153 – to a hopeful new me: some resolutions.

It’s way past the new year, but I guess it’s never too late to make some goals for the year. I felt a little guilty that I missed last year so I figured it would be even more awful if I missed this year as well. I’m gosh darn awful at completing my new year’s resolutions, but it’s nice to look back to see where I wanted to be and how far I still need to go.

Here’s a little reflection on 2016’s resolutions (hella late, I know).

  • I ended up going to Canada’s Wonderland as a pre-graduation thing; that was a lot of fun – bunch of places I still have yet to go in Toronto, but hopefully I’ll have time to go sometime while I’m still in Ontario
  • I got real close to Masters in LoL in 2016…(decayed out of my promotion games) – not sure that this year will be the year, but maybe?
  • 10 posts/month was the goal…who am I kidding?
  • I did enjoy learning again! In some courses. Obviously not in the one that made me miserable.
  • I didn’t have a super productive summer in 2016, but I did do well on my MCAT retake so that was kind of worth it.
  • & lastly, I got into med school. So it seems that I’m not a total failure at keeping resolutions.

Alright. So, 2018, what have we got in store for you?

  1. Learn enough Korean to survive your exchange in July. [I really hope this works out…]
  2. 5 posts/month. This is totally reasonable. Please. [As an aside, I’d love to do some clinically-related writing…it’d be interesting to blog about my experiences]
  3. Pass all my exams in pre-clerkship.
  4. Find a reviewing system that works for me. [Most likely cheatsheets. Maybe flashcards? Oh, and a question bank.]
  5. Learn to knit something new. [& maybe crochet??]
  6. Go back and visit friends a few times.
  7. Write and actually send a letter to my mom [Instead of throwing it in the recycling, never to be seen again. Why am I like this?]
  8. Become a healthier person [This is terribly vague, but essentially just nutrition, exercise, skincare, & mental health. Maybe make-up from S Korea so I can be prettier? That’d be nice for my self esteem…]

This list seems achievable, so I’ll leave it at that before I start to add things that might not be so simple to achieve. I finally feel ready for you now, 2018. It’s about time. šŸ™‚

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152 – Life is always worth living.

This is a confession – one that’s had a long time coming. It’s been a long while since I’ve been able to bring myself to really process and reflect on things happening in my life. I suppose I was riding the wave, trusting that it would bring me to where I would need to be, whilst closing my mind from all the negativity that was tearing me apart. In a way, it worked. It got me this far. But it’s time that I called out my demons in such a way that they won’t keep coming back to hurt me.

I was in an awful state of mind for most of my undergrad senior year. Most of the anxiety and feelings of worthlessness stemmed from my thesis project. Nothing seemed to be working out the way I envisioned it to. While everyone else was making progress on their projects, I felt that I was continuously hitting a dead end. Even simple reactions that were shown to work by my supervisor somehow turned into a mess of unrecoverable chemicals. While no one in the lab wanted to put me down nor did they ever make me feel ostracized or unwelcome, I felt another piece of whatever self-esteem I had left break off and shatter every time I walked through those doors.

Things got worse throughout the year, instead of theĀ better that I was promised. I set fire to a waste bin because I forgot to thoroughly clean a syringe of a highly oxidative reagent. A lab mate’s quick thinking saved the situation as I just stood there frozen in the fear of what I had just done. I almost wish they had kicked me out of the lab for good then. Maybe I would’ve been spared all of the misery that continued to pile on after. The only consequence I received was increased supervision so that an accident like that wouldn’t happen again. And of course, I would fuck up again a few months later by forgetting to turn on the ventilation on the glove box after purging it. I was a walking disaster so to speak.

I wasn’t okay. By February, it was clear that I was sinking further and further into a hole I could not crawl out of. I very much should’ve given up and dropped the course, but I felt that I couldn’t approach the administrator after he had given me a special pass after handing my application in late. I didn’t want to let yet another person down.

My friends at school knew I wasn’t happy with the course, but they probably didn’t expect that it was destroying my mental health. They were surprised when I broke down at the poster presentation where you had to present your research to professors. I felt incredibly stupid, like I didn’t know anything after months of trying to get a grasp on this project. We buried that day in alcohol with my friends saying silly things about the prof that put me down in order to cheer me up. As much I would like to put it all behind me, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that hollow feeling of worthlessness that drowned me.

Things spiraled out of control so easily and so quickly. I should’ve gotten help somewhere along the process, but didn’t. I would never suggest that anyone attempt to deal with something like this alone, but I did anyway. I genuinely wanted to kill myself several times over the course of those two semesters. I spent more nights crying myself to sleep than I can count. Even now, I feel like a disappointment looking back on how little I had accomplished.

