Tag Archives: jobs

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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Hummingbird

Drawing of a hummingbird

It’s a quite lazy Sunday evening, meaning that my parents and my dogs are sleeping, while my mind is racing at its usual 5,000 miles an hour and my body has on the the contrary next to no energy to move after yet another sleepless night. It’s an usual Sunday evening for me, because it’s been years since weekend nights meant going out. It’s not that I was really ever a regular party person, but still I knew how to “dress to impress” the world around me and make some nice social appearances. I remember that I particularly loved this time of year because the summer used to be my favorite season. I deliberately say “used to”, because right now I dislike each and every part of the year for different reasons and after all from an indoor perspective it all seems the same, but let’s stick to the old times tonight. The school duties or June exams would usually end around this time of the year, and the warm coziness of leisure moments after finishing well the hard work would wrap me up in that magic atmosphere of long sunny days, beautiful light summer clothes and relaxing, hot nights you can spend sleeping even in an open space under the stars if you wish to. Summer meant and well of course still means August, and August means birthday time for me. I never had some truly special birthday party in my life, but I would have never traded that August birthday time for anything in the world, because it almost always equaled seaside, sun and some particular joy only summer knew how to instill in me. Obligations of any sort on the other hand always instilled anxiety even at the best of times, and even though I was very often quite an outstanding performer of the things I had to deliver, I still looked very much forward to the “free” days. Free to do what I wanted and when I wanted, free to sleep as long as I wished, free of all my stresses, free of all kinds of “musts”, free of people and things imposed either by choice or by fate… oh yes, I loved summers so much – because they allowed me to be the person I really was and the person I wanted to be.

In today’s reality, a very large portion of stress in my life comes from the lack of my true purpose on this planet. For a really long time I thought I was irreversibly lost because by the age of 37 I should have already had crystal clear what I wanted to do in life. OK, I did finish university and I do have a profession which secured me modest but in certain ways sufficient and steady income in the good days, but even back then in the past I realized that it wasn’t really the only thing I wanted to do till the end of my days. Or even worse, there were periods when teaching and translating was something I honestly forced myself to do just to have a job, while my soul craved for totally different life paths. There are so many things I am interested in, so many things I would like to grasp, learn, experience, take part in, but I sincerely fear that any single one of them taken separately will never be enough on its own to help me have some sort of “once and for all” profession. I know what many of you will think and it is true, that in these modern times “once and for all” professions are quite an utopia and that we all have to constantly adapt to the changing world, but I think that you know what I wanted to say. I had in my mind profession more as a sense of identity, something you choose as your primary occupation in life, something you truly like and want to pursue. This lack of solid ground under my feet created such a state of confusion in my head comparable with aimless shooting in the dark in all possible directions, totally unsure of what I was trying to do in the first place. I even felt ashamed of myself for not being able to shed some light on just one well shaped direction at this professionally already advanced age… or plainly speaking, I felt desperate.

The despair dissipated to a certain point when I was recently pointed out a very interesting post about people defined among other things as multitalents – http://puttylike.com/terminology/ As I went on reading, in each and every line I could recognize some aspects of myself. I didn’t find some particular answer for my anguish, but I realized that I have to come to terms with who I am and be persistent about it. It’s not about being 37, it’s that even if I live to be 57, 67 or 77, I’m almost positive that even then I won’t be able to fully define who I am in a professional sense. The negative side to it is that if I put my efforts into dozen different things instead of just one, I’m very probably doomed to never make any sort of substantial contribution in this life. Instead, there will be a number of tiny creations, started but never really completed prior to their abandonment. But that’s me. And I have to accept it, just like I am still accepting my limitations due to the panic disorder. I am learning that I simply have to be “fine” with those limitations if I want to go on. In the same way, all my different selves and the lack of some completed definition are something I simply must be fine with. Maybe that is a bad thing, but maybe not. It is true that maybe all those tiny pieces of puzzles that failed to find their proper place in my life will simply disappear, but it is also possible that someone might take on from where I stopped and fit in what remains to create some meaningful, gorgeous image.

At this point, my thoughts suddenly focused on hummingbirds. They are so small, yet so beautifully shaped and so powerfully fighting for their place under the sun. It was a particularly stressful summer a couple of years ago when I spontaneously started drawing this hummingbird after a photo I saw in a book on nature. It helped me deal with fear and frustrations of those days and reminded me that even though my drawing talent was negated, I could have still drawn for myself. That I should not have stopped. Now more than ever, I need something or somebody to push me not to stop. I need some belief in myself, belief in spite of all odds and in spite of being who I am personally and professionally that I’ll manage to secure myself again a living of some sort and regain some self dignity I had when I wasn’t an agoraphobic. Maybe a miracle can happen, maybe I can succeed in some way no matter what I do and from where I act in life. I heard quite a good saying in a TV show about the famous Italian Medici family which goes more or less like this – You should never stand in the first lines, you might get unintentionally hurt. All you want to do you can do equally well even from behind the scene.

There is a summer in front of us and I want to believe that it will bring at least somewhat better days into my life. That summer wish is incarnated in this hummingbird I’m sharing with you. Happy summer everybody!