You Are Not Broken, You’re Healing

For every time they tell you to take a step back, move forward. And, stop. Walk in circles. Do it all at once. Don’t constrict your limbs. Collapse if you must. Break down. Let yourself go.

Write.

Re-write. Scribble a few pages away. Hit the backspace rather generously, and start again. Pen down memories you want to re-live, moments you felt you could wrap nature in your arms and focus your cluttered mind on all things beautiful; the times you swam into the ocean despite your sea- sickness, letting the saltiness engulf your tongue and numb your taste buds, and in the numbness you opened your eyes and stretched your arms, letting your other senses feel the depth of the universe, as if in that moment, you lived.

Lived not just as a plus one to breathing, but invited yourself to explore spaces that you thought would make you claustrophobic. And, they probably did, but you also yearned the life you’ve dreaded for so long.

Cry.

Weep and wail as if it detoxifies your body. Tears make you beautiful, because beyond that ache, you’ve learnt to be kind. Take out some ice cubes and clench it in your palms. Be kind to yourself as they melt away, reminding you how your state of being is so fragile and fluid. You don’t have to preserve them in the freezer.

Feel.

The void. The empty spaces that weren’t meant to be. Live the silence. Be as helpless as you want to. Pick up the broken shards of your being and guard yourself against your own invasions. Stop trying to be the infinite. Be the multiple once. Let yourself grow, exponentially and finitely. Measure how long you take to bloom.

Love.

The stench of ugliness. The crooked staircase, and the dim-light hallways, and the scratch on the door – everything that doesn’t fall into symmetry – dark block colors, lacking shades and tones. Stretch your arms to the night sky without stars. Embrace the galaxies for what they can’t contain. Listen to the vulnerabilities – the ones you’re taught to neatly wrap up in beautiful looking packages for display. Lay it bare open.

You’re not broken. You’re healing.


When Life Screws You Over

We’ve all felt like that… That life has screwed us over countless times and we raise our fists at it and scream until our throats are raw but to no avail. Anger rages, yet life just keeps on screwing us over. Am I right? Well, I guess it depends on your perception of the definition of being screwed over. Something happened which was the last thing you ever expected. Something happened which left you dumbfounded and angry and robbed. Something bad happened to a something that was supposed to turn out good and in which you just intended for good. You just wanted to be happy. Hell, not even happy. Perhaps just okay. 

There’s this wise old saying some people use to shrug life’s robbery off; “Shit happens.” The world is made of a butterfly effect and therefore is the most unpredicatable chaos your heart and mind could ever behold. With the flap of a wing and a chain reaction of events, while you are so blissfully unaware and going about your business, the chain suddenly flows through you and everything in your life changes. Perhaps you develop depression or some other terrible illness. Perhaps someone you love is lost to death. Perhaps you lose your job or your business crumbles. Perhaps, no matter how hard you try to climb that ladder to reach your goals, every step is broken and you’re the furthest place from where you wanted to be right now. Who do we blame then? Ourselves? The people around us? Your boss? God? The guy who broke you? Anything… Anybody?!? Yeah. We do. We do that just because we are trying to find peace and we think we can find it if we pinned down the cause and found justice. So we find justice by hurting ourselves, becoming so cautious of everything in life, by being hurtful towards others because suddenly, everyone seems like a terrible person deep down. I’ve been down this road. I’ve hurt myself and screamed at God and my parents for having depression develop and spin my life out of control. I’ve screamed at God some more because he took the most beautiful woman in the world who was all I had – my mom. I’ve started glaring with anger at every guy I see because my body was misused for sex while I thought I was loved and respected. If you read my last post you may have deduced that. My long time ago ex made contact with me and asked if we could have sex again but no relationship. Just sex. Followed by three smiley faces. Meanwhile, here I was missing him over the months. Stupid me right? I hate him, I hate myself… I don’t know who to hate… There’s so much more on this list of life that can immensely piss me off right now and I can choose to think about it and play the victim. But I don’t. I’ve come to accept this butterfly effect of chaos none of us are resistant too.

The thing is, we get screwed over because we all screw each other over and we live in this broken and fallen world where people lose their minds in fear and pain and they will do whatever it takes to not be at risk of loss. Even if it means hurting others and sending a ripple effect down their lives. Illness infiltrates our bodies because of this fragility we were created with and the mere impact the environment has on our genetics. Death has no predilection for anyone. We ask, “Why me?” But really, why not you? Why should you be spared and not another kind and caring soul who never harmed anyone? So, we don’t get to ask “Why me?” 

