Day zero

I remember the first time I missed my dose for my maintenance medications. I can recall my fear, my panic for what might happen after—considering my psychiatrist and my mother kept reminding me to never miss a day of taking my antidepressants.  

This was not a single occurrence. I had unintentionally missed doses on different occasions; there were several times wherein I would lose my months-long progress in just a day. My body would destabilize and my emotions and mood would change rapidly. It was my body reacting to the missed doses. I would have to get used to the absence of what seemed to be essential for my body to work and function normally.  

Oddly enough, I felt the same way when I lost my father. I didn’t lose mine to sickness, to war, or to any tragedy or calamity caused by nature. I lost mine because I was left behind. My father—who is now part of a family he does not belong to—left ours more than six years ago. Yet, it feels as if it was just yesterday. 

Everything immediately fell apart; my mind buzzed, my body went numb, and my spirit was low. It was as if a big chunk of my system had forgotten how to function. It was as if a part of me was taken away, leaving a massive hole at the center of my existence.  

Then the voices started to present themselves, they insisted that the blame was mine. It was my fault that I was not a good enough son. It was my fault that my interests were not the same as my father’s, that I was too “soft and sensitive”, and that I did not support his disloyal nature. It was my fault that I never convinced him to stay for me. The voices were loud and constant—as constant as my tears. 

People come and go in our lives, but for others, one’s biological father is indispensable. It is a loss that sometimes cannot be gotten over with; sometimes it is liberating, sometimes depressing. The night he left had knocked me out my high spirits. I felt like I lost a battle even when there were none being fought.  

It was similar to when I missed a dose; from day 5,475—it was back to day zero. I had to start again—all progress lost, my canvas empty.  

My approach to the situation with my father is very much like the treatment of my Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). There were times when I would celebrate my progress and development. And there were also times when things go the opposite direction, where I would question my capacity to further endure the pain my situation. It felt like an endless cycle of days switching between positivity and negativity. Often, It still does.  

Sometimes I question why I still commit to a recovery process that would not guarantee anything. Why do I invest my time in something that brings me closer to my goal—my recovery—but would eventually peter away with my goal further from sight?  

Then again, like my treatment, life does not guarantee that things will be “perfectly okay someday,” as my mother says. My disorder will always be there, just like the emotional pain I continue to struggle with. Continuously medicating myself will not guarantee that I will be magically cured of my MDD; all it does is help me get by and stabilize my hormones, my emotions, and my system. Hence, religiously making an effort to make my situation more bearable will not guarantee any reward. Exerting effort matters, and that is another lesson to be learned entirely.  

Life has countless metaphors for starting over: the dawn rising after a long night, a cherry blossom blooming after winter, or even a butterfly freeing itself from its cocoon. It seems absurd that I associate my own rebuilding with my many day zeros but these experiences helped me become stronger, better, and more ready for each day.  

We all go through tough times and we all try to muster up the courage to rebuild and recover. No matter how many day zeros we go through, no matter how many ups and downs we encounter, we must go on. The journey is necessary. The pain is necessary. The acceptance of my situation, too, is necessary—and I believe that recovery begins with that. 

By Ramon Castañeda

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