The little things saved me. The little things that told me repeatedly that life was still worth living. Attending class and dinner dates with my friends. Playing video games. My favourite drinks at Second Cup whenever I was having a tough day or had a late lecture. The many “I miss you” messages from my mom. Knowing that I would be somewhere better next year. And my boyfriend at the time…(whom I cannot thank enough for being my escape from all of the misery; our recent break-up was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done).

I just wanted the time to make this blog as a reminder of why life is always worth living. Depression is not terminal. There will be good days just as there are bad days (or bad years). While it takes a great deal of strength and courage to commit suicide, it takes just as much to continue struggling through this hell and persevering. Sometimes it can be easy to feel alone in this great big world, but you’re never alone in feeling that way. Even on the nights when the sky is grayed out, you can rest easy that the stars are still out there somewhere in space. Even when the world seems to be full of darkness, there is light somewhere beyond the horizon. Believe in it. There will always be a chance for things to get better. Hold onto it and don’t you dare let go.

151 – where my heart is.

It’s been a long time. I wanted to do a proper update with how I’ve been doing the past few months, but this past week has been tough. I feel this plethora of emotions weighing upon my heart.  I hope that by working through these thoughts, the heaviness will go with it.

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I found myself in tears last Thursday on the bus home from the hospital. I had just finished my elective in geriatric psychiatry and was feeling really inspired that this was something I’d be interested in doing for the rest of my life. But a sort of doubt or guilt was festering in my mind. 

On Tuesday, we talked about social inequality as a determinant of health. Many of my classmates shared their personal stories about how growing up in a socioeconomically disadvantaged community affected their views on life, education, health, and privilege. I did not share my own story then, but I thought about how lucky I was to have someone like my mom in my life. How fortunate I am to be where I am now.

My mom fought through more hardships than I could ever imagine. Her family immigrated to Hong Kong from a rural town in China, but they were penniless as they struggled to adapt to city. Even now, my grandmother and aunt live in an apartment the same size as my bedroom in Vancouver. Despite being a straight A student, my mom couldn’t afford to go to college, opting instead to work to support her family. In contrast, my father scraped through college with D’s across the board. Life isn’t fair.

Life certainly continued to be unfair as my mom worked 80 hours a week while caring for two children. Some nights I stayed up until 2 to 3am, worried if something might’ve happened to her. But she came home every time without fail (and very cross because her eight year old was still awake). Yet, I never really appreciated what she did for me while I was growing up. Even at times when she only had a couple hundred dollars in her bank account, she never let our poverty stop us from doing anything. Never, ever, ever was i left hungry. There was somehow always enough food in the house. I took lessons in swimming, skating, art, piano, violin, Chinese, and Japanese. Instead of denying me these opportunities, she worked more hours instead. Sometimes I wonder how I learned absolutely nothing about diligence from such an amazing human being.

In contrast, my father could not serve as a better example for what I didn’t want to be. While my mom worked herself to pieces, he cheated on her. Buying some unknown woman an apartment and being stupid enough to not put his name on it. I still don’t fucking understand.

We almost lost our house when I was in tenth grade. Since my father technically owns half the house, he wanted to sell it if my mom wanted a separation. Clearly, the money meant more to him than the livelihood of his children. I remember their heated arguments as I stood outside the door, devastated and confused. In the end, we still have the house and they are still together…on paper anyway. When I moved for university, he took over my bedroom, destroying many of my belongings. Although I’ve forgiven him for everything in the past, I still feel numb at the thought of him. But I digress, that doesn’t matter anyway.

I suppose what I fear the most is becoming like him. He is thousands of dollars in debt because of a gambling addiction. I look at myself and my own reckless decisions and can’t deny how much I am like him. I put myself in debt by moving across the country for university, a decision I still can’t justify was worth it. I look at my gaming addiction and I think about how gambling isn’t that far off. I feel like the more that I reflect upon my behaviors, the more I realize I am just as ungrateful and stupid as he was. And it scares me. I doubt my ability to change who I am. But I swear I’m trying.

What drove me to tears on Thursday was a consult with a patient who spent over 20 years looking after his parents, quitting his job as a pharmacy technician and giving up his dreams of going to medical school. His story moved me. Made me think about what really matters in life. It made me think that I really wanted to be home, spending time with my mom and letting her know how much I appreciate what she did for me. But home feels so far away.