What we have to realise is, we are not in control of what life deals us with. We are only in control of what we are going to deal life with. What are you going to do to stop a ripple effect on others? Are you going stop all the crap you get up too? Because if we admit it, we’re all up to some or other form of crap that sometimes we just burn ourselves. No, depression or any other illness was not your choice but staying down was. Did you really fight as hard as you could every single time it hit? I know some days I haven’t and instead, I just let the waves of it carry me and ended up hurting myself and my own life more. Yes, I got used for sex, but after strike 3 you’d think I would stop letting it happen. Yes, my mom died, but after throwing my fists at God for three years and rejecting my spirituality, my own soul suffered the consequences. I didn’t always choose the right thing to do when I could’ve. Sometimes we are in such a turmoil in our hearts that we simply don’t have the capacity in that moment to be superwoman/superman. We don’t have the capacity to see beyond our pain. We’re stuck in a big black hole we fell down in and we can’t see the beautiful sun on the outside of it so we just decide to bury ourselves in that hole. Maybe that’s why life screws us over more than once.

I realised today that it took my stubborn heart several times at failing the same test before it got the message and stopped digging deeper into a hole it already fell down in, and so, maybe being screwed over isn’t such a terrible thing. Eventually you realise that nothing will change unless you change how you will react to a screw over. I had to get to a point where I stopped allowing the effects of depression to dictate my life and give up and lose all hope. I had to keep fighting in every which way I can because eventually, you do find a way out of it. I had to take my treatments and go to my therapy and retry new therapy and go to gym and force myself along in every area of my life I was supposed to and that my mind needed me too. I had to stop letting myself go into relationships in which I start caring too easily, trusting each and every word, instead of watching their actions, so that finally, I wouldn’t allow my body to be misused and disrespected. I had to take all that screwing over and instead of relying on my desperation for others to love me, learn to love myself. I also had to realise that not every human being is representative of other human beings who hurt me and so, I deserve to give them grace and be kind. But I also had to learn how to put up boundaries. I had to learn that my mother’s death didn’t mean I entirely lost her and that I can still choose to live in a way that honors her, knowing she’d smile if she was here. I also have to learn to stand right in the fire and learn the burning. In other words, life isn’t easy and I get tired and weary and things are hard. It’s hard to go to a job that exhausts the hell out of you and it’s hard to allow yourself to work at relationships. It’s hard to keep doing what’s good for your health and it’s hard to still have life’s common problems come and go while you’re trying to find a place in the world. It’s a constant matter of endurance. Just as you physically have to bear a lot of pain and breathlessness and your heart racing while you run a few kilometers and your legs are burning from the ache and all of you wants to just stop and sit down on the ground, you have to endure such a burning mentally. The secret lies in not focusing on the burning and how your legs ache and you struggle for breath. Instead, focus on keeping on moving one foot in front of the other and the road ahead of you because you know you have a destination to get too. 

I am enduring the ache for my destination and I am working on myself for all the times to come in which I will be happy. I am learning how to navigate through relationships so that someday, I will be happy in a real one that honors love. I am working on taking care of my body so that I will get to use it so wonderfully in all the moments of dancing and running and feeling healthy to come. I am working on my mind so that I will never be defeated by depression again. It took a lot of screwing over to learn how to walk through fires and not just stand in them.

30 Day Chronic Illness Challenge: Day 27 & 28

Name 5 things you have managed to pursue inspite of your illness and 5 things you haven’t managed to pursue.

When I think about my successes and failures throughout depression, my failures seem far more predominant to me and if I had to summarise myself over the past 10 years I would say I just barely but crawled and I fell far too many times. So much that falling and having loss felt like it was all I’ve become. But when I think back now about how much I survived I am somewhat dumbfounded that I even did survive it. It was just so many things, one after the other, that went terribly wrong. My mom and a great friend died, my brother made it impossible to live at home with because of his addiction problems and so I lived with a friend until I could find my own flat, then there was incredibly stressful studies I battled through while feeling constantly anxious and not having my heart in it one bit and my father and I just had our relationship – if there ever was one – go downhill and I started withdrawing from him entirely to protect myself emotionally as his words were always like knives drenched in vinegar stabbed through me. I felt very alone and unloved and I missed my mom terribly. So all I did was try to survive and there were 4 severe depressive relapses throughout the ten years. That was all my life consisted of. That and 3 failed relationships which currently put my heart in the state of a barren desert. So what are 5 things I accomplished despite my illness? Survive, survive, survive, survive, survive?? I guess surviving sums it up. But if I have to really think about what this survival entailed, it includes actually getting myself through to the point of final year medicine even though my life got interrupted and halted. It includes working hard to finally have proper treatment for my mental illness. It includes creating new friendships that bring me joy. It includes a massive change in my character; becoming more open and not afraid to speak my mind and love too much or care too much. It includes rising each time I fell. I think those things I am proud of and at the end of the day, no matter how much I was held down and my life halted, those things are pretty great things. 

