smile and move through pain, as though everything is fine while I'm dying inside. Traumatic memories like these came flooding back into my mind, and I started to feel... tired. A lot. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. TIRED.
2021 - 2022:
It's now 2021 and I am working like a mad hatter. The real estate market is booming, and I chalk my near constant exhaustion, brain fog like a mfr, loss of appetite, headaches, need for isolation, and general emotional numbness to going a million miles per minute, trying to be who my team and our clients need me to be, as well as who my family needs me to be, and friends... well... yeah, I really didn't even have any leftover energy for friends or family outside of my household. I barely had enough energy to get out of bed, so my relationships suffered. But no one could tell that anything was off.
The sad fact is that I was slipping deeper into severe depression, and didn't even realize it. I'm the kind of person who doesn't stop. I'm maniacal in my pursuit of the things I'm passionate about. I wake up thinking about Rockstar at 5am and I go to bed thinking about Rockstar at 9pm. I never stop thinking about it, because I love it. It's fun. It's my passion. It's my art. It's my service to God and my Community. I love everything about it, and my brain is wired to just go- go-go and do-do-do.
I also decided, because I'm suuuuper smart, to go off of my depression medication, which I'd been on since having my daughter, 9 years before. It wasn't working for me and I wanted everything unnatural out of my system, thinking THAT may be what was causing the exhaustion, anxiety, mood swings, sadness, disconnection, etc.
The week before Christmas, I decided to take my son Grayson on a last minute epic shred-venture to my favorite family mountain on the East Coast, Okemo Mountain in Vermont. They had just gotten a storm, which meant fresh powder, and we wanted IN! It was the perfect trip. We rented a ski in- ski- out Air BNB, snowboarded for 3 days straight, enjoyed waffles and cider mountainside, and spent the most special time together- just the two of us. It was pure magic.
As I'm packing up the car for the drive home at 7am, I get a call from my Mom. My Stepdad was in a horrible car accident. He crashed his car into someone's home. He was in critical condition in the hospital and they weren't sure if he was going to make it.
It was the longest 6 hour drive of my life. Too much alone time. Too much quiet. Too much time to think and reflect and feel.
He was in the hospital for about a month before he passed away, in and out of consciousness. We didn't know day to day, whether he would make it or not. I'm not ready, and I'm not sure if I will ever be to go into detail on the severity of what happened, but it was utterly traumatic.
You know, it's an interesting thing when you lose a parent. If you have a great relationship with them, I imagine that wonderful memories flood your mind and that causes a certain type of pain- a longing type of pain.
But when you don't have a great relationship with your parents- specifically because of their life choices and addictions, it's a different kind of pain- a resurfacing kind of pain. An "I fucking knew this was going to happen" type of pain. A pain that remembers all the things, that layers guilt and shame for not stopping them, that wonders why i wasn't good enough to get them to chose drugs and alcohol over a relationship with me, and that realizes that the chance to ever have a healthy relationship with either of my Dads... was gone. At least this is my experience. The truth is, I didn't have a healthy relationship with either one.
I have some great memories of my "Dads" as I call them. (My stepdad was my "dad" since I was 4.) And I also have traumatic memories. Deeply traumatic memories that I had shoved down and away, replacing with a plastic smile for so long, that I had forgotten about them. That is, until they resurfaced. And resurface, they did. The moment they died.
Instead of having time to process my reality or emotions, I had to show up and plaster what smile I could muster on my face and act like they were exemplary Dads. It felt so inauthentic, and made me want to clam up and isolate even more from anyone who might possibly want to talk about my Dads, what happened, talk about anything emotional or negative, or try to make me smile. I was like a cactus with any of that. I put my little spikes up so no one could come close without getting pricked.
You might think at this point, I'd be wise and, kind of, pause and take a break... but alas, I am a total idiot at times, and this is one of those times. I didn't stop. I did what I do best: shove my feelings down and channel the energy into work.
Ah yes work... which was made even harder, when a former team member of mine (brand new to real estate) in the midst of all of this, decided to try to replicate my brand, stealing my vision, ideas, fonts, colors, concept, strategies, value proposition, the database I've spent years building, systems that took me months to build, tools I'd created, contracts, and even the words I use, like "vibe". Like whaatt dude? 👀She friended my friends on social media, and approached some of my team members- who thankfully said HELL NO... love them.
