Posts Tagged ‘time’

Strange parallels

I’m on holiday for another two weeks before starting my final year of medical school in early July. I’m still in the city I study in, in my flat, though may go home for a change of scene sometime next week. The last time I had so much free time, on my own, was in the run up to Christmas when I was really falling apart at the seams and was much more unwell than I realised at the time. I’m in two minds as to whether this time is doing me good or not; on the one hand, I know that I need a good rest and that having proper time to reflect on the year is important, but on the other hand, I feel like I’m mulling over things too much and overanalysing, which is something I’m prone to.

Counselling is leaving me feeling really vulnerable at the moment, like a lost child – and I think part of it is that I just don’t have it in me to fully trust that L, like pretty much everyone else I’ve spoken to in the past, isn’t going to let me down in some major, painful way. I push through, and try and get all of this stuff out of me and into the air between us, but it’s a false trust, and really, I’m just waiting for something to go wrong and knock me back again. It’s all in my head, I know that – she’s done nothing to suggest that she’s going to let me down – but still, my track record speaks for itself, and of everything, cynacism is a hard thing to fight. And at the moment, I’m afraid of falling back into serious depression, now that I’m finally on the way out – nothing scares me more. It’s eclipsed all other fears. I was lucky to get out alive, this time, and I am only too aware of my own limitations and that in the future, I might not be so lucky. I don’t think I could do it again, I don’t think I could survive feeling that way again. Between everything, I’m just feeling worn and vulnerable and small. It’s seems like I’m always on the run from something, and that as soon as one chase finishes, there’s another one about to start, whether it’s running from the past, or running from God, or running from the shadows of depression, desperately trying to keep on the right side of the track, but always having a sense that something is gaining on me and that sooner or later, will overcome me.

I went on a long walk today to one of my favourite areas of the city. It’s a nature reserve, hilly and wooded, and once you’re deep inside, there’s no noise of traffic, nothing to indicate that the bustling city is just outside. It’s tranquil. It’s one of the places I’d picked as potential places to die when my depression was at its worst and my grip on things was weakest. Being back today, with the trees in the green of summer, the brook flowing and not frozen over, the sun fighting through the branches, was strange. The seasons have turned and I have changed, like the scenery I have come alive again, and yet, they would have done that even if I wasn’t here. There was a period when I honestly thought that I was seeing everything, and everyone, for the last time; being back there under the trees, was strange, disorientating. I’ve come a long way since every waking thought was about dying but I know I’m not out of the woods fully yet, and may never be, I may spend the rest of my life fighting to keep depression at bay, fearful that it may return.

The major difference is that now, I can feel God there, whereas before, all there was around me was empty space, a painful void that could not be filled. Now I’m better, I feel connected again, part of the circuit again. I feel God in the trees and the brooks, in the space between two breaths two mornings. I feel Him there again, brushing against me, pushing me onwards, leading me, behind and before. It’s a good feeling. All it took was a change of time.

I’ve been rubbish at replying to comments recently – and am sorry about that, I really do appreciate them, and it’s at the top of my to-do list for tomorrow. Thank you for your continuing support, xxchar48

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I shouldn’t really be blogging this week as I’ve got exams on Thursday and Friday, but to be honest, I’ve had enough of revision for one night.

On the 13th, assuming I manage the (slightly ominous) task ahead of me, I’ll have handed in everything I need to enter my final year of medical school. This time of year always makes me pensieve, as it feels like much more of an end to a year, than 31st December does, after so many years in education; it signifies yet another year gone, more hurdles passed, and another step closer to being a doctor, which has been my dream since childhood, and was the single thing that kept me going for a long time.

Sometimes I feel like the issues I’ve accumulated over time from my dad’s drinking have been such a defining characteristic of these years as they’ve been there, growing beside me, since I was just entering my teens. My funny relationship with alcohol has hung over my time in medical school since the very first day, when I was given some tutorial case about alcoholism to present to a group, and afterwards, went to the city train station, and wondered if there was anywhere I could go to escape, anywhere at all, from drinking, and realising that there wasn’t. There’s nowhere it doesn’t reach. There is nothing it does not touch. On that day, I stopped myself crying, went back to my accommodation, and went out on the first medical student social, and got drunker than I’d ever been. It didn’t help. I’ve struggled my way through parties and as the ‘sober one’, looked after more than my fair share of inebriated friends. I’ve cleaned up vomit and been reminded of doing the same for my dad. I’ve sat in hospital rooms while people got their stomachs pumped, and been reminded of long nights there as a young teenager, waiting for him to sober up. I’ve drank to forget, and hated myself the next morning. I’ve watched other people drinking, and been afraid of the changes coming over them. I’ve chosen placements that would bring me into as much contact as possible with substance misuse to drive it out of my system, and despite being ironically good at talking to these patients, ended up losing another year to depression, because of it.

