Tag Archives: work

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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Hope

nada3

If you’re living in a Spanish speaking country, or if you simply speak or understand Spanish, don’t misunderstand the word written on this small wooden stick. Even though “NADA” means “NOTHING” in Spanish, in Serbian it means “HOPE”. How can this very same word have two so much different meanings in two different languages is a question that has only recently occurred to me. It’s truly amazing how something that means nothing to some people can still mean even everything to some other people, for hope is sometimes everything that you’re left with when all else fails.

When you speak your own language, you hardly ever think about the origin of words or the structure of sentences, unless you research linguistics. Usually you simply use your language every day to convert your thoughts into communication messages and spread them to the world around you for some reason. Perhaps you want to explain something or you need to be understood; maybe you want to get something, or simply channel your emotions. Basically you want to reach out to the others and you need a tool for that. This is what languages serve for.

When you start learning a foreign language, especially at an older age, you’re much more prone to the analysis of those first awkward words and phrases you’re more or less successfully putting together. Those incomprehensible strings of sounds or letters usually begin to remind you of something that you already know so that you can create associations, or you simply dissect words into smaller pieces in order to memorize them in an easier way. You’re aware that you’re dealing with something both strange and foreign to you (stranger doesn’t have to be strange 🙂 ) and you’re looking for a way to make it sound more natural and familiar. As you make progress on this amazing path, newly acquired familiarity of those previously unknown linguistic terms grows stronger and your job of expressing yourself becomes easier, up until a day comes when you realize that the foreign language lost something incomprehensibly magical about it that used to be there at the beginning, that something that set you on this journey at the first place. You might not consciously know it, but that’s the moment when you instinctively realize that the foreign language has become for you just another tool in the big bag of useful things that help you live this life, simply another way to say that same thing that has been materializing itself in some corner of your mind. This is more or less what happened to me as well with Spanish and all other foreign languages that I speak or understand. When I say or read “NADA” in Spanish, it automatically means “NOTHING”, while on the other hand in each and every context of my native Serbian it has always been and always will be only one thing – HOPE.

Now what’s the word hope doing on some silly wooden stick, you’ve surely been asking yourself by now. It’s a result of a phone call I had this evening with my aunt, person I very rarely speak to and person who knows very little about my life, my dreams, problems, interests, goals… She doesn’t truly realize how hard it is even for perfectly sane people to live in the crisis ridden Serbia of today, let alone how even much harder this can be for those suffering from any chronic illness. She thinks that I have some good job and some satisfying salary (this happens when you have to hide PD from your family) and she usually asks if everything’s ok at work. Tonight I replied that nowadays here in Serbia it is much harder than it used to be, to which she replied that I have no right to complain as it’s that way everywhere in the world, no one is immune to crisis. Maybe, but also maybe not, I answered. If everywhere in the world things were exactly the same, people would stand equal chances to accomplish things in life, which means that they would then never move just for the sake of having a better life. If that were true, her son would be living in Serbia today, together with all other talented, educated, special people who left this country for good. She added that even though things were not good here, we must have hope. Because you know how they say, hope dies last. Yes, great saying, I replied, but you know what, if it really dies last, then it means that after everything else dies, hope will eventually have to die as well. It dies last, but still dies, right? Hey, she shouted, how can you say things like that, we must have hope, we simply must have it, because if a man has no hope, man dies. To avoid further unpleasant debate on whether then man equals hope as man dies when hope dies, in which I personally don’t believe :), I simply agreed that we must have hope and I promised to be hopeful, after which our conversation drifted in some direction totally irrelevant for this blog and eventually ended with best wishes for some better future. I hung up and realized that I definitely don’t have any more hope for some better working environment in my country, yet I’m still not dead. How can one have hope in a place that has been artificially kept alive for almost 25 years, years of sanctions, stellar inflation, horrific economic crises, place where homes and lives were destroyed in bombings at the end of 20th century? How can you have hope in a country of people with permanent physical and psychological scars, country whose boundaries have changed so many times in my lifetime and are still changing in this last, seemingly terminal phase of extremely unsuccessful transition? I know that there is always hope in people’s hearts, but even hope gets consumed, it’s not infinite. It also comes with an expiration date, usually the better was the shape you were in when you started hoping, the longer you’ll endure bad things and consequently the longer your hope will last. But at some point if you have unsuccessfully hoped for too much time (and believe me, 25 years is a pretty long time), you’ll have to ask yourself if there is any sense in doing it any longer. It’s a rational, logical conclusion in given circumstances, yet people feel they must consider you crazy if you decide to give up hoping.

While I was contemplating on all this, my hand ended up in my sweater jacket’s pocket and touched the familiar wooden object. It’s not just about any piece of wood, it’s actually a medical spatula used for examining patients’ throats, one of many new, unused spatulas we have at home, which my father brought from work when their sterilization dates expired. They were no longer good for people’s mouths, but they are great for mixing something, or for just about any other domestic purpose you can think of.

Now what was this particular spatula doing in my pocket? I live in an apartment building on the second floor, which in my case means that I need to go up and down 5 entire flights of stairs to get in or out of my living space, so I often use the elevator. It’s been more than two months since the elevator’s outer door can’t close properly to ensure that it can normally move up and down away from my floor. We’ve been calling, asking and literally begging the maintenance service which we pay pretty dearly every month to come and fix it, but nobody seems to care. We warned them that this is also a potentially dangerous situation and that someone might get hurt, but still nobody cares. We’re in the middle of the crisis. There is not enough money for the spare parts. Call only if the elevator doesn’t move AT ALL. If instead it’s still moving “somehow”, it means that it’s still working, so goodbye and have a nice day. So what do I do? I enter the elevator, the outer door closes on its own, I close the inner doors and push the desired button. I hear the familiar “click” sound, but the elevator doesn’t move. I take out the spatula from my pocket, stick it into a narrow space between the inner doors and thus make some pressure from inside on the outer door, slight pressure which is just about enough to move it a bit and create the necessary closing contact which sets the elevator in motion. And this is what I’ve been doing every single day for more than two months, because 5 flights of stairs are not always an easy option for someone in my health condition. The feel of that wooden stick in my pocket set a wave or ironic, nervous, miserable laughter. I laughed out loud like crazy for a minute or two. Then I took out a ball point pen and wrote “NADA” on it. For if it is sane and acceptable to have hope in a country where you have to carry spatulas around to set elevators in motion, then I’m an irreparably delusional human being.

But hey… let’s hope… to begin with, for the return of Hope.