Epiphanies from a simple GP visit

This afternoon’s visit to my GP inadvertently sparked a series of epiphanies. I’m trying to capture as much as I can while they are still fresh in my mind so that I can revisit them long after their invigorating warmth have left my veins.

I have been really struggling lately, in terms of stress, anxiety and depression, as well as existentially. The stress came from several months of over-commitment and the internal pressure I was exerting on myself to not only balance everything, but also to do everything perfectly. I was working for too many hours out of habitual fear of struggling financially and I was volunteering for too many hours in order to gain additional work experience and references for better future job prospects. Furthermore, I was pushing myself to gym four days a week and going on social outings several times a week in an attempt to achieve the healthy lifestyle balance my GP has patiently been reminding me for over a year. Consequently, I did not have much time for my studies and even though I had attended all my lectures and labs, I still steadily fell behind.

Looking back at it, I was too foolish. I was on a high from getting that A+ for my summer course and everything seemed to be a bit brighter. In that euphoric state, I became too optimistic and too ambitious, thus took on more and more things without thinking about the practical time and energy constraints that would inevitably grind everything to a halt. During these past few weeks, I have been severely punished for that oversight. With each and every assignment, I struggled more and more as I became increasingly behind with the course material. As the frustrations mounted, my resilience and coping mechanisms started to get worn out. Anxiety began to creep in and depression joined soon after. Instead of taking this as a warning sign, stubbornness and determination pushed me to see through my commitments. By the time midterm tests were around the corner, my unpreparedness sent my anxiety skyrocketing. At that point I was already exhausted from weeks of spreading myself too thin; my defences crumbled and depression had well and truly dug in. With a toxic cocktail of anxiety and depression, as well as the terrible thoughts, memories and emotions they dredged up, it was impossible to concentrate on studying for the tests despite my best efforts. Too little, too late. This then became a vicious self-fulfilling cycle, where my inability to concentrate caused me to get even more behind, thus fuelling more anxiety and depression and thus further impairing my concentration.

For the past two weeks, I have been unable to eat or sleep, I’ve felt nervous, nauseous and tense and I have even thrown up before the tests. The frequency and seriousness of suicidal thoughts have increased and I’ve been left thinking what is all this for? This then sparked a whole series of questions. How did my life come to this? Why do I always find myself back in this cycle? Where did I go wrong this time? Am I so damaged that I can’t sit a simple test? Will I have to live with this for the rest of my life? Will it ever get better? Soon after, these questions transformed into daunting statements. This is all for nothing. This is what my life has been reduced to. I will always find my way back to this cycle. I did everything wrong again. I am so damaged I can’t sit a simple test. I will live with this for the rest of my life. It will never get better. Not long after that, everything began to feel meaningless, I began to feel hopeless, and I began wondering when I would find the resolve to end it all.

This led me to agree to see my GP this afternoon in desperation. A small part of me was still holding onto the hope that this semester was salvageable – that part of me wanted to obtain an aegrotat for the test. The main reason, though, was because I desperately needed – and wanted – help. I did not want to keep sliding, I was afraid that it will get to the point of suicide, but, most of all, I just wanted a reprieve from all the internal turmoil.

Initially, we discussed topics I had been expecting. My symptoms, my impaired performance in the test, checking in on my diet and exercise and a reminder of their importance. Inevitably, we ventured onto the possibility of me going back on medication. She knew that I was against it, especially because my family is so against it, but she told me what I had feared: there isn’t much else that could be done, we had nearly exhausted all available options. From the healthcare point of view, depression is combated by maintaining good diet, exercise, sleep and socialisation, otherwise medication would be the next step. As I was so obviously struggling with the first four, I knew she was hoping that I would accept medication. She offered to talk to someone from my family, to help them understand the need, but I told her it would fall on deaf ears. And I did not want to involved them. Aside from medication, the only other possibility was to reduce my workload: either reduce my hours at work/volunteer or withdraw from one of my courses. At this point, she reminded me that she had written a letter of support for me to get into my current courses because we believed that I would be able to manage. That really hurt and I felt a lot of guilt even though that probably wasn’t her intention. In the end, I decided on reducing my hours at work/volunteer and that I would seriously give medication another thought.

Somewhere during our discussion, she mentioned that the university is all about helping people graduate. That her, the lecturers, the tutors and the disability services were all there to help me. Furthermore, I have been receiving counselling externally as well. However, I need to do some work too. That despite my past trauma, which I’m working through, there are still positive things in my life. Instead of focusing on all the bad things, I should focus on the good things. She encouraged me to keep a gratitude journal, which, despite some opposition, has a large body of supporting evidence. Every day, I should write down at least three things I’m grateful for, which could be things like have Toby in my life, having clean water to drink, having a brother that loves me despite his flaws, or having people like the disability services so committed to helping me.

