Antidepressants no longer speak my story. I do; and I am penning this article to share the realizations that helped me learn to think with the mind of the heart and attain better control over my psychological state.
The Moody Blues – no, not the band (although they are amazing), but it’s the state of mind I have combatted for the majority of my life. I am very familiar with waking up and feeling bitter or hostile even after a good eight hours of sleep. I was in fact in the grips of anxiety and depression when I met my wife eight years ago. Falling in love for the first time brought with it a burst of fresh air and a rush of the “happiness hormones” which instantly boosted my mood. However, a year into our relationship – though I was still very much in love – the novelty of love had worn off, and antidepressants continued to tell my story. Except something had changed.
Though our relationship was no longer “new”, now it was strong. Just as fire strengthens steel, our bond continued to be strengthened by every storm we survived together. The storms, that were mostly brought on because of my own states of mind and which she braced alongside me, made me realize the true strength of our bond. It is this bond that then helped me overcome my weaknesses. It did not instantly relieve my stressors, but for the first time ever I had a real reason to want to overcome my weaknesses. Though there is still the occasional day when I wake up feeling anxious or empty, I have gotten better at controlling my whims and fears. It amazes me to think that all it took was changing my perspective through three simple realizations.
Realizing love’s worth
Realizing our love and commitment towards our mate is the key to overcoming personal weaknesses, and it’s what helped me overcome mine. In this I draw inspiration from my wife. She wakes multiple times each night to take care of our baby (some of you may be familiar with nightly feedings and diaper changes). There’s no doubt she feels completely exhausted and can use some sleep herself, but her love and sense of commitment towards our baby has her wake up multiple times a night, night after night, without complaints and without requiring any alarm to be set. It’s also her love for me that has her wake up multiple times a night, night after night, so I don’t have to. Likewise it’s the reminder of my love for her that encourages me to keep my cool during any upsets or downtimes. I have realized that the “in sickness and in health” part of our vows can also translate to overcoming our personal sickness and being healthy for each other. I love us enough to want to be healthy for us and not give in to any “sickness” that would make me say or do something I would later regret. I am committed to my wife and committed to fighting the darkness for us.
Realizing ‘our’ needs come before ‘my’ own
It took me to be in a loving relationship to identify my strengths, but it only came through the identification of my weaknesses. For the first time I learned the importance of looking past my obsession with self, and fixation on being right. I realized that a sole fixation on having it “my way” only makes us vulnerable to disappointment, frustration, anger and eventually depression. I learned that relationships prosper only when we put the needs of that relationship ahead of our individual ones. With “lets make it work” being our motto, it’s easy to stay focused as it provides a clear-cut reason to do better. As a couple committed to putting our relationship first, we have a simple plan that we at least try sticking to: talk it out no matter what it is. Bound by the mutual commitment of putting “us” first, we openly discuss our issues and insecurities. By not allowing things to bottle up, we can avoid having them blow up and out of proportion.
Realizing that we are a team
It has been said that a real good woman turns a boy into a man. My woman is never shy to point out when I act in a manner that does not suit me. I am not shy to return the favor; and it serves us well. But I wasn’t always so easy going. My life as a youth was very much spent exercising, dancing, working or just plain doing what felt fine. I thought my personality was most pleasant and I did not need to change any aspect of it. My flawed way of seeing the world was apparent to all but myself. In fact I thought the act of asking for help was a sign of weakness and admitting one’s mistakes was akin to accepting defeat. Maturity helped me realize that partners make a team, and the success of the team depends on our ability to listen to one another, take pointers, learn, change and grow together. After all, mates are not just two people making life work; they are two people working their entire life to bring out the best in one another.
At the end of the day life is a choice. We have the choice to focus on harmony within grief, or on reasons to grieve when things aren’t really that bad. Many of us (like my previous self) end up wasting precious time focusing on the later and allowing mood and self-obsession to interfere with experiencing love, peace and harmony within our relationships, which in effect make us even more blue. The cycle only continues. Sometimes all we need is a reason that can strengthen our determination to overcome our weaknesses. For me that determination came from the realization of our love’s worth. As I continue to put us first, I am watching our team succeed.