Some Thoughts on Depression

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Rewind the tape of life a couple of months: I wake up in my beautiful room in Munich, quickly check some messages and emails, jump out from under the covers, let the window shade snap against the ceiling, grin at the sun (or make a face at the rain), jump in the shower, get dressed, have breakfast and I’m ready to go in 45 minutes. After my 30-minute train “commute” to uni, I eagerly greet the sun as I climb the escalator from the metro to the surface. I’m always super organized and am generally able to get shit done. I prepare for lectures and go over my notes afterwards. I get assignments done on time and they are perfect to my standards. I generally feel like a happy person, I go out for amazing food with my friends, I drive home on the weekend to see my family and our amazing dog. Again, I can get shit done, if I really want to. This is not to say my life at this point is perfect and I’m always a happy, sunny person – but let’s flash forward to today.

The past weeks I have not been able to get anything done, I have never before procrastinated this bad. I avoid doing my readings by wasting time on my phone, and the thing that surprises me the most is that I don’t even care. I used to get anxiety attacks about reading things on time and getting assignments done perfectly. Now I just don’t seem to give a shit. Why?! I mean, I think it’s great that I don’t get as much anxiety over uni work at the moment, but I really didn’t want it to dip into the other extreme? I’m on exchange in Canada right now, I should be having the time of my life, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I should be getting everything out of it that I can – instead I spend the days sitting in bed avoiding readings and skimming social media. This is nuts! The only way I can explain this is by finally facing the fact that I probably have depression and am currently facing a super annoying depressive episode at the most inconvenient time possible.

The worst thing is, I broke up with my girlfriend last week because I felt like our temporarily long-distance relationship (Canada – South Africa, how much further away from each other can you get?) was sapping my energy and not providing enough happiness for me at the same time. I broke up to fully concentrate on Canada and make the best of it. Only that didn’t do shit. I probably made the so far worst mistake of my life because I failed to recognize that the source of my lack of energy and bleak look on life and general feeling of “meeeh I just don’t really care about anything anymore” was not our relationship, but fucking depression. And that thing is nasty, too, toying with my mind and planting thoughts in my head like “You never loved your girlfriend, it’s been an illusion all this time”. Or “You should be strong enough to handle this on your own, you don’t need help, only failures can’t pull themselves out of it on their own.”

One of my biggest problems with it is that I’m a super rational person. If I can’t rationally explain something, it’s hard for me to make sense of it. And I just can’t rationally explain these thoughts and feelings. From a rational perspective, I should be the happiest person on earth: I have the best friends anyone could wish for and super supportive parents on top of that. I had the sweetest and most loving girlfriend, she always had my back and I could talk to her about anything. We had a super deep connection, of the kind that I have never experienced with another human being, ever. My amazing home university sent me on exchange to an equally amazing university in Canada, I’ve been planning this for over a year, and now I’m finally here and I love my courses and I’m involved in different clubs and I’ve already made friends that I know are going to stick for life. Just spelling out all the amazing things that are actually happening to me right now make my current feelings and thoughts appear even more silly. Because from a rational perspective, everything is awesome, right?

So I can’t explain where these negative feelings are coming from, but at the same time I feel like I have to listen to them. Everybody’s always talking about being in tune with your body and listening to figure out what’s potentially going wrong. So I generally take my thoughts and feelings very seriously. But this now has me thinking that the thoughts depression is pounding into my head are actually coming from myself. I have a hard time separating myself from the illness – on the other hand, it really is a product of my brain, right? I’m obviously just super confused. Another thing is, I don’t want to use my depression to somehow justify my actions, along the lines of “Oh that wasn’t really me, it was my depression that broke up with my girlfriend.” But would I really have broken up with her if I would have been “in my right mind”, not influenced by this thing that is apparently a mental illness and on top of that really difficult to grasp?

Today was the first day in weeks that I actually felt productive. I woke up to my alarm at a reasonable time, spent too much time on my phone, as always, managed to shower and clean up (sort of), eat breakfast and kicked my butt out of my room two hours after waking up. I made an appointment with a counselor today – correct, I actually made it all the way down the steps of Maggie Benston Center to Health and Counseling Services without keeling over, stated my business, filled out the paper work, got an appointment and got out of there without embarrassing myself or acting stupid or running away. Then I figured out the automatic staplers in the library, stapled and hole-punched a bunch of papers, printed my ballot for the election in November, filled it out, scanned it and sent it. Went to my courses and back to the library after that, finally finished some readings I had been avoiding all week – I haven’t gotten this much done in days!