Even though I could see the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal, I’m ashamed to admit that my initial reactions were feelings of hurt and anger. I took her comments to mean that she was judging me, that she thought I wasn’t trying hard enough, that my problems were self-created due to my negative outlook and that she was minimising the impacts of my trauma. In hindsight, that serves to prove her point about me focusing on the negatives. Deep down, I know that she did not mean any of these things. Those words came from a place of encouragement, not criticism. Knowing this only deepens my shame regarding my initial reaction and my initial thought that she was just like everyone else, passing judgement without truly understanding what it was like.

I have been thinking about this all night and realisation after realisation have hit me. When I swallow my pride and past hurt, I can see things more clearly. Those words had hurt because deep down I know that I have stagnated for some time now, that I have grown complacent and that I have not been putting enough effort into bettering my life. That is not easy to admit. In the past few years, I have dramatically shifted from stubbornly only depending on myself and refusing all outside help to becoming completely dependent on outside help for my recovery. After spending years of struggling alone, the initial relief and comfort from others taking care of me slowly became an addiction. I can’t even begin to articulate how good it feels, from the explosion of warmth to the much-needed validation, when someone genuinely cares and shows it through their actions. In order to hold onto that feeling, I began to let them carry my weight and slowly shirked responsibility.

That is dangerous, it is toxic, and it will ultimately stunt my growth. Although at the time I had needed a lot of assistance, I should have focused on gaining the skills I need to get back on my feet so that one day I can do it independently. Their assistance has only ever been intended as temporary crutches or training wheels but I had foolishly clung onto them to prop up my self-worth. Although this realisation was a major breakthrough, it is only the first step. The onus is on me to work out how to wean myself off and find healthy sources to support my self-worth so that I can function independently. And thrive.

Although I need much more thought into this, I have the first inklings of how I should proceed. First, to shift my mentality: instead of asking what can they do to help me, I should be asking what can I do with their help? Despite seemingly subtle, there is a fundamental difference. Instead of relying on other people to help me achieve my goals, I need to have more confidence in my own abilities and only tap into other resources when necessary. Secondly, I need to let go of my unrealistic expectation that if I do x, y or z, then my life will immediately get better. Just because I exercised or ate well for a week, it doesn’t mean my depression will vanish. It is a lifelong journey, one that requires continual effort and input, not something that can be cured immediately. Thirdly, I need to accept that there are setbacks. That setbacks are normal, they are part of life and they are things I need to work through, not become defeated by. Fourthly, I need to understand and accept that love comes in many different forms, not always in the form I expect. The quote, “just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have” is very fitting. Although my brother can be abrasive and confrontational, that’s just his way of showing me that he cares. Although my dad has never told me that he loves he, he shows it by giving me a ride to uni everyday on the way to work, doing the dishes and laundry for weeks when I’m not functioning and feeding Toby every morning because I always sleep in too late. Although mum always nags and criticises me, it’s because she loves me, sees my potential, and wants me to develop into the person I’m capable of being. Fifthly, I need to make a conscious effort to incorporate gratitude into my life. In the process of becoming so heavily reliant on others, I have also unintentionally began taking them for granted. I am so ashamed of this. It is not okay to take people for granted, especially not after they have given me so much and still continue to support me. So, as my first entry in my gratitude journal, I am grateful for having a wonderfully supportive team behind me: family, friends, Toby, GP, counsellor, disability services, lecturers and tutors.

Anger leaking everywhere

Yesterday at work, I kinda lost it again. Just so tired of people not pulling their weight and expecting others to pick up the slack. I get it if you have a bad day every now and then but if you constantly lack work ethic, please do everyone else a favour and find another job. It really pushes it over the edge when that particular person then complains about other people doing the same thing.

So, this is what happened yesterday. When I walked in, S was eating breakfast even though she was supposed to have started half an hour earlier. Since there were no patients yet, I went downstairs to do other work. She followed and then proceeded to go into the staff room to make coffee. Apparently she didn’t get to sleep until 5 am. A while later, she reappeared and sat down for a while. She did pick up a few trays, and it looked like she was going to quality check them, but she ended up just staring at them. She then announced she was going to go upstairs and eat toast from the freezer.

After I quality checked everything, I started taking things up for the next day. Experience told me to do this early on in the shift because there’s always something missing that could not be resolved in the last ten minutes of the shift. When I got upstairs, she was still eating. She seemed surprised that I was already bringing things up for the next day. I explained my reasons. I then proceeded to get the schedules for tomorrow to photocopy downstairs. At some point she came downstairs again and proceeded to sit and chat with T. The petty side of me kicked in at that point and I sat down to join them. Why should I be working when S wasn’t?

