Fourteen months without shedding a tear, exactly the amount of time I’ve been on medication. Correlation? I believe so. I’m taking fairly high doses. Save for the occasional uptick in symptoms, nothing breaks out or gets in. I’m calm. Flat. But not empty.
I just finished watching a movie that not only drew me in completely, but also resulted in helping my first tears in over a year find their way to my face and down my cheeks. A story about the loss of a child and how the parent dealt with it. A fable about acceptance and how hard we resist the truth.
I like to spend a rainy day watching “people” movies, movies about the experiences that tie us together. I’d lost touch with those things as I struggled with mental illness, the wheels off, no measure of how far the meter got pegged for sorrow, pain, or joy. The last time I felt anything remotely emotional I was in restraints, chained to a hospital bed, awaiting placement in a psych ward. Tears flowed as I reacted to life through the lens of schizophrenia. I was a wounded animal who had, only hours prior, attempted suicide for the sadness inherent in my psychosis. I did my best to touch base with the friends who had seen to it that I follow through with my voluntary admission. There were no smiles. There was no laughter. It was not a comedy, it was a real life drama. Melpomene weeping at the hand I’d been dealt, down the lonely corridors of the hospital, to the beds with the restraints and the realization that I was not going to come back to reality on my own.
Two weeks later, armed with a prescription and a handful of paperwork, I pushed my way into the light of life, hoping against odds for a positive outcome, and, surprisingly, I found one. Despite the side effects which presented early on in treatment, I felt a newness, a fresh sense of self. I didn’t feel normal to the life I’d known, but to a different normal, a more objective view. Not stoic or repressed, but clear and focused. I felt better. The voices were missing. The fear was gone. The depression and anxiety were replaced with serenity. I found that I could concentrate. I was capable of linear thought for what felt like the first time in my life, perhaps because it was. I could laugh. I could participate. I could follow a conversation as easily as start one. What I couldn’t do was cry. That one, simple, emotional release was off the menu, and I was aware of it. It hurt in a way that was new to me. I had to have an answer.
I talked about it with my therapist. I discussed it with my doctor. All roads led to the same conclusion: it was a natural side effect of my being medicated. I felt like a part of me had been cut away, and I was willing to let it be for the tradeoff of a better life otherwise. A small thing, really. Trivial. Not being able to show depth of feeling in that way would simply be something I would have to get used to, like the trembling of my hands, or the extra pounds I’d put on. The axiom of childhood had come to pass—“big boys don’t cry”—and the poet in me reluctantly accepted it.
In therapy, I’ve been participating in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to re-map my sense of attachment and work through some trauma related issues. I’m focusing on getting past the roadblocks to health that have been in my way since childhood. Tearing up during a cinematic fairy tale was the last thing I expected to happen, but it did, and I’m grateful. I feel complete knowing that my tear ducts work for more than just adjustment to the wind. The windows to my soul can rinse themselves clean, refresh my heart, and allow me to feel an added dimension to my emotional flow.
I consider this to be significant. After a year-plus of feeling blunted in that area of response, I feel healthier. It’s not a major breakthrough to anyone but me, but I feel reconnected now that I can cry. I can respond to another facet of myself, which means that reduced affect is likely lessening, and that can only be a good thing. Especially for me, as I love a richness of experience, a certain quality of life. I thought the medications had taken away an essential part of me. They hadn’t. It was only a matter of time.