ARC Blog

The Extraordinary Truth

If you were to ask me what is the most painful event in my life, I probably would have lied or simply kept silent. Now, it seems impossible in doing so, considering that my own writings and film projects touch upon what many people tend to avoid in life—to feel something.

Last May, I felt on top of the world. It was my twenty-fourth birthday and it had been a while since I had last gone out to celebrate with my friends. And I got drunk. But I was feeling good and content because everything had fallen into place—I had a business partner who was also eager to get a feature film moving, we were in talks at the time in making a short film for the project. I was growing really close with new friends, and something in which was new for me in a very long time was reuniting with a classmate from college and falling hard for him in a short amount of time.

And two weeks later, an unexpected family member had passed. My stepdad had a heart attack while on vacation with my mother. He was fifty-three years old.

Like many people who lose a loved one, especially if taken under their wing, I was mostly shocked and then angry. Lived, if I must say. The remaining summer was a roller coaster of trying to feel “okay,” pretending to be “okay,” and trying to “fit in” and do what a twenty-four-year-old is supposed to do…right?

I felt even crappier when I started to have a few mini meltdowns of crying hysterically. Well, maybe they were not your typical meltdowns, but it was the first time where I had cried in front of a friend, something in which I never do ever.

I was going to therapy on a weekly basis after my stepdad, Jeff, had passed away. In the back of my mind, I understood that some triggers for my own anxiety and depression were grief, let alone when it is unexpected as well. I loved Jeff and a part of me certainly felt pressured to have it together and hold it together to stay strong for everyone else. But I was unaware for the longest time that holding it together for others was only hurting myself because I was not exactly dealing with how I felt emotionally. And emotionally, I wanted to cry and scream most of the time.

It is never a bad thing to admit that you need time for yourself or simply a day off for self-care. This is something I noticed over time – to always apply some therapeutic remedy physically, emotionally, and mentally. To overcome my own worries and fears, as well as maintain my battle with anxiety and depression – to take a step back. –Natalie Rodriguez

Although I had gone to therapy about two years prior to these past few months, I truly understood what it meant in taking care of yourself mentally and emotionally. I experienced another loss when a loved one suddenly passed a few weeks after Jeff, just hours after his funeral. That was the first time where I understood what pain meant—and it still is one of the most painful events to reflect upon, even until this day.

Ironically throughout this time of freshly grieving over the loss of two loved ones, I had slipped in and out of depression while editing and putting together the pitch packet for a film project of mine. The project was called The Extraordinary Ordinary, a story about three young adults and their history with a mental health disorder and the stigmas and shame that, unfortunately, come with it from others being discouraging and unsupportive.

As the weeks had progressed, everything seemed one big cliché, unsure if my anxiety and depression were back or that it was simply the process of grief and that only time would tell.

Well, time had certainly seemed to drag on. A lot had happened within a few months, something that kicked up my stress and worry. It was also the same time when I was truly building the pitch packet for The Extraordinary Ordinary, doing further research on mental health disorders, realizing that I had the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety. The giveaway for me was always worrying and overthinking everything. Or other days, I was purposely (well, more so subconsciously) staying busy so I would not have enough time on my hands to think. I found out that was High Functioning Anxiety. Otherwise, thinking about something would only lead to the possibility of having to deal with my emotions and how I was truly feeling.

Most of the time—I was not okay.

Something that had kept me grounded, or up on my feet, was continuing with my writings and film projects. In fact, it was something that some friends had encouraged me in doing so when I was self-doubting myself or tempted to quit altogether. It took one phone call with a friend, who had strongly advised me that I should keep making movies because there was more for me to say. I sort of ignored their comment until a few days later when another buddy of mine who would go on and star in the film that summer. I had decided that summer needed to end right. I was starting to get fed up with feeling so sad and unmotivated.

But, in reality, I had to allow myself to feel those feelings, something in which I had realized a few days ago after Jeff’s anniversary:

  •  I was being too hard on myself
  • everyone should take a moment for themselves…
  • …and make sure that they are feeling OKAY.

It is always okay to not feel okay. And for me that has certainly been these past twelve months, soon to be going on thirteen. Ironically, I had another moment of self-reflection of everything that has happened from nostalgia to heartbreak, complete utter heartbroken when Jeff had passed, followed by my friend’s sister, Isabelle, passing. Then there were three semi fallouts/breakups/one of those, “What are we/What were you ever” situations.

It is never a bad thing to admit that you need time for yourself or simply a day off for self-care. This is something I noticed over time – to always apply some therapeutic remedy physically, emotionally, and mentally. To overcome my own worries and fears, as well as maintain my battle with anxiety and depression – to take a step back.

That has certainly been the motto from here on out, something that will continue to be work-in-progress because I am always learning. And that is perfectly okay—there is never a prerequisite or a deadline when it comes to self-care and one’s mental health.

Natalie Rodriguez is a writer, filmmaker, and mental health advocate based in Los Angeles, California. She graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in TV-Film from CSU Fullerton in 2014. She was then selected as one of the ten screenwriters for actor James Franco’s first Studio 4 Master Class.
Her writing has been published and featured on many websites including Amazon Books, The Huffington Post, Zooey Deschanel’s Hello Giggles, and TheRichest. Some upcoming publications include an article on mental health, therapy, and the grieving process, “The Extraordinary Truth,” on Anxiety Resources Center and her first story about night terrors and trauma, “Inner Child,” on The Stray Branch.
Natalie’s extensive background in film includes screenwriting, directing, producing, and editing. Her film works have been featured on Funny or Die and Fictional Café. Some of her other screenplays and films have placed in the final rounds at the Beverly Hills Film Festival, Hollywood Screenplay Contest, IndieFEST Awards, Script Pipeline, Table Read My Screenplay – Austin Film Festival, CSU Media Arts Film Festival, and more.
Natalie can be contacted at (909) 728-2850 or [email protected]. Follow her at @natchrisrod and @theextraordfilm.
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