Honesty is not (always) the best policy

You-should

I learned quite some time ago that two (or even more) conflicting emotions cannot coexist at the same time; I didn’t just read it somewhere, I felt it on my own skin. This proved to be true once again in my last ordeal with the upper part of my GI tract – I was horrified of what I was feeling, horrified of the exam necessary to detect any possible problems, and eventually horrified of the worst possible outcome. Essentially, it was even worse than that – I was totally petrified. When you experience such an intense degree of fear, you can’t be either sad or happy or angry at the same time, all else vanishes from your focus. Once the fear subsidies, other emotions can resurface again and take that fear’s front row place. That’s a very powerful tactic for dealing with panic disorder – whenever any other emotion overpowers you, fear retreats and panic is kept at much safer distance.

In my present reality, as soon as I got my biopsy results and figured out that there are some tissue changes, but nothing that much alarming, I felt a tremendous relief. It seemed such a positive thing at that moment, it felt wonderful, even though I still can’t get rid of my stomach issues. It wasn’t long before the relief was replaced by the sensations of grief that come and go, alternate constantly like ebb and flow. Suddenly, it’s something I do or something I say, an item that I hold… memories of my dad keep coming back and sorrow and tears overcome me. Then it gets better, I get distracted, but not for long.

As if it weren’t enough, I have lots of financial issues as well in this truly post-traumatic life, as there is no longer any of the dad’s income. I do receive a very small amount of money for some occasional jobs I do from home, but that’s hardly enough to make things better. This month I worked a lot, as a matter of fact I worked for hours even on the day when I received anesthesia, in spite of the recommendations to relax for the rest of that day. Today I merely asked if there would be any payments in my favor because February came and almost completely went without any income for me at all.

I was just wondering you know, I have bills to pay, it’s quite hard, I said. The reply was – Well, if it’s hard, then go and politely ask the boss to find you some other PROPER (for this woman that means office, not home based) job, because you’re not doing much for the company, you know. No payments this month for you. That’s not fair, I said, I did work a lot this month in spite of having health issues. Health issues? Your health issues are nobody’s concern, we all have issues – so what?

WOW.

My thoughts wandered back to that bed in the GI department and to the moment when the anesthetic was injected. I could have died right there, many things could have gone wrong, I signed the consent. Yet I woke up seemingly undamaged and rushed home to do some important things that could have created serious problems in case I hadn’t waken up. Nobody else has the access to that information, nobody else knows the e-mails and passwords. Nobody there speaks English at this level, which is necessary for dealing with their important papers. Oh yes my dear, you would have had tons of serious concerns if I hadn’t waken up. On the other hand, thinking of how easily the movie of my life was interrupted by that anesthetic and how peaceful and calm that darkness I slipped into was, maybe it would have been much better if I hadn’t waken up at all. This way, I got right back to that same sea of fears, panic, uncertainties, sorrow, pain, not eating, not sleeping, not truly living, having no idea how I will go on from here.

PD is an expensive illness among other things, as I once said. That anesthesia cost what is for me lots of money, but without it I would have never completed the exam and the GI team would have had to deal with stopping a panic attack instead of inspecting my intestines. I worked precisely to earn so that I could prevent the attack, so that I could “bribe” my illness to spare me from its ugliest pits. How wrong I was.

I am used to people being rude and I do know there’s a harsh world out there, but in these circumstances I’m more vulnerable than usual. Also, these poisonous words came from a person who knows me for many years and knows all about my loss. I didn’t ask for pity, sympathy or empathy and I never would, I just wanted some retribution for my work that I duly deserved in my opinion.

It was also recommended to me by her to take some “calming” pills as it’s not normal to be sad that long (5 months is so abnormally long?), and she added that I SHOULD pull myself together and not go around visiting doctors whenever I feel an ache or two.

Calming pills for depression? She has obviously never hard that such medication depress your nervous system even more. Secondly, it’s a very bad choice of words to say to someone who has anxiety to pull oneself together – we so desperately want to, but how do you do that? Shake your head to left and right, button up your shirt and go out to the big bright world magically cured? What are those pieces of me that are scattered away and that have to be reassembled again, pulled together? Has anyone invented a glue for sealing back together the pieces of a “broken” mind? But people still love to pass on psychiatric advice, even without any firsthand or circumstantial knowledge about such issues.

