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.

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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.

 

Cherry Blossoms

Sitting in the car after yet another final exam, I looked outside and it amazed me yet again how beautiful cherry blossoms are. It made so grateful to live in beautiful Vancouver where streets are lined with rows of cherry blossom trees. Watching them slowly drift to the ground from the branches onto the street below, a carpet of soft pink petals lining the sidewalk. At that moment, I wanted to be a cherry blossom tree.

No, I don’t think I’m insane from studying…yet. So why a tree? Let me see.. From field trips in elementary school to visit the huge old trees in Stanley Park and learning about how the rings in their trunks showed its age, to seeing the blossoms, trees are quite interesting. It’s history is kept in each ring and it just builds up every year. From the weak saplings, it grows into something so thick and strong. With each year of enduring rain, snow, and wind, it grows stronger. Its branches keep reaching higher and it just grows better when if its pruned. It grows so strong that its roots can uplift concrete, creating the cracks in the sidewalk that made it oh so fun for biking when I was a kid. If there is something in its way of growth, it just grows around it, changing the curve of its branches.  And it provides shade when its too sunny and refuge when its raining. Its thick bark protects it from everything. It just thrives on pure nature outside. It becomes bare in the winter, but every spring, blossoms bloom yet again. Then they drop, and make it beautiful all around them. The fragrance of spring that it gives calms my spirit every time. And as I seek shelter from the sweltering heat from the sun in its shade, its ever-increasing strength and tenacity to grow inspires me. If something that is just literally a block of wood can be so strong, so can I. And I can make life around me beautiful too. That’s how amazing life is. Trees are living things with the ability to grow, reproduce, take in and use energy, excrete waste, and respond to the environment. And although not exactly the same type of living, but we live too. “Life” can be pretty fascinating don’t you think?

The end of another chapter

So Friday was the last day of classes of our whole pharmacy class together as next year it splits into 2 term rotations. Out of the whole 200 something class, I could only say that I had 2 friends. Before I got into pharmacy, I heard that it was like high school. A small class where people clique together and friendships are made. It looks that way. People took pictures together to commemorate the last day of classes of the year. And I don’t even talk to the person I sat beside this whole year. It’s been bittersweet going through these 3 years of school with all these people that I wouldn’t say I even knew. These 3 years where I’ve been so busy holed up in my depression and trapped in my anxiety that I became someone different. Where I was scared to make friends and fear that I would get into “that phase” again and drop all contact. Where I was scared of what other people thought even when I was doing nothing. Where I battled lonely battles with my headaches, losing the fight every time. Where I isolated myself because life was just too hard to deal with anything else. I know it wasn’t the best way to cope and I’m working on the slow process of fixing it. It was my own fault, but I couldn’t help being sad about how everything went these few years. It didn’t help that I also had an exam that didn’t go that well earlier that day. With all these piling up, it hit me hard and the waterfall of tears fell over the dam. With only one year left of university, the only university experiences I really had was going to lectures, going to the library to study, and lots of busing. And I can’t even blame myself as that’s only the shortcut to spiraling into the maze of depression. But I’ll have to take the easy way out this time and deal with these emotions later and take that route of avoidance. Because life keeps going, and 6 finals are waiting for me this month. For anything to get fixed, I’ll need to pass through this next hurdle first. It’s amazing how complicated life is like. And I’m the little character guy navigating through this expert-level maze with 1 life left. It’s good that there are always options to go backwards from dead ends to take other routes and 1 life is all that you need. Because no matter how “expert” your levels of life are, there is a way out and at the end, there’ll be a celebration of passing that level. And I just keep reminding myself that each maze is unique with its hurdles and obstacles. So It’s okay to take your own path as its different from theirs. They can’t see what your maze is like.

Resilience. 

the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness

I always thought I didn’t have resilience. If I had resilience, I would not have depression. If I had resilience, I would not have such a hard time when something happens and knocks me down. If I had resilience, I could deal with things better. I wouldn’t feel so much stress and anxiety. If I had resilience, I would be a better person. Or so I thought. I always felt bad for my parents, that they tried so hard to bring us up in the best care possible but I “failed” them by having so many problems with life. I think I mentioned before how much it hurt when I heard my dad sharing about a book he read on resilience and how those who lived with their grandparents or other extended family would have greater resilience…but I didn’t.

A conversation with my mentor has reminded me that we are all resilient in some way. She says that I’m actually very resilient. Having made it this far in pharmacy despite it not being something I was passionate in while having to deal with my chronic migraines and depression/anxiety. Having passed all my courses thus far despite having almost failed or having failed and having to write a supplemental. Being able to keep on going despite everything life has thrown at me with family hardships and just a lot of stress from everything. There were so many times that I felt like giving up. But I didn’t. I had believed that every time I momentarily got stuck or had my depressive episodes, my thoughts were right: I was a failure. When I didn’t do well on an exam despite my hard work or did poorly on a lab, I thought I was a failure. Those thoughts were all lies. And I never thought from another perspective that thinking of myself as a failure didn’t mean that I was weak and not resilient. Failing doesn’t mean that I’m a failure. Resilience is based on the actions that I do in lieu of what happened. Whether I get back up and keep going. It is not just a personality characteristic that you have or don’t have. It’s something anyone achieve, although some just might find it easier than others. You can become resilient through different ways with different experiences. There’s got to be a reason why I’m still hanging in there and passing school. And I’m not going to give up until I learn what it is.