But now I’m back to sitting in my bed avoiding the next readings, which are due tomorrow by the way, but I really don’t care for some reason. I apparently also couldn’t care less that I have a presentation the day after tomorrow. Under “normal” circumstances I would be absolutely freaking out right now (yay anxiety, but that’s a different topic). Instead I’m writing blog posts trying to make sense of all of this. And at the same time there’s that awful little voice in my head telling me that what I did today was not enough, because have you even seen your to do list and all the work piling up? You’re such a failure for not being able to pull yourself out of this on your own! Get a grip on your life, will you? Just look on the bright side, it’s so easy to do, you just lack self-discipline because here you still are, doing nothing, wasting your precious life.

Seriously, I hope my counselor knows a way out, because this is just so fucked up.

 

 

I’m a student. Majoring in thinking too much with a minor in worrying.

The new semester just started and with the first week not even being over yet, I feel like work is piling up way over my head. Not necessarily work that has to be or can be done right at the moment, but deadlines for the future that are mandatory to meet. That’s why they’re called deadlines. Ignore them, you’re dead. Forget them, you’re dead. Cross them, you’re dead. Thinking about them will eventually kill you because your body and mind won’t be able to take the shakiness of the worry any longer. Dead. Literally deadlines.

It seems like I don’t really worry that much about IF I can meet the deadline. Because life still poses enough quirks for me to wish to pursue it, I will move heaven and hell to make a deadline. What I worry about is HOW I will meet the deadline. First of all in terms of the quality of the product I am supposed to deliver. If you know anything about me, you will know that I can be a notorious perfectionist. Which can make life really really difficult. Also, I consider my writing a piece of myself, it’s a visible product of my brain, which is basically my most treasured possession. It’s a product of my thoughts, my opinions, my experiences. So it’s got to be perfect if it is going to represent me in the outside world. This puts a hell of a lot of pressure on me, but on the other hand, I love writing for the very same reason. It’s a form of communication that allows me to think about what I want to say for as long as I need and then conveying this in a manner that will truly and accurately represent my thoughts and opinions and experiences. I hate having to represent myself through oral communication because this usually involves not saying everything I want to say, saying it in a way that can easily be misunderstood, saying things I don’t want to say due to lack of time to think about what I really want to say. It sucks. I wish I could communicate in written form exclusively for the rest of my life. It would sure as hell spare me from some of my social anxiety.

I don’t just worry about the quality of the product I am supposed to deliver, I also worry about the quality of my self during the time of production. This includes physical and mental health. Since I will do pretty much anything to meet a deadline AND deliver a perfect-to-my-standards-because-that’s-basically-all-that-really-matters-but-sadly-sometimes-my-standards-are-based-on-the-standards-of-the-person-implemeting-the-deadline-but-then-amplified-by-like-a-million-product, I worry that in the course of all that, I myself will go to hell (not literally though). My body will be put through sitting at a desk or in a super uncomfortable wooden contraption made with the intention of people spending hours on it in a lecture hall, me not having enough time to think about nutritious healthy food to cook and me worrying about shit all night (or staying up all night writing stream-of-consciousness-type blog entries) and not getting enough sleep. And my mind will be going washing-machine-spin-cycle-crazy 24 hours a day about meeting the fucking deadline with a fucking perfect product without going fucking crazy.

I have roughly 15 assignments to fulfill this semester, all with different deadlines, sometimes three with the same deadline, some involving stuffing things into my brain and then spitting them out on paper, others including talking in front of a group of people I don’t know very well and therefore provoking anxiety feelings from the moment I am informed about the deadline to the minute I finally get it over with. Most of these assignments are essays stretching over just a few pages, which should be no big deal, actually, since I love writing, I prefer it over talking or spitting stuff, come to think about it I really shouldn’t be worrying about those at all. I mean, there’s a lot of them, but how hard could it really be?

Maybe I’m actually worried about something completely different and am just projecting that worry onto the looooong list of Essays To Write. I’m applying to our university’s exchange program for a semester abroad in Canada. Which means I have to take the IELTS language test at the end of this month, which I should really be studying for, but a voice in my head is constantly telling me “come on, how hard can in be to write, listen to and speak ENGLISH for crying out loud”. It also means I still have to complete my letter of motivation, stating what exactly I’m planning to do over there and why the hell I’m wanting to do it. And I have to get two letters of recommendation from my professors, which requires once again oral communication skills and of course perfectly engaged and smart behavior in their classes so I get a good recommendation. Talk about pressure. Plus the person in charge of the department for foreign exchange stuff is a, well, um, somewhat difficult person and regarding my first encounter with this man who may lack even more social skills than me, but in a way that makes him arrogant and unfriendly instead of painfully self-conscious, I hope that I never have to interact with him on any level ever again.

And another thing that worries me is my application to a job as an assistant at the women’s equality office. Because it involves trying to sell myself and my qualifications to somebody that I have never met. And I suck at selling stuff. I couldn’t sell a lifeboat to a person drowning in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Also it will in the future involve people. New, strange people. People of authority. Yikes. That’s a sentence right there to scare the crap out of an introverted person with social anxiety, if not admitting them straight into a mental institution.