What she doesn’t know is that those as she calls them calming pills have been my companions and life saviors for two long decades even at the best of times, let alone when I held with my both arms a person who was terribly choking and fainting and eventually dying right there in front of me in my arms, and there was nothing I could do to prevent it. An ache or two? I hardly eat for more than three months, I lost even more weight, I live with constant arrhythmias because my swollen stomach irritates my heart, and I have 4 different gastric diagnoses after the endoscopy. It took me one hell of a courage to go back to the GI department, I postponed it as much as I could, because my dad was counting his last pre-palliative days surrounded precisely by such doctors. I went there 3 times, endoscopy included, so much for constant visits… who on Earth would want to go visit their worst nightmare every other day or so?

Conclusion: I shouldn’t have asked for the payment because it wasn’t coming anyway, the only thing I managed was to ruin my day and end up sadly pondering about the future.

I made one resolution – not to discuss ever again how I feel physically or emotionally with any person in my real life (apart from my mother). They will inevitably ask questions, but “fine, thanks” even in the worst of times will do just fine. I’m well aware that such a decision can isolate me even further from my immediate surroundings, but at least it will spare me from any newly inflicted pains or judgements.

What people in situations like mine dislike the most are surely statements beginning with YOU SHOULD…

You should overcome your loss.
You should get better, it’s high time.
You should take pills to calm yourself down and move on… i.e. pop up a benzo and chill out, somebody died, so what? (it’s important that they’re still alive and kicking, why should they care about others?)
You should do something about your life, you know. (Really? I’d never guess…)
You should earn more money immediately.
You should marry, a husband would take care of you.
You should take your father’s place in all the chores he was involved in… etc. etc.

i.e. :

Tanja, you should do something entirely different from what you’re doing right now. You’re wrong about everything you do. YOU SHOULD CHANGE. COMPLETELY.

My message to all of them – Guys, I “appreciate” your constant reminders of my “faults” and I know those shoulds very well myself – but I have my own pace at which I can or cannot do something. I should probably do many things, but sorry guys, I’m unable to at the moment. RESPECT IT. I can’t change to be someone else. I don’t want to be someone else. Maybe I don’t even want to change everything in my life. Maybe I’m just trying to survive and doing my best, that didn’t cross your minds?

If someone thinks that he or she can live my life better than I do, I’m very willing to exchange places. To put that someone temporarily in position to suffer from panic disorder the way I do (happens only to 2% of world population at most), lose one of two closest persons in life to cancer after taking full personal palliative care of that person at home with no real medical means at all, eat just a bite or two here and there, sleep just a couple of hours at night being constantly awaken by burping and arrhythmias, suffer from hypothyroidism with almost inevitable surgery of the thyroid, have very limited means for basic needs in life, work without sense and have no friends in real life, mainly due to PD.

If someone can live such life better than I do (and I think I fight very much every day), I’d truly congratulate them.

No problem anyhow, I’m very used to being alone in what I do and how I feel, it’s nothing new to an only child like me. If that’s a price to pay to be calm, to avoid being honest about what happens to me and how that feels, then for me in this case honesty is definitely not the best policy.

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5 thoughts on “Honesty is not (always) the best policy

    1. My dear Judy, thank you very much – I’m trying to do my best to survive, but for some reason people around me make things even more difficult. Let’s hope it will improve some day, I just pray to restore good health somehow. I was absent from here for quite some time, I was very unwell. Hopefully I’ll be able to be back on track for a longer period of time now. I wish you all the best and you too take care! Tanja

  1. Dear Tanja,

    Wow, you’re such a strong and brave person, going through so many difficulties and for sharing all of this here. Unfortunately, people who’ve never gone through chronic depression have no idea what it’s like (which I’m assuming is the case of your boss), thus they just don’t know what to say or how to help you. However, having experienced an episode of major depression (for several months in 2012), I know exactly how you feel and what you must be going through.

    Still, I realize that your life must be a lot harder than mine… I feel for your pain and suffering. Hope you manage to fight all your struggles and that life gets better for you because I see that there’s a bright light inside you, beneath all the darkness. Hugs and best wishes!

