Thursday, 8 December 2011

Long weekends and tiny epiphanies

I think I know how the panda feels sometimes
The last three weeks I've been running a project looking at communication between doctors and patients.

The last weekend I lost my brand new (less than 24 hours old) iPhone 4S.

These seem like relatively unconnected events, other than that they both happened to me. One, however is a causative agent. One is a symptom.

I know it is the most over-used cliched post for a blogger to talk about their experiences of depression. We get it, you feel blue sometimes, get over it etc. etc. But this past three weeks have had me becoming re-acquainted with something I thought I was entirely over. In what I now view as a former life, I was lab monkey who worked by themselves for 8 hours a day in a lab where I was the only person there, for months at a time. During that job, something broke inside me. I tasted despair and such crippling psychic pain that I had days of missed work where I would pad around my crummy flat and wonder what would happen if I just stepped out in front of the bus that went to my job, rather than getting on it.

It was, to say the least, not a time I remember fondly. The more I've learned about clinical depression, the more I am sure I was suffering from it. Not that I ever sought medical advice at the time or subsequently. I probably should have, with hindsight. But whatever. I think the loneliness of working a job that was going anywhere, by myself damaged me in a profound way.

I've written about this before in a brief post when it seemed like a more distant time.

Things changed when I moved to London, started nursing and making a positive difference in the world. Everyone I helped, healed me a little bit. I worked as part of a team who spent a lot of time together, worked hard, partied hard. I got married and learned to trust and share my space with someone. Learned that maybe I didn't have to bear the occasional weight of existential dread by myself.

But running this project for the past few weeks has involved me living as an observer, watching, not interacting or involving myself in some of the sadder aspects of human existence. 8 hours a day, by myself, in a crowd of people.

I think you can see where this is going.

I didn't pick up on it at first. Then slowly things happened. I passed up on going to the gym. On going to my Krav Maga classes.

Then I went drinking on the Saturday night. I was back with old nursing friends and we tied one on. We painted a small patch of Soho red. It was an explosive release of... Something for me. And I got drunk. blind drunk. In the process lost my 'phone and didn't care, because I was too busy drinking and trying to savour being a part of a group again.

Monday I was still a bit hungover. But, I pulled myself together enough to get stuff done and in recounting the weekend to med school friends, suddenly realised what was going on in my mind. This realisation has made all the difference. I'm now spending my spare time on the ward revising and learning and talking to the medics. Engaging with the world.

I guess my point in all of this is sometimes you're not as healed as you think and maybe it's a reminder to be on your guard against demons you thought you'd vanquished.

(Oh, and the sad panda shirt is from the A Softer World line at Topatoco)

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