Detours

It sucks when you’re trying to get somewhere and there’s those orange cones glaring at you with “detour” all over the place. Traffic crawls and the turns seem endless to direct you away from your destination.

When I didn’t feel well over the weekend, I thought it was just a cold. I missed Monday of my second last week of practicum. Then Tuesday afternoon, things didn’t feel right. I couldn’t concentrate or read as my eyes kept jumping lines. I couldn’t think and my head felt weird. I went home for the afternoon and the lightheadedness wouldn’t go away. I laid down and felt lightheaded, I rested and woke up lightheaded. When I saw the doctor, my systolic blood pressure was 78mmHg. I ate more salt and drank more fluids than I ever did in a week and it didn’t get better. I’d hate sleeping because lying there while I felt like I was going to faint sucked. Being unable to make it go away likewise with my headaches. And as the days went by, I had to keep in contact with my preceptor and school. 5 days. That was the limit before I had to redo the whole practicum even with a medical reason. I felt so much pressure from my parents. And from myself. I really enjoyed the placement I was in and I was doing great there. On one side, I hoped so desperately for my parents to just tell me to stop and get better, that health was more important. But on the other side, I really didn’t want to disappoint them. Except I really couldn’t tone it down anymore. They didn’t seem to think it was that serious when I was unable to walk more than one foot-shuffle at a time. When I spent most of my time lying down because it felt so much worse when I was upright. So in the end, I missed more than 5 days and have to redo the 4 weeks next fall.

I won’t graduate this May like the other 200 people in my class will. I won’t stand a chance at the interviews they have during the school year. I won’t be able to take my licensing exam until next fall. I might even be the only graduate in my class next November. I don’t even know when to take my Artona photos. Or if I will be able to participate in what my classmates will take part in. There’s so much I can/will lose. Most of all, I’ll lose my pride. My “perfect” journey of graduating after 5 years of post-secondary as a professional and getting a job will be delayed. What are my parents going to tell others when they ask about my graduation. What if I can’t get a job because of this delay. All because of a medication side effect.

But since it’s Thanksgiving, let’s think about what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful that it was just a medication side effect and although I still have relatively low blood pressure, the lightheadedness resolved. I’m thankful that it’ll just be a few months of delay and that I can still graduate in 2017. I’m thankful that my parents ended up supporting that my health is most important above all else. I’m thankful that I’m able to do my next practicum without further delay this month. I’m thankful that I still have a chance to continue this journey. That it wasn’t a “stop” but just a “detour”. Detours might seem like a maze that never ends, but the destination can will still be reached. And that’s all that matters in the end.

I hate goodbyes :(

So tomorrow will be my last day at my first job. My part time job at a medical office. February 2013 to August 2016. It’s almost as long as I’ve known some of my closest friends. I’ve learned and grown so much in there. I’ve experienced the happiness of seeing pregnant patients come in with their newborns and seen the tears of those and their families who are struggling with illnesses. I should have looked for some pharmacy related position during my years in pharmacy but I couldn’t bring myself to leave. I was there when they opened. When they had their cake-cutting ceremony and dinner. But now that I’m nearing my graduation as a pharmacy student, it’s only natural that I find a pharmacy position. So I made the difficult decision to leave. It’s sad. Even though I was only part-time and worked during the week only when I was off school, I’ve made lasting relationships there. With the doctors, the other receptionists, and patients. I hope that as my brother starts working there after me, he will learn and experience just as much as I did, if not even more.

I’m so thankful. I was not looking for a job nor did I ask for the job. It was just…offered to me. And it has enriched my experiences. I just hope that I was able to make a difference for others like they did for me. Leaving and saying goodbye doesn’t mean the end of the journey. It’s like turning the next page for the next chapter. The stories with the people may continue (I sure hope they do), and I can’t wait for the new stories and experiences I will have. At least I know that if I end up jobless, they’ll welcome me with open arms! Now I have to put myself out there, something I’m not familiar with doing. But I can do it, I know I can. So here’s to the unknown future, let’s do this!