    1. Hello Ki, thank you very much for your kind comment! I owe much of what you perceive now as strength and courage simply to the length of time that passed and the experience gained in the process. At first, I didn’t even know what was going on with me, I went through tons of physical exams without getting any definite conclusion. Things grew better, then they grew worse, then everything would improve again… Panic disorder is something you can battle with or successfully mask for quite a long time if it doesn’t progress to debilitating agoraphobia. Once you get there, you experience such a horrible degree of powerlessness and dependence on others for everything that requires going away from home / safe place, dealing with people, being on your own etc. Even if you get understanding from your family (which I didn’t have at the beginning at all), it’s still not something you can reconcile with easily at a young age. I mean your friends have no problems with going out, driving cars, dating, traveling and you can’t even reach your front door without very intense anxiety. It’s not easy either to “confess” what kind of problems you have, people have one and only label for such problems – lunacy. And I’m not a lunatic, I can assure you of that, sometimes I’m too rational even for my own taste. 🙂 Then what happens is that people “search” for lunacy on you, because you must be crazy if you go to see a psychiatrist. As they fail to detect it in my case, then I used to be mocked at that I just pretend, that I don’t want to go out of bed on purpose, that I’m lazy, that I’m some mean spoiled princess etc. Time passed, this all hurt very much, and in addition to that you see that you don’t get better and you try everything on Earth to get to some better place. My story is very long, I was prescribed many combinations of meds, tried 7-8 different antidepressants and sedatives, but all with limited effects and numerous side effects. Then what comes along without doubt is – depression. Oh believe me, I cried the hell out of me, I cursed the day I was born, I wept over my life and all lost and broken opportunities, it doesn’t come easy to come to terms with something “incurable”. At first I didn’t even want my dad to get into my official medical record that I have “mental” issues, everything had to be bypassed so that my record could be clean in case somebody looks into it, I detested that mental case label. So what happened in the meantime? Time passed. Time evens it all out. I got into a forum with people with my issues and I figured out that by sharing my experience I could help people. I found other souls similar to me, and I didn’t feel that lonely any more. Being very agoraphobic, I couldn’t even go visit a psychologist / psychiatrist regularly, so I had to do my own battle. I read a lot online, I ordered great books which helped me change my perspective, I ran into calming / meditation music, I made some dietary changes, it was a mix of very different things that eventually helped a lot. I couldn’t leave my room in 2007 -2008, and now I went for and upper GI endoscopy willing to be put to sleep – you can’t even imagine how MASSIVE that change is. I wrote somewhere on the blog, not sure where so I’ll paraphrase it – I leared that there are 5 phases in dealing with a loss / life changing event / big problems / incurable illness / traumas.
      The phases are –
      1. DENIAL (this can’t be happening to me, no, this is not going on, impossible) 2. ANGER (damn it, why me of all people, what the hell is going on, why now – yelling, jumping at others, fury)
      3. BARGAINING (ok, we have a problem… but it’s impossible that it can’t be fixed. So let’s try every remedy under the sun, something or somebody will fix it… or Dear God, just rid me of this problem, I’ll give you and give up on whatever you want, I know you can do it…)
      4. DEPRESSION (now you’re pretty much aware that you problem exists, that it is real, that anger solves nothing, that bargaining doesn’t help… so you become horribly sad because you have to endure such faith); and at the end – 5. ACCEPTANCE (your battles with yourself, rest of the world, higher power are ended, you know what you have, you know you can’t do much, but you finally accept it and do what you can within your own limits.)
      Mind you, this is not a one way road, you can get to acceptance and then relapse even all the way down to denial in a blink of an eye, it is a very hard battle.
      As for the bright side, people who know me not that well would say that I’m very happy, outgoing, making good jokes… I’ve always had that side in me and I’m sure that it is what made me survive. I learned to make fun of my disorder, of my irrational fears, of my jelly legs, of all possible abilities and inabilities. If that weren’t the case, I would have killed myself years ago considering how desperate I was. I chatted with a person who has my same issues plus she lost a child due to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and what helped us most was using those animated emoticons on yahoo messenger, there is one that laughs like crazy. 🙂 When you start laughing with it, you can’t stop, no matter how fearful you were. So… it’s a long process. Yes, I speak about it very freely here now, I wouldn’t have that many problems being labeled in my life any more, but I think it’s normal now, I’m 38. However, as you surely noticed, even after 20 years my avatar is not my face, it’s a Venetian mask I’m hiding behind. There is no full name, surname, or anything similar – so I’m not that brave to face the stigma showing my face and data to the whole world. You’ll see how your situation unfolds, and you’ll decide how much and what exactly you want to say if anything – whatever it is that you decide, it’ll be ok. I just know one thing, once you open up and find like minded people, it results that it wasn’t that hard or shameful or whatever to tell your story. Especially if it’s a survivor’s story, people who understand and who are not judgmental will embrace your courage to overcome hurdles as well as your courage to talk about it and congratulate you on it, the same you did to me. Thank you very much once again and good luck with your own battles! Hugs and best wishes to you too, Tanja

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