I feel so lost. I need to find a way to channel these emotions into an effort to work harder, to motivate myself through these doubts. I feel worthless, when I should feel privileged. Depressed, when I should be stimulated. It’s funny how you feel more scared looking down from the top than on your way up the mountain.

I haven’t given up. I will find my way. Even though these feelings are hard, it feels better to have acknowledged my weakness instead of running away. I will be okay.

150 – Mortality, Strength, & Perseverance.

I know it’s been a while. There’s so much that I want to write about, but the words seem to constantly escape me. But today, I refuse to run away from my own inability. These feelings are important. This is real. And writing will make me stronger.


The world seems different today, filled with a certain harshness I guess I had never truly felt until now. Mortality feels ever present, weighing upon everything I have ever believed in, and forcing me to re-evaluate where I want my dreams to take me. I think about what really matters to me and conflicting signals send my mind in turmoil. I am crushed. But I must not falter now.

It never occurred to me what the consequences of a stroke looked like. When I first heard about the incident, I thought to myself,Ā Oh, he’s at the hospital, they’ll fix him up in no time.” It didn’t occur to me that even the most brilliant people could succumb to the physical aftermath of such an incident. Doctors aren’t miracle workers. They can’t fix everything no matter how much we all wish they could. Sometimes, doctors can save lives, but not preserve functions. Sometimes, people’s health conditions deteriorate and there’s nothing medicine can do but try to slow it down. These are all realizations that I came to understand while reading Atul Gawande’sĀ Being Mortal. Yet these realizations did nothing for me when I came to face to face with a loved one changed so drastically by something so unfortunate. I was shocked.

I wasn’t around when it happened. Ā Half the country away, in fact. I wasn’t here for the worst of it – when the world came crashing down around my best friend’s family. Her father, not mine, but I feel it all the same. I always looked up to him because he always did what a real father should while mine was ever absent. It’s irrational for me to feel so devastated when he’s come so far from where he was. I know rehabilitation takes time, that all one can do is hope for the best. Things like aphasia and memory problems are tricky – there’s no telling how and when they might improve. I know I should stay positive, but just the thought that he might not ever be able to see how far his daughter has come leaves me in tears. I think of how I might react if my mom was in the same situation. I can’t comprehend it. My friend and her family are so strong. I’m in awe of how well they’re handling it. I’ll be praying for continuous recovery even when I’m far away again.

This train of thought digs deep, finding weakness in my life-long dream. I want to be a geriatrician. To help elderly individuals and their families as they deal with the consequences of aging. Dementia, stroke, cancer are all very much possibilities for this population. While I know that I am still very far away from being in that position, I think it’s important that I steel myself now, rather than later. I don’t want to detach myself from future patients, but I also cannot afford to be emotionally taxed every time someone I have come to know and love encounters devastating situation or nears the end of their life. I have to think now, if this is really the right path for me.

I guess I just have to do a little bit of soul-searching right now. Find optimism when all I can feel is despair. Be kind and strong, to help those that I love even when I feel paralyzed by fear. I need to find this strength and to become a better person. Hopefully, I’ll find just that in the next three years from medical school.

 

149 – a little escapeĀ 

In London (Ontario) for the weekend and it feels really nice to be away from all my stress at school. I know it’s all just going to start again on Monday, but for now, I can just enjoy a little piece of happiness. 

I can see the stars again. It feels surreal after not having been able to see them much in Toronto. I feel at peace here, like everything is going to be alright. I hope that this feeling follows me back tomorrow. 

Everyone I’ve met here is really nice and willing to chat about their experiences. It’s not even my interview date, but I feel welcome here. It’s refreshing. I’m super glad I decided to come a day earlier. The med student that’s hosting me is incredibly friendly – I’m relieved we get along. I feel like I fit in here and hope I get in. 

Time to get some sleep so I can do my best tomorrow. I’m nervous, excited, yet oddly calm because of the wonderful atmosphere. It’s a weird mix. I like it. 

148 – dreams shatter, but we carry on.

I fell into a deep slump last semester. Burned out from classes and research, all I could do was try my best not to let depression get the best of me. In November, it took all I had not to burst into tears every time I stepped into the lab. I dropped one of my courses and felt really out of my element even in classes I thought I would be comfortable in. My ability to write in a fourth year level course was questioned and even now I’m not sure I have the confidence to say I’m a good writer anymore. Without a doubt, this has been the worst year of my undergrad, exceeding the horribleness that was my turbulent first year in which I spent every month at the doctor’s with another physical illness.

Still, I’m halfway there. I’m sure I’ll make it through somehow. I haven’t gotten all of the details worked out quite just yet, but I’ll get there. One way or another.

