“Depression Has Been My Great Blessing”

Against all odds, Joey (Pants) Pantoliano made the leap from Hoboken, NJ, to Hollywood, achieving everything he ever wanted. Yet inside he felt empty—until he got the diagnosis that turned his life around for the better. 

By
Maria Lissandrello

“I have peace of mind.”
Before getting his diagnosis and the treatment he needed, Joey says, “I was carrying 40 pounds of misery on my back.” He couldn’t stay in one place, and his mind was always racing. Today, yoga helps keep him serene. “Holding a yoga position and concentrating on your breathing clears your mind. You are becoming more centered with the universe. It’s like getting a couple more bars on my cellphone.”

“I don’t carry ‘stuff’ anymore.”
“At the end of the day, I make a living evaluation. What did I do today? I ask myself. For example, yesterday a friend of mine was having some serious problems. He had to make some decisions. Instead of listening I started giving him advice. I could see him twitch. This morning when I saw him, I apologized. ‘I wasn’t listening,’ I said. ‘I wasn’t there for you yesterday.’ ” That daily check-in has a huge benefit: “I don’t carry stuff anymore.”

“I’ve found a new way of expressing myself.”
“Before, I was entertaining people. Now I’m actually helping people,” says Joey, who founded No Kidding, Me Too! (NKM2!), a nonprofit organization that empowers people with brain disease to admit their illness, seek treatment and become greater members of society. For Joey, reaching out to others and hearing how he has made a difference in their lives is the payoff. For example, one woman wrote him saying, “Thank you for saving my marriage. I didn’t realize my husband was really ill.” “It’s enriching,” he says. “It’s a miracle.”

 

Published
April 2012