Did a small interview with Alex Coghe for the Leica Blog. A little shoutout to a few friends as well.
I could have been Robin Williams
I can’t remember how it was, but my aunt took me to the hospital when I was 21 because I haven’t been well and I was diagnosed with depression. It was I big shock, because I didn’t even realized I was suffering from it. I just felt very miserable for years, often shutting myself out from people, sleeping all day. You’ll get a temperature when you have a fever, sore throat when you have a throat infection, signs to tell you that you’re sick. Nothing told me I had depression, but now I know. So what then?
The doc prescribed Prozac to stabilize the mood and lorazepam to help me sleep. The Prozac didn’t help, but I could at least sleep for once-with two pills instead of one prescribed. So the doc changed the medication by adding a few combination, but they didn’t help. She changed it again a few months later, and this went on for years because I would either suffer terrible side effects or they would do nothing to help stabilize the mood. I even had to take lithium for a period of time, it was crazy. My hands trembles most of the time, I could hardly taste anything when I eat anymore. I couldn’t do anything after the night dosage because I would get so drowsy it’s dangerous to do anything at all. But I kept following up with the doc and taking trying the medication hoping to get cured from it. But it was very difficult to work with the doctors because they would ask tons of questions. But you don’t remember things when you’re down, nothing.
Fast forward many years, I begun to feel like a drug addict. I would suffer very bad withdrawal symptoms if I missed taking my dose. It was bad, really bad. I told myself that since nothing that I’ve been taking could cure it, I might as well quit taking the medications. They make me feel sick differently anyway. So I counted the remaining pills I have, I cut them up in to small pieces and plan out to reduce the dosage day by day. I still had withdrawal symptoms, but to my surprise I was able to manage it. I felt free for once, I could finally taste the food I eat and months later my hands stopped trembling. I didn’t know if I would be able to cope, but I there was no turning back.
I managed well, but I was always suffering from exhaustion in the day. It was really, really bad. I didn’t know why, so I went to my GP to see if he have any answers for me. He said it’s one of the symptoms of depression, pointed out a few more and then followed on to ask me the usual questions. But he told me something no other doctors has ever said-“you can’t cure depression, you live with it”. He went on to say that it’s just like any other medical condition, diabetes, hypertension etc.. You take med to control the symptoms and what nots, and you adjust your lifestyle to deal with it. It was the first time I saw the illness outside of me.
It was a huge struggle from the beginning mainly because people don’t understand what I was going through, but I don’t blame them because I too have no clue about what was going on either. The truth is that nobody will ever understand. But I guess the most difficult part I had to deal with was asking myself “why do I have this?” and “when will this finally end?” over and over again. The biggest turnaround was when I stopped waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel to come, it never will. You either find the light moving forward or you make that light. I have episodes of low mood every now and then, sometimes they last 2 weeks and sometimes up to 2 months. I’ve learnt that what goes down will come up, I don’t panic anymore when I realized my mood is down again. You just have to be patient and it’ll go away, don’t know when but it will. I still get anxiety attacks too, and it’s the same. I found some ways to help me with that, drawing for one. It’s still not easy, but I’ve learnt that you can navigate around obstacles instead of letting them stop you from going where you want to go. I have all the symptoms of depression, but I don’t feel depressed anymore. The medical term “depression” should not be confused with feeling depressed or sad.
I’m really lucky that even though I went through terrible times, I wasn’t suicidal(I think my religious faith helped me out on that). But sadly, there are people who committed suicide because they couldn’t cope with depression. I’m not ashamed to say that I have depression, I don’t think anybody needs to be ashamed to say that that have diabetes or cancer or whatever. I just hope that sharing a little bit of how I managed to live with it can help others who are struggling. If you know anyone who is suffering, you can help my giving them space. Space, time and love are what they need most.
-Photo taken when I was in the middle of a charity mission in the Philippines. I was having my worst anxiety attacks for years at that time, so ” took a photo to remember.