It was (and still is) wild. Apparently now, there is even a replica of the Rockstar Shop? My mind is blown that someone would actually take everything someone else built and try to slap their own name on it. Talk about feeling mentally, emotionally, & creatively raped. I felt so exposed and taken advantage of, but I literally had no energy to deal with it. It was just another layer, sinking me deeper into depression. I felt hopeless.
I'm so grateful that God has blessed me with self-awareness and hindsight- the ability to look back, recognize my failures, and learn from my mistakes. But I barely had energy to do anything. I couldn't create, I couldn't engage with people socially. I just felt a total disconnection to myself and the world around me.
It's a journey people. You never learn a deep lesson, lightning fast... it's a process. This is mine...
I just kept going. I didn't stop. The one thing (the most powerful thing) I did do, thanks to my sister Marie, who is literally the fucking most persistent person I have ever met in my life (& something wildly awesome about her) - was go to therapy. Let me tell you something about Marie (or Ree, as we call her): If she were selling real estate, she'd be the #1 Agent in the US. She doesn't give up for shit. And she's a total boss.
*Side note for example: just last night, Ree sent me flights to Tulum Mexico for her bachelorette party, which she had been monitoring & coordinating like an air traffic controller for people all over the US, and as I was drifting off to sleep, I said "I'm too tired. Can you get them?", and sure enough, she did. I woke up to my plane ticket for her bachelorette party on my phone. BOSS. Anyway I digress. Back to the story...
She literally researched therapists who accepted my insurance, consistently sent me resources, and ultimately helped me find an incredible therapist.
Months of therapy and partnering with my doctor to get my mental health back and I discovered that I was suffering from severe depression, PTSD, and PMDD (which was my hormones thrown totally off by the previous 2) And no freaking wonder why... my body was surviving off of cortisol cocktails for 2 years straight!
Trauma of Covid underlying for 2 years
Trauma of losing my Dad
Trauma of reliving those horrible memories and those amazing memories & sorting out how to feel real feelings
Trauma losing my Stepdad
Trauma of reliving those horrible memories and those amazing memories & figuring out those feelings too
Trauma having my entire business stolen out from underneath of me by someone I once trusted
I'm not healed. But I am heal-ING and I'm beginning to find myself again. Here are just some of the changes I am seeing:
I have always been super energetic and having to manufacture energy over the last 2 years is exhausting and depleting. My energy is coming back. I'm starting to feel alive again. I don't feel exhausted constantly. Just the other night, I was up building a new system until I fell asleep at my computer. Just because I wanted to. Becuase I love it again. This is who I am, but I haven't seen her in a long time.
My brain is waking up. I can think so much more clearly. It is so hard to think and remember things with severe depression. Your cognition is altered and brain fog is the norm.
My creativity is coming back. Creativity takes energy and when you're in a poor mental health state, energy is scarce. You use up every ounce just getting through the day, so there is nothing leftover for creativity. It feels amazing to have the creative energy to design my home now and write this blogpost.
I'm able to connect again with others, and actually experience excitement when I get to be around the people I love again.
I have a desire to write and create videos and do the things I used to love doing but lost all desire for.
The nagging anxiety that I used to feel lingering in my diaphragm is replaced with excitement again.
Things that felt so hard before are starting to feel fun again and gratitude overwhelms my heart.
Food actually tastes more intense. It had lost almost all flavor to me. And I have an appetite again! Woooo!
Part of this post was therapy to get my story out of my head and onto paper, and part is to reach out to those who are dealing with mental health issues: PTSD, depression, anxiety, trauma, etc. and let you know that there is hope & healing. Even though you feel hopeless right now- and I know how that feels- that's a lie. It's a story that you're buying, and you don't have to continue to subscribe to that and suffer.
Get help. Find a great therapist. You have trauma just like I do. Your's looks different than mine, but it's the same... trauma. I have learned that we all have trauma that presents itself in different patterns and ways of being. But we can change the story if we learn about ourselves and if we take charge of our mental health.
Right now, the recipe for mental health that is working for me looks like:
Vitamins/Supplements: multi vitamin, evening primrose, fish oil, vitamin E, vitamin D, probiotic
Laying down people pleasing, and giving myself what I need
Your journey and your recipe will look different, but wherever you are in your mental health journey, I want you to know you're not alone. There is hope. Do the work. It's so worth it.
Peace, love, & good vibes,