I am feeling a lot better today in comparison to that awful morning. I realized that my writing down only negative feelings was not giving an accurate representation of the whole spectrum of my experiences. For my own sake, I’d like to reflect on the after, on how I move through my depression (and now my anxiety). Continue reading
Just woke up from a nightmare and had my very first anxiety attack. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t stop hyperventilating. And I couldn’t stop these intrusive, debilitating thoughts from re-entering my head.
I tried to close my eyes and will myself to go back to sleep, but the nightmare just got more and more vivid. I felt worse and worse until it spiralled out of control.
I’m still in shock this just happened. It wasn’t even real. These feelings are completely out of proportion. And I’m scared. I don’t know how to stop this from happening again. I feel it’s going to come back any second. And I don’t know how to manage it.
Just when I thought I was safe again, a new monster appears. I surrender. Please leave me alone.
It’s easy to get lost in a crowded space, when you feel that there isn’t any room for the things that you love and the things that you care about. You listen in to the murmurs around you, trying to get a sense of what’s going on, trying to find a way into the conversation. No worthy thoughts come into your mind. And who would want to hear your unworthy ones? You never thought of your self esteem as something fragile until you entered this space. Now you fear that one mistake might be all that it takes. You smile, laugh, and latch upon some sense of acceptability. But this won’t be enough. You know this.
And so you walk between the lines, searching for something that you didn’t even know you were looking for. You pretend to have found it, and exclaim a false sense of epiphany. But it’s like the others can see right through you and no one pays you any mind. You become quiet, hoping by some contradictory possibility that you are more visible when you don’t speak at all. Of course, it doesn’t work. Why should it?
You feel ashamed for wanting something more. Be thankful for what you have, you whisper under your breath. After all, it could always be worse. This is so minuscule of a problem that it’s barely a problem at all. Yet you remain fixated on this urge, this craving to be heard. You know so very well that this isn’t the right path for you to go down. You don’t have to find your place in this crowd. Because this probably isn’t where you belong.
You belong here. This is your space. I promise you things will be okay. Here, you are free. Here, no thoughts are unworthy of being said. Everything matters. Or doesn’t have to. You have the right to choose. You can stay for as long as you want. Until you find out what it was you were looking for. Until you want to leave again. Here is safety. Here is comfort. Here is exactly what you needed.
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?
- Learn enough Korean to survive your exchange in July. [I really hope this works out…]
- 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]
- Pass all my exams in pre-clerkship.
- Find a reviewing system that works for me. [Most likely cheatsheets. Maybe flashcards? Oh, and a question bank.]
- Learn to knit something new. [& maybe crochet??]
- Go back and visit friends a few times.
- 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?]
- 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. 🙂
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 the 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.
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.
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.
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, “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’s 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. 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.