You can’t tell, but my hands are shaking. Just a bit.
Fingers still hitting the correct keys, still within an acceptable variable spread. But they shake, like dampened oscillations, trying to find resonance, trying to break out.
I don’t know how much of this others can tell, but it has been over a year since I last truly felt like myself. Since I have felt that I was completely here. Even that is an exaggeration, and at the same time not. It comes and goes.
Not saying that I did not have issues before. But I am no longer allowing myself to block it and pretend it does not exist, no longer allowed to downplay their importance. It is so much easier to deal with things simply by telling yourself that they are unimportant, that you do not care. At least it is for me. If I decide I do not care about something, it might as well not exist, my mind won’t give it any processing time. But I can’t do that anymore, because I decided that I would not allow myself to arbitrarily decide if I cared or did not care about certain things. So I suppose this was the first time I have actually tried to deal with my problems.
I have been talking with some friends of late. I do talk with people now and then. I go through spurts, of desperately needing to be around people, of having to force myself to connect, of wanting nothing to do but burrow into a warm cavity and stay there. Except my dreams have not been pretty places recently and they feel far too real.
Part of this is guilt. It has been a year, I should be over this by now. Am I just using this as a crutch? Why do I still feel like I am struggling?
I still cannot talk about him, cannot even write about him without feeling like crying. I wonder if I could make myself cry on command now. So because I fear that I am annoying in talking about these things. After all who wants to hear depressing things? And the few I have talked about this with, I feel like I keep saying the same things to you. It must be annoying. Sorry. So, feel free to stop reading. The following is really just going to be some sort of rant. Just going to write whatever pops into my head.
[Edited Note: I do not want pity, do not want you to feel sorry for me. I am not trying to get anyone’s attention. I am doing this for myself. I am writing and allowing this to be public so I cannot pretend to myself that any of this is not real.]
I have been watching a large quantity of Grey’s Anatomy lately. I stopped a few seasons ago, because I could not deal with the emotional drama in it. Because I identified with too much of it.
Some of my earliest memories was in a hospital. My mother was the head of the Pharmacy Department when we still lived in Taiwan and I was the department head’s child that would wander about the hospital, that everyone knew to some degree and knew their heads would be on the chopping block if something happened. That and I was pretty much constantly sick, like cough up blood sick, until I was seven.
Really, I must have been one of those medical miracles. True the hospital was a bit more desperate than usual to make sure that I would live, but even then they did not think I was going to survive. My mother had four still births before me and even with heavy medication, I still had to be born via C-section around two months prematurely. I had a three-chambered heart, the middle membrane had not grown in yet, and I was roughly half the size of normal newborns. For my first month of ‘life’ I had to be injected every day with a concoction of very toxic chemicals, to try to get my heart to grow, so they would not have to attempt a surgery that I probably would not survive.
One of the things I remember was I always felt like I could not breathe until we moved to the US. Or rather until I did. It’s complicated. Perhaps I will write about this part someday, but not today. Getting a bit more back on track.
I worked in a hospital as a volunteer for three years, because my parents, my family really wanted me to go into medicine. I came to the conclusion that I did not want to work in a hospital as a career. Not because I felt out of my depth or that it made me uncomfortable. No, if anything the hospital felt too much like a second home. I had grown up partially in one. I was far too connected to it, the patients, the doctors, the fear and anxiety everywhere. And the desperate hope that somehow everything would be ok. I actually enjoyed working in the Emergency Department more. Because there was no time to get to know anyone. The doctors and staff were always on edge, always rushing around. The patients and their family all wrapped up in their own world, possibly in shock. Not like other departments, where they have had nothing but ample time just sitting around and want to know everything about you. Where you got to know who they were. Where they made you care. And it would hurt, because they were hurting and you cared.
I had never been uncomfortable in a hospital, until my grandfather was admitted to one. Then it felt like a place I could not breathe in. Like a trap. It still does not feel real. Seeing him there, smelling like all those patients I had seen before. One of the sickly. One of the reasons for that desperate hope. Because if there was something I could do to just have made it all go away, to make it so he was home sitting in that stupidly pink chair. I would have done it. No questions asked.
The reversal of my early days. No one thought I would live. No one thought he was in danger of dying. We all thought he still had a few good decades left. He had always been very healthy. He biked. He was strong. We all thought at least one, maybe even two decades more. Enough time to see his last two grandchildren, me and one of my cousins, graduate from college. Enough time to see us get our first jobs, maybe even enough time to see a great grand child. He used to talk about that. Seeing us graduate, seeing us grow up, seeing us as adults. But he had Alzheimer’s. The very last time I saw him, he had no idea who I was anymore. He was dying and I was a stranger.
Not everyone is that close to their grandparents. Granted I do not like my grandmother that much, before my grandfather’s passing, she would spend the majority of her time making everyone around her feel like crap. But my grandfather practically raised me and my cousins. He was the one who took care of me when I first moved from Taiwan, because my parents had stayed behind. And when he got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s he started living with me and my parents. He was forgetting things. I think he would see me every day and be surprised that I was so much larger than what he remembered. He would ask me every day, what grade I was in, what grade my cousins were in. And then he would laugh and comment about how much time had passed. I don’t know when he gave up hope of living. When living started hurting so much that he lost the will to live. Because by the time we figured out something was wrong, he did not want us to save him.