Things I feel I haven’t managed to achieve yet is building enough self-confidence and overcoming daily anxiety. Currently, our exams in Medicine are all OSCEs which means they’re clinical oral exams. You examine patients, try to diagnose patients while an examiner is breathing down your neck and then you get peppered with questions. Multiplied by 3. I don’t know why they love always giving us 3 sessions. But I have basically had the same incident happen over and over. During my surgical exams 2 months ago I had severe anxiety during my exams and what happens is I implode in on myself and I get so nervous that I cannot speak and when I do I’m incredibly fidgity and speak in this subdued voice that just sounds doubtful of herself. On all three of my surgical exams the professors wrote “NERVOUS!” underlined and in caps on my grading. Afterwards, the professor told me my problem is I am too reserved and anxious all the time and that I doubt myself and I may know more theory than others, but because of their ability to speak so confidently, they do better. Then it happened again recently. We are currently rotating in Paediatrics and it’s all just ward rounds and Doctors peppering you with questions while you are surrounded by 17 other students. I had a sort of panic attack and refused to speak when I was questioned. I just froze and stared at the floor and he kept hammering me. Later on when I could present a patient to him alone I was okay and he said I need to stop doubting myself. Then strike 3 happened. This week, we were doing a teaching round in Paediatric Neurology and the Doctor in charge of it randomly selected students to hammer into with questions. Throughout the round I didn’t say much, like the majority of us, and everyone is incredibly intimidated and nervous around him. For some reason, he again noticed my absolute introversion and at the last patient he pulled me into the spotlight – literally grabbing my arm – and our conversation went as such; 

Dr Lamb: What’s your name?

Me: Veronike.

Dr Lamb: Veronike, you are going to lose 15 – 20% in your exams just because of your character and identity. You’re an introvert, like me. I will take a bullet for you, but promise me you won’t ever let that happen again and you won’t doubt yourself.

*Dr Lamb makes me put my hands on his face* Yes, his face.

Dr Lamb: Say you promise!

Me: I promise.

Dr Lamb: Say it louder!

Me: I promise. 

Enough said… It was quite the interaction and how he deduced all of that from my personality without me even being questioned by him during the rounds goes beyond me. The point is, they are all right and right now life is demanding a different version of me which is going to require much work from my part. Other than the anxiety and incredibly crappy self-esteem, things I haven’t mastered yet are things like putting myself out there to meet new people because I just feel I don’t mentally have energy for it. Also, I am just starting to learn how to live again and not just survive so it is quite still a climb.

What are you grateful for?

This is a question I know we all frequently get super annoyed by. “Why are you so depressed? Just be grateful! You have so much to live for.” That’s usually the point where nothing changes except our anger and blood pressure levels. But realistically, we all have come so far in surviving that we can’t not be grateful for at least some things. Recently has been the first time in years that I truly started looking at the world around me completely beyond myself and loving life a little again. I realised how I could’ve so easily been dead right now and how I thought that I am nothing but rubble and ruins and all I will ever gain is loss. But here I am no longer depressed and because I am in remission, my perspective is entirely different from depression’s perspective. I see now that I still experience love for things, like my dogs make my heart expand with love and I see the good in people like when I am around patients in hospital I feel so much empathy for them and admire how much they love the people close to them. I see traits in people that make them great and that gives me hope in believing in the world again. I am grateful also for my health. So, so, so grateful. When I got stomach flu a week ago and I had to lie in bed for 4 days feeling so sick and weak, I realised how much I love and miss exercise and being able to go out and explore. I realised how bored out of my skull I was and I was suddenly thankful for studying medicine. I realised that I just wanted to get out of that bed because I am no longer depressed and I have a life I’d love to get back to and live again. I am thankful that I get to feel like this again because I could receive proper treatment.