I’ve been completely medication-free for several months now, after nearly five years on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, and as a result I’m rediscovering the whole spectrum of emotions and working my way through how to reintegrate my stronger emotions – the good and the bad – into my personal and professional self. While it’s a challenge, it’s a good challenge and I am delighted to be feeling more like “myself” (for want of a better description) than I have in a very long time.
Here’s the thing with medication designed to treat depression and anxiety: while they’re great for helping you to overcome the ‘lows’ by lessening the instances of negative emotions, they also take away any ‘highs’ that you might experience – in other words, many of the positive emotions. Just because you’re having trouble dealing with the lows (which tend to be bigger and badder when you’re dealing with depression and anxiety) it doesn’t mean that you don’t want to enjoy the highs but, alas, with treatment comes sacrifices. I kind of equate it to watching an episode of Two and a Half Men – lots of forced laughter and zero emotional response as you just go through the motions (ouch).
Getting used to embracing my emotional self really took a lot of soul-searching, because it’s so far removed from how I was expected to behave professionally pre-breakdown. When I worked in the corporate world, emotions were frowned upon and encouraged to be kept private. Why? I never understood this concept of a public versus a private persona. There’s a real level of inauthenticity (hello, big word) that goes with having to suppress your emotions at work and in my case, not being authentic/not dealing with my emotions was a big contributor to my breakdown.
Now, I’m not saying that you should just fly off the handle when you’re pissed off or frustrated (even though, yes, I’ve been guilty of that once or twice and wish I had controlled myself better) but if something is pissing you off, you should be able to say so constructively. I once had a boss who used to speak to me (and others) like shit, and it wasn’t until I finally reached my limit and told her I wouldn’t accept being spoken to like that anymore that things actually changed for the better. If I had just swallowed my feelings, nothing would have changed.
The cold, hard fact is that emotions are part and parcel of the human experience – we are thinking, feeling creatures. As much as we might try to live our lives in a rational and logical way, our emotions are a huge part of who we are. Integrating our logical self with our emotional self allows us to be a more well-rounded individual, both professionally and personally. It is the stuff that we’re passionate about which usually brings us the greatest joy and satisfaction in life. Achieving success requires you to be passionate about something – and there’s that word again, passion. Passion, like all emotions, is a good thing, because when you harness the power of your emotions you can achieve just about anything.
I believe that emotions are neither good nor bad; emotions just are. Whether they’re positive or negative is really just a question of perspective, not to mention context; what seems negative in the moment may turn out to have actually been a positive (such as when you’re unhappy in your job but that unhappiness lights a fire beneath you to do something about it). Emotions are what drive us, what shape us, what make us who we are. To deny them or to try to push them aside means we are not being our true selves. I, for one, choose to embrace and make the most of my emotions – the good, the bad, and the ugly – so that I can be the truest version of myself that I can be and to create art that genuinely represents me.
And, finally, remember…
“Never apologise for being sensitive or emotional. It’s a sign that you have a big heart, and that you aren’t afraid to let others see it. Showing your emotions is a sign of strength.” – Brigitte Nicole
Until next time!
Jeremy Godwin is an Australian author, public speaker, blogger and independent publisher who specialises in mental health, self-development and personal growth, and is currently seeking treatment for a serious Eurovision addiction. His new book, No-Nonsense Advice For Living, is out now – get it on iBooks or Kindle. Follow his blog, Stuff I’ve Learned (So Far) About Life, Liberty & Leprechauns, here.