So why am I doing all of this if it worries and downright freaks me out so much? Good fucking question. I guess one could call it an attempt to live and maybe even succeed in spite of myself.

“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.”

Disclaimer: I will not apologize for any typos, incoherent sentence structures, elaborate debaucheries, hyphenated neologisms or occasional swearing. It’s 1:23 a.m. for crying out loud and I’m too tired to proofread anything right now.

My Roomie Is A Medical Student

Once you get into college you hear a lot of stories about roommates. Some are awesome cooks, like a clean apartment, are aware of exactly how loud they can turn up the music without bugging anybody and know how to pick their hairs out of the shower. Other stories include them running around the house naked, leaving the kitchen in a state one could only describe as A-bomb, helping themselves to your Nutella (or worse: stabbing the tin foil before you get a chance to do it – that’s the best part!) or removing all furniture from the apartment and storing it at the neighbor’s place to make room for a party. Thank God I really lucked out with my roomie, although I must say that it did take me a while to get used to living with a medical student. Here’s why.

1. White

Everything is white. Walls, furniture, kitchen table, plates, bowls, casserole dishes, lamps – I mean everything. Why white? “It looks to sterile!” Guess it makes sense that if you’re going to spend most of your life in the sterile environment of a hospital, lab or doctor’s office you would want to preserve that feeling of cleanliness at home, too, right? Wrong! It doesn’t make sense at all because white shows every single grain of dust! I come from a home with wooden furniture only and now since my new room is equipped with white Ikea furniture I have never seen so much dirt around the house in my entire life. And suddenly I’m actually required to dust! What the hell is that all about?!

2. Poop

One of the most interesting topics to any medical person is poop. This can be expressed through descriptions of the exact fecal textures one encountered during the patient care internship, but also in offhand questions such as “So, how was your poop today? Are those iron capsules working?”. Statements like that are preferably given during meal times, so if you’re blessed (or cursed) with a very vivid imagination like I am: Good luck keeping that food in your gullet. Same thing goes for urine, too, by the way. Did you know that pee could actually foam?!

3. Lab coats

The white (!) lab coat is essential to a medical student’s closet. Surely you have had to give style advice to your siblings, friends or of course roommates before, right? Instead of the usual “Do I look fat in this?” question, medical students have a whole different set of worries concerning their outfits. “Are your sure I shouldn’t iron it again?” “OH my God, look at that STAIN!” “Doesn’t the other coat look better on me?” Patience and understanding is required here, because all hail the lab coat! It grants authority and knowledge and is in general just the most important accessory of a medical student, no matter if they’re examining bacterial cultures in a lab or disemboweling old lacerated corpses.

4. Hypochondria

Many medical students are cursed with too much knowledge about too many ailments. I blame a head ache on the weather or my lectures and just wait until it’s gone. My roommate on the other hand will pop one hundred pills and if they don’t work that has GOT to be a brain tumor! The symptoms match exactly and OH MY GOD didn’t we just talk about that in our seminar?? Sometimes it’s just better not to know what you could be dying of.

5. Chemistry

So, how many chemical structures could you sketch just from off the top of your head? I’m actually really good at that. At least I should be, since my roomie has been explaining the most complicated stuff to me, mostly just to see if she understood it herself. I’ll stick to the thesis that humanists lost the part of the brain required to comprehend that sort of thing sometime during evolution. Ask me to explain the different parts of a medieval document written by the papal office? No problem. Want me to draw the structural formula of … hydrogen carbonate? (Does that even exist?!) Forget it.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely the views of the author and surely do not apply to all medical students on the planet. Also they are not to be seen as offensive or insulting. The author assures that she is well aware of the many pros of having a medical student as a roomie and confesses that all points shown above have mostly led to a hell of a lot of amusement.

And to my dear roomie, in case you’re reading this: I couldn’t imagine anyone better to share the roof over our heads and the fridge with, than you. Don’t ever change your original and always witty self!

Über das Leben mit einer Medizinstudentin als Mitbewohnerin

Über Mitbewohner gibt es ja allerlei Geschichten. Manche können supergut kochen, halten sich immer an den Putzplan, wissen was Zimmerlautstärke bedeutet, klauben ihre Haare aus der Dusche. Von anderen wurde schon berichtet, dass sie manchmal nackt durch die Wohnung laufen, die Küche in atombombenartigem Zustand hinterlassen, einem das Nutella aus dem Glas klauen (oder schlimmer: die goldene Folie anstechen!!) und mal eben die gesamte Wohnung von allen Möbeln befreien, um Party zu machen. Ich persönlich hab Gott sei Dank wahnsinnig viel Glück mit meiner Mitbewohnerin gehabt, wobei ich sagen muss, dass ich mich an das Leben mit einer Medizinstudentin schon ein wenig gewöhnen musste. Warum? Darum!

