On a previous post, I mused about something my doctor told me. That I have had this thing inside me that has kept me alive all these years. I initially theorized that it was “control.” Another theory is a “survival instinct.” I have another theory: a “will to live.”
All of the above, perhaps. And other still unknown variables that has kept me alive. I am still, after all, in the process of knowing and understanding myself – everything about myself related to all aspects imaginable and unimaginable – so there’s still a lot to learn.
Which leads us to recent events that has undeniable implications on my mental well-being – the romantic relationship that I was in ended. Both sides made mistakes that contributed to the demise of the relationship, both parties learned lessons in the aftermath.
In my case, I learned that I’m more resilient than I thought. I have a history of emotional crashes and burns whenever a relationship or my engulfment on romance ends. It surprised me that the day after the breakup, I still had it in me to wake up early in the morning and drive myself to a music documentation. I still had it in me to photograph the music that was happening before me. I still had it in me to function.
Yes, there were moments that day when I let the sadness overwhelm me. I was, after all, photographing three acoustic singer-songwriters whose specialty is songs about heartbreak and longing. But overall, I managed to overcome the sadness and the grief. I managed to not let the breakup compromise my craft.
Later that night, however, I was purposely drunk. I needed to feel the sadness and grief, and I did. The intoxication was my way of letting myself feel the anguish of the breakup. Even in the week after, I did let myself feel it all. I stopped denying the pain. I stopped ignoring the pain. I stopped thinking that I shouldn’t feel the opposite of happiness and bliss just because I’m getting better from depression. Those emotions – pain and bitterness and grief and devastation – are part of emotional normalcy. To quote an overused line from a movie, “pain demands to be felt.” I have accepted that feeling pain is part of the process of my recovery, that feeling it all is a part of moving forward.
During my last therapy, which happened over a week after the breakup, I told my doctor about the breakup and how it was affecting my mental health. I said that there were indeed times when I went dark again, that there were times when I think about suicide, but I manage to pull myself from the thoughts. I manage to banish the darkness that was pulling me under again. She asked me if I wanted to increase the dosage on my anti-depressants. I declined. I told her that I’ve worked this hard to get to where I am now that I’m fighting like hell, and winning, that an increase in dosage wasn’t necessary.
Will the increase in dosage help? Yes, I’m sure of that. But is it really required in my current mental progress – handling my emotions, pulling myself away from the darkness, accepting that I need to feel the negative emotions? No. I know where I am now. I know where I stand in the mental warfare with myself.
Looking back on what I’ve written so far, as well as how I’ve processed the breakup, it does seem methodical. Robotic, in a way. Devoid of any sentimentality. I once deemed myself as lacking in romanticism in the course of the relationship. I wondered if that was a negative approach to it. I was a hopeless romantic once upon a time. I had a fantasy-based perception on love and romance. I can’t surmise if the reason my perception has changed is because I’ve aged or if the treatment I’m on had something to do with it. It’s possible that I never really was a romantic, and that the depression was instrumental in letting me see romance a certain way.
In the years before treatment, I tried to mix and integrate emotions with logic. I tried to make sense of emotions so I can get a better handle on what I feel. I failed miserably on the numerous attempts. All attempts on fragmenting the two concepts drove me even madder. Now, however, things are different. Circumstances are much different. Better. Clearer. So much clearer. I have a better understanding of myself. I have a better understanding on emotional quandaries and I can handle them better: I let myself feel sadness when I know that I have to. I have a better understanding on how my emotions and actions affect those around me. And now I am capable of acting accordingly.
I may have successfully done what I’ve failed to do in past years – I may have finally built a place in my mind where logic and emotions can peacefully coexist.
I had another incident recently where I was off my antidepressants. It wasn’t voluntary. I simply forgot to take it before I went on with my day. And that day, Jesus. Of all the days to forget about taking my medication, it had to be on a day when I was on a job.
I was tasked to cover a concert. The meet & greet of that concert, specifically. Shooting the performances and behind the scenes moments were something I requested along with the task. To make a long story short, there was a miscommunication and misunderstanding between myself and the person I was in contact with from the production group. I ended up being late for the meet and greet. And not only that, it was only until I was near the venue when I realized that my camera had no memory card inside it. I had a backup memory card with me, but it’s a mere 8GB. I ended up buying a new one before heading to the venue.
Anyway, the misunderstanding, and to an extent, the lapse of checking my gear before leaving the house, threw me off for the rest of the night. My heart wasn’t in it. I tried my best to photograph behind the scenes moments, but I’d say that I didn’t give it my all. Couldn’t, rather. I was feeling off so what I was doing was compromised. There were great moments that I hesitated photographing. There were interactions that were worth capturing that I didn’t.
I took two Xanaxs that day. One when I was in transit to the venue, and one when I was in the midst of it. The anti-anxiety medication didn’t work. I didn’t know why at the time. I assumed that it was due to the lack of food in me, which is still a contender to the possible reasons why it was ineffective.
It wasn’t until the next day, Saturday, when I took my anti-depressant when I noticed that there was still a pill on my pillbox for the day before. I racked my brain during the concert, and afterwards, for reasons why I couldn’t handle the anxiety I was drowning in. I thought that the impact of the misunderstanding was too great that it got to me. I suppose it did have a great an impact on me, but I wasn’t capable of handling it. Not only because I wasn’t on my medication, but because I haven’t fully strengthened my mind to handle such stressors without the medication. Or stressors of any kind, for that matter.
It’s not to say that I am a hundred percent reliant on my medication. For the time being, okay yes, maybe I am. Maybe I have to be. There are still a lot of things that I’m realizing and learning about myself and how my mind works. The meds helps me a great deal in the process. There will come a time when I’ll be off my anti-depressant, and when the times comes, I’ll have mastered the complicated art of dealing with emotions.