I was back in counselling yesterday and felt quite angry for part of it; my counsellor, L, is always going on about how I have high expectations of myself and am hard on myself when they aren’t reached – and I would never disagree with that, but I disagree that it’s something I desperately need to change. When I was still at school, I know that in some ways being such a perfectionist did me no favours, but by the same token, that vigilance was what enabled me to get the grades and other things I needed to get into medical school; show me the doctor who doesn’t push themselves, and doesn’t always strive for improvement, and I will show you a substandard physician. Who would you rather have treating you? Someone who felt ok with putting in a minimal effort, or someone who was determined to do the best for you? I am much less of a perfectionist anyway, than I used to be, and am more relaxed than I used to be, and to be honest, having someone comment on how hard I push myself three weeks before major exams, and four weeks before a major deadline, isn’t that helpful; all of my peers are working themselves to the bone at the moment, and for medical students (and other related groups), it’s more than just learning for exams; everything we don’t know is a future patient we fail to treat, or at least that’s how it can feel. Every mistake, is a waste of time, a delay in diagnosis, an adverse drug reaction. I want to be the best doctor I can be; I don’t want to be a substandard one. Working hard and pushing myself is just a part of who I am; society is quick to judge the crowd who burn the candle at both ends, and tell us that we should slow down, but at the end of the day, are hardly celebratory of lazier people. I know that this depression I’m going through makes me even more self-critical than usual, and I do try to silence that voice, but, my tenacity is what makes me who I am. It’s why I’ve always been someone with a string of extracurricular activities, it’s why my patient visiting project as been a success, it’s why I’ve got through this year, so far, when so many odds have been stacked against me. I owe it a lot. Cutting it off is a bit like cutting off an arm. Being hauled up for it struck a nerve, but then, that’s what counselling does, at the end of the day. It’s no ball game, and if it is, there’s an awful lot of striking out. It’s not something that is ever going to be painless. It’s not something that will ever be easy.
I talked about a memory that’s come back a lot this week, as it was my mum’s 60th last weekend (which is why I was home), and I’ve been reminded of her 50th, which we celebrated round a hospital bed, as she was being treated for breast cancer. I was thirteen, she was in hospital a lot longer than expected due to infection and other complications, and home was falling apart as my dad drank himself silly and left me to sort out the mess and make sure my younger brother got to school and ate square meals. I sometimes think I was more grown up as a thirteen year old, than I am now. For her birthday, I made a cake using a new recipe book, and it went terribly wrong – the filling didn’t set and soaked through the sponge and ruined it, and I wanted to start again (here’s that perfectionist streak coming through), so was running behind time, and our dad threw an absolute fit infront of me and my brother, throwing glass milkbottles, swearing, and just shouting and shouting and shouting at us, telling us that he wishes we’d been taken into care so he didn’t have to deal with us, that it was our fault that mum’s recovery was taking longer than expected, and a lot of other things. I remember being absolutely terrified, and starting to cry before he said that he was going to the hospital whether we came or not.
When we left, it was the first time I’d been fully aware (or at least, that’s what I remember), that he was well over the limit and driving dangerously; he must have been driving under influence for years before that, and now I wonder how we got away with it, how we never had some terrible accident, after ten years of being driven dangerously. Ironically, it was with my mum behind the wheel that I ever came closest to harm as not only is she an awful driver but she also used to threaten to drive us off the road, to get away from the drinking. Now that I’m older, I wonder how we managed that day; I remember hugging my brother, then eleven, and putting on a smile as we went into the hospital room. I wonder how we did it. Now, whenever I see families visiting patients at the hospital, I always have a look at the kids, to see if they look they’re ok. I’d like to think that one day, I’ll be there to help one of them.
Talking to L yesterday was different somehow; I’m still slow to get started but I think we’re getting to know each other more now, and it seems that little bit easier. I still find it strange to have such one-sided conversations, in that I don’t know much about her at all, but it’s maybe getting easier. Or at least, just more bearable. I guess if you rip off enough plasters, eventually they stop stinging.
I had a nice perk this week which has given me some hope, to be honest. It’s so easy to get bogged down in negativity with depression, and be convinced that no one cares that much about you, or misses you when you’re gone. After skipping church on Sunday, a girl I know quite well sent me a lovely email just checking in (she knows I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment), and I had an email from the leader of a church group I’m involved with that revolves around including people with learning disabilities, as I missed an event on Friday, saying that they’d missed having me there. A lot of the time, it feels like I’m not missed, or that wanted, or that useful to church- so it’s been nice to have those things this week telling me otherwise.