I’m sorry I hate you and I love you

So my brother recently told my mom about the pressure he felt for getting into medicine and studying for the MCAT. It’s almost funny how I feel as though that was the first time she really cracked down on him. It was also the first time when he said that he understands what I might’ve felt. My whole life of more than 2 decades of being the firstborn and feeling all the pressure and NOW he says he thinks he understands it?! It didn’t feel comforting at all, but it did remind me the responsibility I have as a firstborn.

Someone once said this to his firstborn daughter that life will be harder on her as she bears more responsibility for her actions due to being a firstborn. That it won’t be fair, but that’s because she’s firstborn. At first, I was taken aback and felt bad for the little girl who was only 6 years old. Then I realized that even without being told that when I was young, the same thing happened to me. I guess it happens to all firstborns. Parents will be more protective and have higher expectations. They’re also the leader who’s supposed to show a good example to the younger ones. And with my brother who had a lot of health issues while growing up, it felt as though it was right for them to do that. I became protective of him too. From the teasing he would get from others because of his bandage on his ear and his hospitalizations. I’m not saying that I hated that, but I admit that there have been times when I hated him because it felt so unfair. At the same time, I would pour as much love as I can onto him because it felt like he needed it more.

When I think back to my studying and pressure that I received from my parents, I’ve always remembered them telling me that I should’ve studied harder to get even better grades. Them telling me how I should’ve done this instead and how I should sleep earlier. Them not knowing that I’d spend nights unable to sleep worrying because of the stress. How I would try my best to study everything as much as I can, sleeping at 2:30am and waking up at 6:30am to keep studying. With my brother, he sleeps late and my mom would defend him saying she already talked to him about it. When he sleeps in after a night of studying, my parents would say that he tried his best because he studied during the night. If he doesn’t do as well on an exam and says that he already tried his best, my parents would leave him alone. If it was me, I’d hear it a thousand times if I didn’t change my behaviour. I wouldn’t talk back to my parents, I’d just take it to heart and try my best to appease them. My brother, on the other hand, seems to feel wronged when he gets berated and would justify his actions. I guess it’s become a habit for me. I remember when I used to argue with my parents because of their seemingly unjust scoldings. It doesn’t help that when my mom scolds him, she’s learned to scold him when they’re alone so as to not have him “lose face” in front of us. When it was me, I’d get scolded in front of everyone and my brother would join in the scolding. I still hate that. But what can I say, I was the first baby they had, and parents learn along with their children. It wasn’t something that they knew to change before. I’m willing to be their guinea pig for the rest of my life. It’s something that I’m willing to do for my brother as I want him to become the best second-born, an improved newer person.

The shadow behind

It’s so hard to get rid of traumatic memories. Like how I see the dog with its bite-hold on my arm whenever I hear dogs bark, I see the and hear the conversations I had with that preceptor in my current practicum. It doesn’t matter that the situation is totally different, that my current preceptor and the staff are super encouraging and supportive, and that I did pretty well so far considering my mid-evaluation. I would still see similar situations and find myself go back to that memory. I would hear his words, hear the threats, and the rush of feelings would mess up my mind. The memory pounces on me and I’d have to sleep with a sleeping pill yet again. Day after day. Even if I’m able to brush it off and continue my day of work, it always finds an opportunity to come back. I try so hard to seem alright and it makes me wonder if people will see it. Or what they see.

Do they see a frightened young girl who is at a loss? Do they see a dumbfounded girl who can’t answer anything? Do they see a stoic mask? Do they see a friendly girl smiling despite her mistakes? At those times I can barely control my feelings and expressions. Like a ghost following me around, that trauma is something I can’t seem to get rid off. Working in the same setting, with a male preceptor; it’s so similar while it’s so different.

