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.


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.

Healthy, Happy And Hurting

I know, that title hardly makes any sense. How can one be healthy, happy and hurting altogether? Usually when I sift through my mind and try to summarise my general state of being from all the thoughts and feelings I’ve gathered, I come up with the answer of broken or whole, content or anxious, in a good place or in a terrible place or just not even in a place. It’s like a constant question my heart keeps asking me is, “Are we okay? Will I keep beating?” There have been times my head undoubtedly screamed yes and other times where my head uncertainly, quietly whispered no. Today in asking myself that question again, as I seem to do most days, my answer is a blend.

Looking back to the past has its benefits. As I was paging through photos from the past decade up until now my head relived some of those times comparing them to now. Comparing my new self to my old self. While I stared back at the younger me I felt like I still knew her so well but that I also no longer am or know her at all, I just remember what it was like to walk in her shoes. And in realising that, I felt both loss and gain. I may be sounding very vague right now in this ambivalence so let me clarify.

I have been waking up every day for this year thinking the answer to my heart’s constant question is a no. No, because I subjected my heart to once again being shredded by a man, I subjected my heart to the striking blow of failure, I subjected it to days of doubt and immense sadness and I’ve subjected it to regret. The person typing all this right now has a heart that is in the state of the after effects of all that subjectivity and so, of course in its frazzled state my answer to it every morning is no. No, we are not okay. We are just trying to be. Possibly, we are even living in a facade of “okayness” that’s bound to come crashing down inevitably. But then I see myself a couple of years ago, I really see myself, and I feel the feelings she felt and remember the thoughts that she had and I realise, she really didn’t know the answers to any outcomes she thought she had predicted. She had predicted pain, yes. And she was right in that sense, yes. But pain, she should’ve realised, is never a defining factor of her heart’s question of “Will we be okay? Will I keep beating?” Pain is a constant one lives with. 

There will always be pain. Always. In some form or another. I don’t believe there is a constant period of absolute bliss in one’s head and heart. Not even a day of absolute bliss. So if that is your life goal, you may want to give up on that now. Absolutes all too often don’t exist. In addition what I realised was how little the life you’re living and the one you’re striving for is the goal of happiness. Why? Because it’s unpredictable, not a constant and even chaotic at times. So what do we do to live? We shift our focus to our state of mind and leave behind our focus on the environment we find ourselves in. We work towards a healthy mind and then we can withstand the chaos and walk in peace right within it.

I lived a life of having a depressed mind with distorted views, misconceptions and immense anxiety of feeling out of control of my life and what I wanted, where I was supposed to be and the fact that I wasn’t. I remember the depths of the depths I was submerged in in the pain. I will never forget that intense pain when I was at my very worst state in depression and comparing that to the person I am now, I am beyond thankful for not being in that place anymore and I know how to not ever be in that place again by changing the way my mind thinks and views its state of being and shifting my focus. So I realise, I am now indeed healthy and in that healthiness there is happiness and amidst that, I am still hurting, but I am okay. I am good.