A little while later, someone phoned from upstairs to say there were samples to be processed. S went upstairs and I went back to photocopying. When I went back up to bring the photocopied schedules and the shipping documents, S was working. Finally. I told her to call for help if it gets busy, she jokingly said “help”, which was awkward because I wasn’t in the mood. I went back downstairs to set up other kits, which was frustrating because we ran out of so many kits. Around 15 minutes before the end of her shit, she called me to go upstairs to handover.

When I walked in the door, she immediately informed me that it had been ‘pretty steady’. I looked at the schedules for that day, didn’t seem busy at all. Why was she being so defensive? Maybe she sensed I wasn’t very happy with her, admittedly I’d been quite short with her all morning. To amend this, I engaged in some small talk with her even though I wasn’t in the mood. It pissed me off even more when she started complaining about ‘us’ having to pick up the slack from the rest of the people. I did ask her about her new workplace, though. She seems to be enjoying it, better pay and actual breaks. Apparently people on full-time contracts get other perks like life insurance or something so she’s hoping for her fixed-term contract to be extended into one of those contracts.

When she left, I realised how little work she had done. She had only processed the samples, nothing else. For the next 3 hours, I was flat out processing the rest of the samples, photocopying forms, packing the samples for the courier, taking other samples across the road, tidying up and then setting up for the next day. I was fuming not even half-way through it all. T came in to talk to me at some point. I started complaining to him and he said she has always been like that, nothing much we can do. He helped me make the blood slides, went downstairs to escort the courier, and then asked the courier to wait in the lounge because I wasn’t ready yet.

After everything was sent, I started tidying up. And complaining. A nurse popped in to say that she agreed when we were talking about how inappropriate it was for S to be always eating breakfast during her shift. I hadn’t realised how loud our voices were. I knew I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t help continuing by saying how much work S has left me with. Big mistake. The nurse informed the senior nurse and the senior nurse asked if I wanted her to speak to our manager. I asked her not to because I didn’t want things to escalate but she said perhaps it’s a good idea if it happens again.

Now I’m worried it will get back to S. We are supposed to be friends, at least superficially, but that started to change a few weeks ago. Aside for always slacking off, she began undermining me in front of others. For example, I had forgot to sign something off and she snapchatted it to me, with the caption “do your job better” or something passive aggressive along those lines. I know it was intended to be a joke, but I can’t help feel the underlying nastiness of it. Every joke has some element of seriousness. The next day, in front of everyone, she loudly asked if I had seen her snapchat. Obviously I had, it fucking tells you when it’s been seen. She then proceeded to loudly say what I did wrong, making it out to be more than what it was, then laughed it away like she was joking. Fucked me off. Of all the mistakes she has made, of all the ones I’ve picked up and told her quietly so she could correct it, she still had the audacity to do this? That was despite always reassuring me that she ‘had my back’. My ass.

A few months ago, T told us about this job opening elsewhere (I wrote about the interview here). I didn’t know it at the time, but he told S first. This was simply because I didn’t work as much as she did and T happened to see her first. When S found out that T had told me about the opening too, she wasn’t too happy. T was like, did she really expect that I would only tell her? T also helped her with some interview questions and other background information. He asked her to photocopy it for me to have as well because she was meeting me after that to prepare for the interview together. I later found out she had omitted some things and made her meeting with T sound really brief when it was actually very detailed and lasted for close to an hour. This was after I shared with her the fucking presentation I found online about the entire project made by the fucking lead researcher herself.

After finding out all these things and weighing up her general character, I really started disliking her and did not consider her a friend anymore. To me, a friend has to be loyal and honest, not constantly undermining, dumping work and holding things back. I understand not wanting to work for a manager and a company that treats us as dispensable but it’s inexcusable to dump it on your fellow coworkers. I understand the lure of a better job but I honestly would not ruthlessly pursue it at the cost of friendships. I refuse to understand that undermining shit though. I don’t give a fuck if this makes me too idealistic or naive but I would expect that of all my friends. I would rather not have friends than have fake ones I can’t count on.

This turned out to be a long rant. It was only supposed to be about being pissed off about work again. Oops.

Dreams don’t come true

I wish I had someone who I could confide in

I wish I had someone who cared about me

I wish I had someone who I could watch the stars with

I wish I had someone who enjoyed my company

I wish I had someone who could whisper comforting words in my ears

I wish I had someone who could hold my hand

I wish I had someone who’s shoulder I could cry on

I wish I had someone who could make me feel safe

I wish I had someone who I could talk to in the middle of the night

I wish I had someone who I could laugh with

I wish I had someone who I could do silly things with

I wish I had someone who I could be myself with

I wish I had someone who could make me feel okay

I wish I had someone who could hold me

I wish I had someone who could make me forget what loneliness feels like

I wish I had someone who could chase away my nightmares

I wish I had someone who could take me on a long drive

I wish I had someone who loved me

I wish I had someone I could reciprocate all this for

I wish I had someone

Rock bottom

I’ve been feeling down for a while now but recently it feels like I’m nearing rock bottom. It really feels like things will never get better. In some ways, it feels like there is subconscious intentional self-sabotage. Why else do I always find myself back here? Maybe I have always been waiting for things to get bad enough to kill myself. Because deep down, I know I have nothing to live for.