I really hope that I’ll be able to get over that trauma soon. I only have a week left at my practicum and I hope I can end it well. I really do enjoy working there with everyone and have learned a lot. I find my confidence took a hit since the memories, but I’m getting up again with the encouragements and kindness. I want to work even harder so that I can show that even someone with a trauma can do this. And that I am not someone who would’ve failed like they said I would. I need to prove to myself that I can do this. That I can indeed become a pharmacist. Believe. It’s been my source of strength when I have nothing to hold on. I’d hold on my wrist tattoo and tell myself that I can do this. That I believe I can. That I believe I’m stronger than the trauma.

Let’s start another new chapter

It’s only been a month or two but it feels like years have passed. So much has happened. I’ve experienced despair, love, frustration, happiness to the extremes. I don’t even know where to start this messy chapter. I’m just glad that it didn’t end there. And a new page is always waiting; the next chapter.

Finals came around and it was yet another stress-filled month of April. Thanks to the wake-up call from failing a final the term before, I prepared for everything much earlier. I made notes for everything in advance and was able to go through all the notes at least twice! *applauds self* I don’t remember the last time I studied twice for something. And it paid off. I didn’t have to pull all-nighters and passed all my courses! *more applause* Although I had failed to continue regular exercise during that time, I felt pretty confident about life.

Then as always, there was that plot twist. Ah, I should’ve know that it would happen. “The higher they are, the harder they fall.” And boy did I fall hard. I had an unfortunate 1st week of practicum which people have described as on the verge of abusive and in the end, it drove me to a place that I hope I never have to go to again. I had to study like crazy that weekend in order to “catch up” with the “level of knowledge that I should have” but I couldn’t. I spent more than 20 hours that Saturday sleeping, feeling like I was falling in and out of consciousness. The dread of failing the practicum made dying seem like a better choice. Sounds stupid thinking about it now, but at that time, I believed that. I guess when you’ve spent your whole life studying and all, failing seems like the end of your life. Sunday, I knew that I needed to get help. I couldn’t get my mind out of the gutter and like a waterfall thoughts kept pouring in about suicide and dying. I knew I wouldn’t go through with it, but I didn’t know what to do to get rid of those thoughts. I felt so zoned out, I couldn’t focus on anything, couldn’t even concentrate on what people say to me. I knew that I wasn’t okay and needed help. So I told my family about it and we went to the ER. After lots of waiting and meeting nurses, doctors, and psychiatrists and retelling my story many times, we went home and then came the mess to sort out since life goes on. But all in all I’m glad I went. There’s always someone there for you at the “end of the road” whether it’s the ER, suicide hotline, or friends and family. I wish there was a “pause” button on life where I can just put everything aside and replenish my energy. But there isn’t.

So after emails, phone calls, and trips to school, I was able to get my life back on track. I worked harder than before to fix my life. I had given myself a second chance and I was going to take that second chance and make use of it to the fullest. I began exercising everyday again and went to the weekly anxiety management groups at school. It was a hassle, but this isn’t something that can be fixed with the push of a button. For any kind of success, foundations of hard work underlies it. I made an effort to meet up with friends and spend more time with family. I tried not to let what happened stop life from going on. I wouldn’t say that I was able to do well in that area, but I tried my best. I pushed myself to work and take on more shifts, covering for a colleague. And though I would have vivid nightmares and thoughts of what happened, I tried to look forward. Because I couldn’t let that one event define me.

So as I prepare to start my new practicum placement tomorrow, yes I’m anxious. The memories pop up so vividly. I don’t think I’ll ever forget what happened. But life goes on. I determine whether I’ll be chained to that memory or not. I don’t have to wallow in fear of the same thing happening again and limit myself from what I know I can do. I can believe in myself. I believe that going through this has and will only make me stronger and that I had to go through it only because I was strong enough to get through it. Stories are full of plot twists and surprises, but being the author of my own life story, I can always change the outcome.