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 29 & 30

So we have reached the end of this challenge and the last post for it. I missed yesterday again as I was just super busy and tired but finally I have now gotten a chance to answer.

What false beliefs have you had about your illness that you have now overcome?

When you’re depressed you obviously have false beliefs that just come with the illness and you’re completely convinced they’re the reality which is why you feel so shit. You don’t mentally choose to believe them, your heart just tells you that they’re true. I have had much distorted thinking like I’m not worth it or good enough for anything. I have felt like I am too weak to survive the world. I have believed that I am too damaged and I should just be written off and subtracted from life. I’ve felt like all I will ever gain is loss – having my mom die, losing my ultimate dream of being a Veterinarian when I got sick, having a great friend die in Afghanistan, being dumped by guys who couldn’t stand by the three words they so easily and carelessly uttered and having depressive relapses that put me behind where I thought I would be in life by now. Loss kind of became all I knew and I was broken in thinking it’s all I ever will know. I’ve also had issues with my physical appearance thinking I am just so terrible looking or I need to lose more weight. Then there were thoughts of severe anxiety, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, to the point that I developed OCD which lead me to fear. I was afraid of more things going wrong so I tried to be an absolute perfectionist; in controlling my weight (which ironically was rediculously uncontrolled in starvation), overworking myself at university to make sure I got distinctions, showing up way too early for appointments in case something happened that made me late, thinking up worst case scenarios and catastrophising and a myriad of other things. Right now I have none of these distortions anymore and I am so beyond glad, because when I think back on them all I feel is suffocation and dread. They ruined my life. I still have a low self-esteem and I still struggle with anxiety but my anxiety isn’t over fear of things going wrong anymore, my anxiety is just an overwhelming feeling making me freeze or feel so restless and make my heart race sometimes and I have no explanation or reason as to why. Also the anxiety linked to my low self-esteem as I explained in the previous post with being unable to perform in front of others and doubting my ability to succeed. As for depression, I don’t have its lies anymore because I’m back in remission and I see things from a realistic perspective and I am able to evaluate my emotions in a realistic perspective. I don’t really want to die, depression’s pain made me want to die. I don’t believe that I am worthless, too damaged and unlovable because I also see all I’ve overcome, all I’ve been able to achieve, how I become when I am back to me again and free from depression and traits from my personality develop that are actually pretty awesome. Yeah, I just said I am awesome. Feels super weird because I don’t think I ever have. I’m an empath which means I feel too much and hurt easily but I also love the hell out of people and care. I may be sensitive but I am also intuitive and I am strong enough to easily raise my voice and speak out against people’s unjustified opinions, basically, as my friend put it; my inner bitch can come out if it needs to, and sometimes it does. Also, I’m not all serious. I can be incredibly silly and sarcastic and funny and dramatic if I want and I actually enjoy it quite much, especially with friends. Also, I am spiritual and I am not moved easily by resistance in my beliefs and if it wasn’t for my spirituality, my heart would’ve been incredibly empty. So basically what I’m saying is, just because depression distorts your mind and your heart is thrown down into the depths of pain, it doesn’t mean that is what you are and if anyone judges your character by it, feel free to walk as far away from them as possible.

What are your current wishes for right now and for the future and what are you going to do about it?

My wishes for right now are nothing earth shattering. Right now, I have just started finding my feet again. Right now I have just started living again and started loving parts of it again. Right now I am still working hard in every area of my life; physical health, mental health, my studies and taking time for myself. So right now, I am just learning to find my strength again and so, I am not in a place of wishing and dreaming, I am more in a state of just being. Right now, if I had to wish for anything, it would be for gaining confidence and being happy. It’s pretty basic and it’s all I want really; to develop myself continuously and grow in character and live for things that make me smile. 

Wishes for the future I do have. There are still things I want in life and dream of. I want to be a Doctor and open up my own practice and maybe immigrate. I want to believe that there is someone out there who can love me and whom I can spend the rest of my life with. Right now, I don’t know if I believe that that’ll happen for me and my heart is somewhat hurting a little still. Having been in 3 relationships over the past 2 years (yeah, I know, too much) there was one of those three that impacted me the most and that was most real to me and there are days my heart has a pang of missing that person. So I am still in a stage of healing from all this and even thinking of being in a relationship again ignites my fight or flight system in the fear of getting hurt and in all truth, I have enough on my plate and don’t need any more hits right now. But I’d be a liar if I said I never want to try again. Just not right now. I also hope for depression to never hit me as hard as it did and that I will only grow in wholeness and have it well-controlled. I’ve said before I want to be a Psychiatrist, but I am afraid it might trigger me as I do get easily triggered by stories of other people’s severe depression and suicide attempts. I couldn’t handle “13 Reasons Why” or “Girl Interrupted” or a book called “Perfect Chaos” which is about a woman who went through depression and her journey and she recounts the events up to how she recovered and now she is a great mental health advocate. Even though it is so inspiring, our stories were similar on a few levels and it left me feeling very down for a while. But nonetheless, I still want to specialise in Psychiatry because firstly, I am truly interested in it and the brain fascinates me. Secondly, I want to fight for this cause in which ever way I can and so many people don’t get proper help. I don’t think I could ever do a job which my heart isn’t truly into and so, this is what my heart has chosen. I believe there are ways one can learn to adapt and separate your own emotions from those of others and that is something I’ll have to work on.

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.