Too many feelings

This week has been a rollercoaster of emotions. After the session with K on Monday, I was in a good place. Not long afterwards, I began descending to a really bad place when I realised that I wouldn’t see her for another 17 days as she is going away for training.

Although a part of me could rationalise it, another part of me felt abandoned all over again. We had just got back into regular sessions and now she’s leaving me again. A million bad thoughts started crowding in my head. I started thinking about all the other times people have left me, I started to freak out that she won’t come back and that she has gotten sick of me just like everyone else. Maybe when she said she wasn’t angry at me for drinking, for wandering around in parks late at night, for not having better coping strategies, she actually was angry. Maybe when she said she wasn’t offended or angry that I told her I still didn’t trust her, she actually was offended and angry. Her leaving me demonstrates this.

That along with the stress and anxiety of tests and assignments got too much. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t function. I broke early Wednesday morning and txted her. I knew I shouldn’t have, that she doesn’t like contact outside our sessions because I’m meant to use the helpline, but I desperately needed her. Although I knew it wouldn’t change anything, I asked her to please not go. I immediately regretted it as soon as I sent it. Now she will know how needy and attached I am.

This morning, I received a txt from her saying she is able to see me this afternoon and asked if it suits me. I was so conflicted. I wanted to see her but at the same time I was too embarrassed to face her. Of course she will talk about that txt. Plus I’m supposed to be studying so I don’t fuck up the test next week like I did with the one yesterday. In the end though, I decided to go.

By the time I reached the gate, I was pretty much dragging my feet. I felt so much dread, anxiety, fear and who knows what else. I didn’t know how she was going to react, whether she would be angry I txted her or think I was utterly pathetic.

Turns out she wasn’t angry nor did she think I was pathetic. She said she was worried. She wanted me to look in her eyes when she told me she wasn’t angry with me. I couldn’t. I just kept fidgeting with my drink bottle. How stupid. She wanted to know what I had meant by that txt. I couldn’t speak so she gave me a pen and some paper. It took a lifetime before I jotted down “don’t abandon me” on the page. It took another lifetime before I found the courage to show it to her.

Even though she still has to go away, she said she was not abandoning me. She asked me what would help me while she was away, if there were any supports we could put in place. I didn’t say anything. All I could think about was how much I needed her to not leave. She asked me what I felt when I receive her txt reminders about our appointments, whether they reassured me or if they annoyed me. I said they reassured me that she was there (she previously forgot about our appointment and it has been a fear ever since). She said she could txt me next Tuesday and Thursday to reassure me that she was there, that she would be back. She asked me what I would like her to say in those txts. I didn’t say anything. She suggested “how are you” but felt it may be triggering, which would be bad because she would not be able to send further txts for a conversation. She then suggested a simple “hi” but I felt that it would be a bit random. In the end, we settled for “hi, this is a reminder that we will have an appointment on the 7th of May”.

Although it’s not perfect (I’m difficult to please, I know) but it will at least reassure me that she remembers me and that she is coming back. I really hope she comes back.

Close call

This morning, after I had left for uni, Toby (our dog) snuck into my room, hopped onto my desk and devoured the chocolate I had left there. Earlier, I had considered taking the chocolate with me but had decided to control my eating. And this is what happens. I purposely closed the door so he wouldn’t be able to get to the chocolate, but I mustn’t have closed it properly. Luckily my brother was home and heard him tearing at the wrapper. As there was half a block left, roughly 50 g, and it contained 70% cocoa, the vet told him to take Toby straight there as it was a potentially lethal dose.

At the time, my brother didn’t tell me how serious it was. I was about to sit a test and he didn’t want me to worry. However, I still worried. I couldn’t concentrate. All I could think about was how it was all my fault that I had left the chocolate on my desk and that I hadn’t closed the door properly. Then, my brain went into overdrive and thought about Toby dying. It wasn’t until this evening, when my brother and dad picked me up from work so that we could go to the vet together and pick him up, did I realise how serious it was. I hadn’t realised he had been kept for observation.

The vet told us that he had induced vomiting to make him throw up the chocolate, given him some charcoal to absorb the rest, as well as some fluids. When he first arrived, he was shaking and after the treatment, he was quiet in his cage. We were told that chocolate takes 36 hours to clear so we have to keep an eye on him overnight and if anything happens, to take him straight to the emergency pet hospital.

I have not been this scared in a very long time. I am so thankful that he is okay. Adopting him has completely changed my life and I cannot imagine my life without him.