My absolute lowest moment came from a rejection email from UBC. With that, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fulfill my goal of studying back home. With that, I began to doubt whether or not I was even good enough to have my dream become reality. I thought then that maybe I wasn’t smart enough and that I should be considering an alternative career. But those negative thoughts blew away when I talked to my mom over the telephone. She assured me that even if I got rejected from every school that she would support me trying again or taking the time to find a new dream. I’m really lucky to have her support. She also told me that she’d come live with me for a year if I got into med school somewhere else – though I’m not sure I’ll take her up on that offer since I don’t know how well my brother can handle living alone (despite being five years older than me…). Regardless, failure became an option for me and not the end. Just another possibility that I needn’t be afraid of.

Things have gotten a little easier this semester, but not by very much. I’m still struggling in the lab, but have gotten more or less numb to disappointment. I still hate the thought of letting down everyone the lab, but my inability was shattering every inch of self esteem I had left. I think it’s best not to think about what others think of me. Especially if they’re not good things.

I think my perspective has shifted a little – especially after hearing that one of my old high school teachers has struggling with untreatable cancer – something he dedicated a lot of his time and effort into raising awareness and money for. I’ve always had the mentality that the present is more important than the future – to enjoy the small, happy moments as they come, but I’ve also placed a lot of my hopes on the future, on the life that I spend day-to-day fantasizing about living. I think hearing the news really shifted the timeframe of my mind a little bit more to what’s happening right now. Along the same train of thought, I decided not to apply for graduate school in Chemistry. It wouldn’t be something I’d enjoy and life’s too short to be spending everyday of a year or two on something that I wasn’t thrilled about. There are other optionsĀ out there that I think I would enjoy far more even if taking a “gap year” is sometimes considered a waste of time (I disagree with that sentiment).

I got an interview invitation from McMaster so that’s one blessing that’s been thrown my way in this really tough year. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m prepared for that – it’s given me both hope and confidence that my dream doesn’t have to stay a dream. The interview, however, is a few days after the poster session for my thesis project – so I’ve only got so much spare time. Nevertheless, I want to make it through these next few arduous months with no regrets. If that means sleepless nights and caffeine-powered study sessions, then so be it. I’m ready for you, 2017.

147 – focus? focus.

I entered this fourth year thinking it would be the easiest and most relaxing year of my university life. Oh, I’ve never been more wrong in my life.

I’m drowning in a sea of stress and disappointment and it’s taking all I have to stay afloat. At the same time, I am beginning to become more and more numb to failure and disappointments as everything I attempt to do in my research project just seems to go wrong. And although I understand that is the nature of scientific research, I also know that most of what’s going wrong is due to my lack of experience and skill in the area (i.e. I’m messing up somehow).

Alas, I have discovered that I am an awful chemist and should probably not pursue graduate studies in this area. If med schools choose to reject me this year, I’ll probably take a year to reassess, take my GRE, and consider cognitive science (my new found love – I wish I had known about this in first year) for my future.

The end of term is nearing, but there’s still so much to be done that I can’t really afford to slack off now. I’m mostly writing this so I can organize my thoughts and approach the rest of the month in as organized of a way as possible.

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Coursework

I dropped one of my courses last week so I’m only doing three courses in addition to my year long research project.

Assessments left to do: one PSY essay, one PSY midterm, one CHM essay, and a handful of CSC assignments. Manageable.

Also have to do my mid-term presentation and status update for the research project – it’s coming up soon and I have nothing to show for all the hours I have put into the lab. Except maybe impure NMRs and a multitude of problems….This will not be fun.

Commitments

Brain Day: in-class announcements, bookmarks, trivia night, meetings.

CSU: pub night, academic seminar, first-year help session.

music lab: hand in my hours form, train the new RA so I can’t stop being overcommitted to things (even though I really like the new project…ugh)

sprql: ensure the next lab sessions go smoothly

volunteering: xmas events, change weekly timeslot for next semester

exercise? life? TBD….

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Now that I’ve listed everything out – it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s definitely manageable. I just need to find my focus somehow. I meant to go to an academic motivation seminar last week, but totally forgot about it. I think I really could’ve used the reset on my mindset.

So instead, I now have to try to find it within myself to finish everything. I suppose motivation, in the end, has to come from me. Somewhere inside of me is the strength to get me through all of this. I can do this.

Hopefully my next update is not a list of things to do, but a list of things to be thankful and happy about. I’m yearning for the day that I feel glad that this is all over and done with. I’m sure it’ll come sooner than I think it will, but for now, it feels like an eternity away.

But it will come.

Someday, it will come and it will set me free.