I made the call. Officially my mother signed the papers, but I know and she knows that I made the call. Sometime it sucks understanding things from both sides, knowing what things mean. I know the doctors were just doing their jobs. I know that there was not anything they could do. I knew it was hopeless. So I made the call, because my mother couldn’t. Because she did not want to be the person who decided to end his life. She did not want to responsible. That is nothing new. She has been pushing her decisions onto me since, well since I became capable of answering her. And it does suck. But I saw the scans. They showed me the 3D versions on the computers when it became apparent I knew exactly what I was talking about and their medical lingo was not gibberish to me. It had pretty much his entire left lung and about a third of the right. But what hurt the most, what forced me to give up any hope I still had, was the blotch on the lymph node. Game over.
What can you do when the organ that regulates your entire immune system, what is responsible for knowing, creating, and sending the right antigens or proteins to counteract whatever is wrong with you body, is the part that is being eaten alive and turned into a foreign body?
I know it was the right decision. All that was left was suffer more or suffer less. And it is not right of us to keep him alive longer, in pain longer simply because we did not want to be the one to pull the plug. It was so frustrating. I made the decision, then had to convince my mother. All while in my head, I was still fighting the same battle. Let us just say that the years I have spent in debate paid off.
The entire time, I just wanted to run out of there. Wanted to run somewhere where no one would make me do anything, say anything, where I could pretend none of this was happening. Either that or shout at the doctors, at the hospital, for appearing like they didn’t care. For not giving me any other options. For not making it better. But I have been on the other side. Obviously not as a physician, but the whole getting blamed and screamed at because their loved one is hurting and there is nothing they or you can do about it. Because you are part of the hospital and they need someone to blame, someone to be mad at so they can’t feel scared. And it is hard to care, because once you do, you will feel like screaming too.
For the first time in my life, I absolutely hated hospitals. Hated the smells, the people clad in a range of blues, greens, and soft pastels, the fluorescent colored halls. Hated not being able to do enough. I think it was good I decided that medicine was not for me. I would probably go bonkers. I feel like I care too much and take it too personally when I can’t make things better. When nothing can be done.
A voice in my head pops up and says, ‘It’s not fair’. ‘Why him and not her, why her and not him?’ ‘Why do people have to hurt each other?’ ‘Why must there be so much pain?’
‘Why can’t it just all go away?’
People say I am strong, that I can make it through anything. I don’t know about that. I used to be able to just deal with things because I made myself not feel any of it. Because that was the only way I made it through my childhood. Because it hurt and I could not do anything about it. My mother told me never to tell anyone about our family, that it was private, so I never did. Not until after leaving to college actually. Sure a few of my friends basically knew, hard not to pick up the weirdness after coming over once or twice. But I did not talk about it. Because as long as I did not, it did not have to exist. Did not have to affect me. So I am not strong.
I hurt. Not all the time anymore. But it keeps coming back. And with it all the fears that I had buried, all the pain, all the things that had never made sense to me. It is a lot better than it was a year, or even half a year ago. I no longer get overwhelmed with a flood of rampant emotions that I am reduced to holding myself in a fetal position, trying to stay perfectly still. Because the slightest movement might crack the membranes trying to hold everything together, because I felt like I might fall apart into something completely unrecognizable and there would be no one, absolutely no one who would notice, much less put me back together. And then I shut down, because I had to. Because it just would not stop. Like my mind was caught in an infinite loop; unable to process anything. And now I am struggling to turn myself on again.
Every time another part of me comes back online, it starts again. On the show, Meredith says something that completely resonated with me:
“The very worst part is that the minute you think you’re past it, it starts all over again.”
That is honestly what it feels like. Every time I think I am ok again. That it is finally over, that I can be myself again. It starts again. Like the aftershocks of an earthquake found some oscillatory resonance and keep on shaking everything periodically.
One upside I suppose is that I think the next death, sad to think about but everyone dies, it will happen eventually, anyway the next one, I don’t think it will affect me as much as this one. I suppose because next time I have more coping mechanisms ready to go. Sad isn’t it?
I think the only reason people thought I was strong was because that I had already dealt with so much crap that a lot of things just don’t phase me.
That said, portions of the analytical part of my mind is finally coming back online. And with it I can see how much of me is still off. I’m really not sure what to do about it. I am functioning, barely. I don’t like where I am right now. I am capable of so much more. But I also can’t handle being there still. The problem with the analysis being on is that there are things that cannot be analyzed conclusively, so infinite loops can occur. The other problem with analysis is that I often think so much that I can’t interact with people anymore. And the only thing holding me here is my friends. So, I feel like I am struggling. I’m trying. I think it’s getting better?
I don’t know. I had to force myself to start talking about this and now I feel like I talk about it too much. I don’t want to be a source of other’s depressing thoughts. At the same time, this is currently my reality. I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s less strong than it was, but it’s still there, like a sheet of colored plastic, tinging everything a certain color. And I am scared that if I talk about it, my friends will not be there for me. That there will be no one there.
I am sure that it was just a fluke or something, but there was a short period of time when everything was crashing down where I could still talk to people that I tried calling a few people and no one picked up. I suppose I could have tried harder, called a few more, but it’s hard to be sensible when nothing makes sense. Anyway, I am still working on it.
For those of you who somehow read it this far. Thanks. For those who have heard me spew a lot of this already. I don’t know if you found it annoying, I feel like I am being annoying, but regardless thank you for sticking through it with me. It wasn’t all that long ago that I couldn’t talk about it. I guess that is the denial part of it. Anyway, I am going to work on this. Both the ordeal with my grandfather and with my childhood issues. I am going to get to the point where I can write about this and tell people. Because I think if I can do that, at the very least it will be an improvement. At the very least I can no longer pretend it does not exist.
And that is the first step right?