I don’t really know how to start this post, because it’s been so long since I wrote anything more than a point-by-point replay of my day and my patients, or maybe a little book review. Partially it’s because my apartment was robbed in February, and my laptop with it, and I’ve yet to replace it.
Partially it’s because I haven’t known what to write. Blogging and writing have been some of my greatest coping mechanisms, but when things get really bad, I tend to draw a blank and avoid writing at all.
So I guess that’s how I’ll start: things have been really bad.
I love my new(ish) job at the children’s hospital. I love working with children, and I can’t imagine going back to treating adults after this year (sorry). I am even enjoying the surgery, even though longstanding readers of this blog will know that I used to hate surgery. I’m not saying I’ll become a paediatric surgeon… I’m just saying that I’m not opposed to the idea anymore.
But oftentimes, work has been the best part of my day. And that’s hardly living.
My mental health has taken a steep dive. I’ve alluded to it before but in an effort to withstand the stigma of mental illness – especially in doctors – I’ll spell it out: I’ve got major depression. I’ve probably had it for at least half of my life, and it has been untreated for most of that time.
There is a lot written about so-called “high-functioning depressives”, but I’m not delving into that now. Suffice to say that I’ve remained functional in my work and that it’s probably to blame for me coping so well without any interventions.
Yes, adjusting to Cape Town has been hard. Yes, Capetonians aren’t as welcoming as where I come from. Yes, I miss my family. Yes, I work long hours and exceed my overtime cap. Yes, my cat likes to wake me up at night and nibble my toes. Yes, cooking my own dinner is a constant exercise in disaster-avoidance.
But it’s really the depression that makes it all so damn hard.
The best gift I gave myself this year has been to get myself a therapist. Therapy is HARD. I don’t know the answers. I have no training in psychology (as opposed to psychiatry), and I have absolutely no idea where I’m going. So I have to trust this person to lead me. There are probably better metaphors for this, but this is what I’ve got.
And having to trust a professional with something I don’t understand has been the most freeing thing, actually. I researched therapists like crazy before I chose one, because I knew that I’d tell this person things that would leave me vulnerable.
I don’t have much free time, but taking an hour each week for therapy has been the best decision I could have made. (Even though it drastically reduces the amount I can spend on buying books.)
I wish I had started therapy earlier, and I wish that more doctors would go for therapy. Moreover, I wish every medical student had access to therapy. A lot of medical students simply don’t have the funds for it, and providing it to them would actually be an investment. I have lot of strong feelings about that particular discussion. But I’ll write more on that some other time. Hopefully before Christmas!