This entry was originally published in the author’s blog Notes From The Shadows. We are reposting here with his permission
By John Mari A. Marcelo
I wrote the following last night. Had an anxiety attack as I was writing it.
My honeymoon period with my anti-depressants is over. It’s been over for about a month now, if I’m not mistaken. I’m afraid. Everything’s real now. That constant rise of my emotional momentum has begun to normalize. Up and down. Rise and fall.
On those first months with Escitalopram, I felt so much lighter. My head was in the clouds. On a high. Happiness. Medicated happiness. I felt an optimism that I’ve never felt before. Positivity without the danger of slipping back into the darkness.
Months later and my relationship with the meds has become serious. It’s become an adjustment on my part. Not just to the highs, but even to the lows. Especially to the lows. Lows that are normal. Standard lows as opposed to my previous lows. As it’s supposed to be, I think. My brain prior to treatment was on the negative. Always on the lows. Never on the highs.
It’s frightening me because there are now random moments when I slip back. I’m taken back to who I was before. The relapses have been happening frequently. This is normal, I think. The ups and downs of my mood, the anxious moments after periods of ecstasy. Life isn’t all positivity, after all. The shadows are still there. It’s always gonna be there whether I like it or not. I just got to remind myself to use what weapons I have to combat them.
I do have to learn how to properly use the weapons (specifically my anti-anxiety medications) that I have. I’ve noticed that there are times when I don’t use them when I should. I wanted to see how the Escitalopram would help with the anxiety. It was a great help on the honeymoon period. Not so much these days when I feel everything again.
Now, last year, I did feel everything when I opened my heart up to someone. It crashed and burned, however, as I wasn’t in the right mind yet. Now that I’m in the “right” mind, I do feel everything and there’s a part of me that wants to close myself again. There’s a part of me that wants to shut off my humanity switch again, if that’s even possible at this point. You see, it was living my dream as a singer-songwriter – writing and creating music, playing my songs to faceless crowds – that made me human again. It made me live again. It was pure happiness that reawakened me from a long period of intense nothingness. I wasn’t still in my “right” mind then, as I found out much later, so when I sabotaged that dream, the darkness completely took over. I was powerless to fight back. I was ill-equipped to pull myself up from the hole that the depression dug for me.
Anyway, back to the anti-anxiety meds. I realized the other day that the reason why I don’t take the Xanax when I should is because of my masochism. The emotional and mental pain were all I knew. They are literally a part of who I am. And I may have fallen in love with it. Married it. Had babies with it. Held them close to my heart. Protected them like any loved one would. The sadness was where I felt more like myself. The sadness was where I was alive, even when I wasn’t. I became one with the darkness and I was alive.
I’ve opened my heart up to someone again. I don’t know if that’s the exact reason why I’ve been losing my shit again, but my heart beating for someone has always been one of my more intense stressors.
I didn’t get to finish it. Whatever I wanted to say, whatever I wanted to express, became too much for my fragile mind to handle. Messaged a few friends for drinks out.
Something odd happened while I was having an anxiety attack at Starbucks last night. There was a moment when I was on auto-pilot. I felt nothing. The humanity switch was off. I kinda liked it. It’s bad, I know, but it did seem better than feeling.
I ended up at PureGold buying beers for myself. Went home, had dinner, drank. One of the friends I messaged was coming over. But while he was still in transit, the humanity switch turned itself on and I lost my shit again. It was going to happen. The anxiety attack was the precursor to the mental and emotional breakdown. The alcohol made it worse. Much much worse.
I would’ve taken a Xanax while I was writing what I was supposed to post last night, but it…I don’t know. I needed to get my mind off of it and thought that drinking out with friends would help. Maybe it would have, but the sudden change in plans (drinking alone, til back up arrived, at home instead of out with friends) was perhaps the worst move ever.
The friends made it and I was okay for a bit. Got to talk about what was going on in my head. Had one of them keep my bullets because I realized that I could still fire them without a gun. And, and this is perhaps a testament to the love affair I have with the darkness, kept two bullets. In case. I was losing my shit again when they left.
When I became a little bit calmer, I messaged another friend who stays at her house in our village during the weekends if she’s around. Needed someone to take from me the two I kept. She didn’t make it, but my head was clearer again so I wouldn’t have used it.
Last night was another intense battle with my war with depression. Events like that need to happen. I know that now. The pain was just too much. The darkness that I still hold dear became too much. All the emotions that I never got to feel before, breakdowns that I should’ve let happen but just shoved inside cos I couldn’t see the point then, are all coming in now. Are all happening now.
The pain that I should have felt before, I need to feel now. Because that’s what being normal is, right? Feeling things. Even pain.
As with my intense battles recently, I get to learn a lot from them in the aftermath.
- Abstain from alcohol when you’re in the middle of mental and emotional confusion – yeah, this is pretty much self-explanatory. The alcohol made it worse last night. I’m still not in the right mindset to imbibe on alcoholic beverages.
- XANAX XANAX XANAX – I was prescribed it for a reason. Things would have ended up differently last night had I just taken it. The pain and the mental anguish would have still been felt, but my head would have been much quieter and calmer. I wouldn’t have sabotaged myself again. I would have strategized and dealt with the emotions instead of letting them take control.
- Don’t focus on the intricacies too much, you lose sight of the big picture – I’ve always had this bad habit of keeping myself part of the specifics. Until I drown in them. My heart is open, that I have to point out. There’s a girl I really like and overanalyzing the feelings that I have for her are causing my recovery to go haywire. I wish I could just put an end to the feelings, but that’s counter-intuitive to where I am now. I have to feel. I have to embrace what I feel. I just need to take a step back so I can see the bigger picture and let it happen, not control what I feel, as I’ve always attempted to do in years past. Attempting to control feelings is pretty much futile.
- I am an addict – I’ll be honest, “The Darkness” has been my catchall phrase for all my demons. My depression, my anxiety disorder, my baggage, my fears, all the anger I kept inside, etc. In my battle last night, I realized that I was like an addict going through withdrawals. I was lying in bed, my body shaking, mouth dry even if I was drinking alcohol. I am addicted to the darkness. I am addicted to the sadness. I am addicted to the madness. I am addicted to the misery and the anguish. How can I not be? The depression has been feeding me all those for over thirty years. It’s all I’ve known. It’s all I’ve ever felt. I couldn’t be happy. I couldn’t fall in love. I couldn’t feel good about anything.
- The recovery process is working, but it takes time – I’m on the right track. There’s no doubt about that. All these breakdowns and anxiety attacks and intense depressive episodes are all part of the process. All the emotions that I shoved down inside me are all banding together now and coming out. This is normal. Necessary.
I should be able to survive all the battles. I have what I need. I just have to quit being so goddamned stubborn and use them. Have to quit my addiction.
All the battle scars make me stronger. All these battles with my darkness where I’m victorious means that I’m getting better. Of course, I can’t help but feel fear. Fear of losing a battle. Fear of the darkness winning. Because when that happens, I’ll be dead.
John Mari A. Marcelo is a music photographer and a writer. He is also a daily survivor of clinical depression and is an advocate for mental health.