1. Weiß

Die Wände sind weiß, alle Möbel sind weiß, der Küchentisch ist natürlich weiß, Teller weiß, Schüsseln weiß, Auflaufform weiß, Lampen auch weiß, alles weiß. Warum? “Das sieht so steril aus!” Immerhin macht es Sinn, dass jemand, der künftig die meiste Zeit seines Lebens in steriler Krankenhaus- oder Labor- oder Arztpraxisumgebung verbringen wird, auch zuhause das Gefühl von Reinheit und Sauberkeit beibehalten möchte. Oder? Eigentlich macht es überhaupt keinen Sinn, weil man auf Weiß jedes Staubkörnchen sieht! Ich komme aus einem Haus mit ausschließlich Holzmöbeln und da nun mein Zimmer in der WG auch mit weißen Ikea-Möbeln ausgestattet ist, sehe ich mehr Dreck überall als jemals in meinem Leben zuvor. Und plötzlich muss ich auch Staub wischen. Was ist das denn?!

2. Kacke

Kacke ist für einen Mediziner eines der interessantesten Themen überhaupt. Das kann sich in Beschreibungen der Konsistenz der Stuhlgänge, die man beim Krankenpflegepraktikum erlebt hat, äußern, aber auch in Fragen wie “Und? Wie sieht deine Kacke zur Zeit so aus? Wirken die Eisentabletten?”. Bevorzugt wird man mit solchen Aussagen beim Einnehmen einer Mahlzeit konfrontiert und wenn ihr wie ich mit einer sehr lebhaften Phantasie gesegnet (oder verflucht) seid: Viel Glück. Ach ja, dasselbe gilt übrigens auch für Urin. Wusstet ihr, dass Pipi schaumig sein kann?!

3. Kittel

Der weiße Kittel ist das A und O. Bestimmt musstet ihr schon öfter bei Geschwistern, Freunden oder eben Mitbewohnern Style-Berater machen, oder? Statt der üblichen “Seh ich darin fett aus?”-Frage haben Medizinstudenten jedoch ganz andere Sorgen. “Soll ich den Kittel nicht doch nochmal bügeln??” “OOOOH mein Gott, da ist ein FLECK!” “Sieht der andere Kittel nicht doch besser aus?” Hier ist ganz viel Verständnis angesagt, denn der Kittel ist schließlich heilig, er verleiht Autorität und Sachkenntnis und ist überhaupt total wichtig, egal ob man Bakterienkulturen im Labor untersucht oder alte, zerfleischte Leichen ausnimmt und wieder zusammenpuzzlet.

4. Hypochondrie

Der Fluch mancher Medizinstudenten ist, dass sie über zu viele Krankheiten zu viele Details wissen. Ich schiebe Kopfweh auf das Wetter oder den Inhalt meiner Vorlesungen und warte einfach, bis es weg ist. Meine Mitbewohnerin schmeißt bei Kopfweh erstmal hundert Tabletten ein und wenn die nicht wirken, dann ist das GARANTIERT ein Tumor!! Die Symptome stimmen überein und oh Gott, das hatten wir doch erst neulich im Seminar! Manchmal ist es einfach besser nicht zu wissen, was man alles haben könnte.

5. Chemie 

Wie viele chemische Strukturformeln könnt ihr so auswendig aufzeichnen? Ich kann ziemlich viele. Zumindest sollte ich viele können, da meine Mitbewohnerin mir die kompliziertesten Sachen hundertmal erklärt hat, hauptsächlich um zu sehen ob sie es selbst verstanden hat. Ich bleibe bei der These, dass bei Geisteswissenschaftlern der dazu benötigte Teil des Gehirns im Laufe der Evolution irgendwie abhanden gekommen ist. Die verschiedenen Bestandteile einer mittelalterlichen Urkunde aus der päpstlichen Kanzlei runterbeten? Kein Problem. Die Strukturformel von … Hydrogencarbonat (gibt’s das??!) aufmalen? Vergiss es.

Disclaimer: Diese Ansichten repräsentieren nur die Ansichten der Autorin und sind vermutlich nicht auf alle Medizinstudenten dieser Welt anwendbar. Ferner sind die Aufzeichnungen absolut nicht böse gemeint und sollen nicht als Angriffe oder Beleidigungen gewertet werden. Die Autorin versichert außerdem, sich durchaus der Vorteile von Medizinstudenten als Mitbewohner bewusst zu sein und gibt zu, dass eigentlich alle oben angeführten Punkte oft zu Amüsanz geführt haben.

Und an meine Mitbewohnerin, falls du das liest: Ich könnte mir niemand Besseren vorstellen, mit dem ich das Dach über dem Kopf und den Kühlschrank teilen wollen würde, als dich! Bleib bloß so genial und witzig und originell, wie du bist!!