At the moment, I drink very rarely, and even then, it’s often a fine line between having a lovely evening, and completely collapsing inwards, hating that I am drawn to the looseness it gives me, and wondering if I’m one glass closer to developing a dependancy. My biggest fear is that I might go down the same route and cause as much havoc with unhealthy drinking that my dad did. Feeling controlled by depression was bad enough, but being in the thrall of alcohol would be more than I could handle. I’m both afraid of it, and drawn to it. Since I was diagnosed with depression, I’ve hardly touched alcohol, and even then, it’s been a rare glass of wine, and that’s mostly been because at times, I feel like reaching for the gin and seeing, just seeing, if it would make things hurt that little bit less, if it would make me forget, and that attitude at the back of my mind scares me senseless. Sometimes, when I’m not sleeping, and really feeling low, drinking until I drift off feels like a good option, an easy way to make it through a few more hours. Although I’ve never acted on any of that, just knowing that my brain is wired like that, is horrible.

I was back in counselling yesterday and didn’t really say much – all I’ve literally been doing for the last month is studying, and after having a few days feeling almost-if-not-quite-next-to-normal, I didn’t want to wreck that just before these huge exams I’ve got coming up. I’m still crap at being counselled – I never know how to start, or what to say, or how to turn what I have in my head, to words on a page, or words spoken aloud. It’s supposed to get easier, but it never does. I know that at some point I’m going to have to have a fairly major ‘alcoholism’ discussion in counselling, and I’m dreading it. It makes me feel physically sick. It’s probably the one thing I find hardest to talk about, but I also know that if I don’t manage to push myself through therapy properly, I’m just going to lose more years to this. I don’t want to feel trapped by it anymore. I don’t want to feel defined by it anymore. I feel so broken by it, so incapable of managing it. I want to keep the past behind me and not have to keep running just to keep infront of it all the time. That conversation is coming, and I need to be prepared.

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Time, Love, Time

I was back in the counselling hot-seat yesterday and it was a bit unusual as, although I’d really psyched myself up for talking about some of the things I’ve been mulling over the last week or so (seeing my parents has made me think a lot about the years my dad was drinking again, and how disordered our relatiohship still is – and both are things  I find hard to express), L and I ended up just talking about (or rather, she talked and I sat and wished I could run away and hide) about how there’s so much I don’t want to raise just yet and how from her perspective, I am putting a lot of pressure on myself to get it out in the open so I can move on and get through this. There’s something pretty miserable about being crap at being counselled to be honest. However, in realising that there’s no way I’ll have said all I need to say, learned all I need to learn, and put myself back together by the end of the sixth session in two weeks (I initially had to sign up for six), I do feel less pressure to try and force myself to ‘perform’, which, when I get stuck and unsure, and closed off, just makes me feel worse and as though this is something else I’m failing at. Pushing through it when mentally I’m still trying to resist being open takes so much energy that I just don’t have at the moment. If I imagine finishing counselling in a few months as opposed to a few weeks, the time I have to get through extends, and I change the odds. It still feels an awful lot like betting on a three-legged horse, and not in a Seabiscuit, rooting for the endearing underdog way, more like a ‘seriously, just give this horse to some Frenchmen to make into pies and leave the betting to the real men’ kind of way. NB must remember to stay away from metaphorical Frenchmen. And probably real ones, if we’re being at all realistic.

In my heart, I was afraid of what it would mean if I reached that six week benchmark and was still so resolutely not-ok. The last year has been benchmark after benchmark of hoping medication would work, then finding it hasn’t, then changing the dose, and finding that still doesn’t help, then waiting for Christmas to be over, exams to finish, the winds to change, the earth to move, the sun to rise, you get the picture. It’s frustrating. All the emails I get from supervisors and medical school staff indicate that I should be moving further forward than I am, and it’s hard to accept that this is something that I am only able to do at a snail’s pace (possibly even the pace of an unfortunate French snail), and even more difficult to have the courage and sense of self to say that to them. As a medical student and hard-grafter, I’m so used to living by each deadline and knowing what needs doing by when – without my diary, I’m pretty lost. In the last few weeks, being extremely organised to the point of obsession has helped me keep going and tick things off the long list I have to complete.  But, I’m starting to learn that I can’t put a deadline on healing and recovery, although, of everything, I so wish I could. I can’t even make a timeline. I can’t set myself rules and goals and expectations, apart from doing what I can each day. The sense of unpredicatibility is unnerving.  My heart continues to beat out the time signature of my life, but will not be dictated to by my sense of scheduling. It doesn’t pay much attention to cries of accelerando, heart! Accelerando! I have to just live alongside it, and let it sit with me until I’m through.

The Bible has a lot to say about time, and these three sections in particular come to mind. James 4:13 that says there is no point planning for tomorrow for you never quite know what it will bring, which I take as a reminder that as Rabbie Burns would say, the best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley. No planning can be 100%. No one can predict what’s heading round the corner or coming through the front door. Uncertainty is a heavy cloak mankind must learn to bear, balanced with the shields of faith on sale in old Ephesus. As a Christian, I suppose you could argue time does not matter – eventually, we’ll all be outside of time; we’ll be with God in Heaven. As far as I know, no one wears Rolexes there; once you’re standing in eternity, being fifteen minutes late sort of seems like a daft thing to worry about.

When we let got of time, we let go of a lot of worries. God is the only one of us who lives outside of time, unchanged and unaltered by it, seeing it as just another dimension to life on a sinful Earth that one day will cease to be.  When I think of being outside of time, I think about those conversations you have in the middle of the night, with a close friend, heart on heart, when morning seems so far away, and there is so much stillness that somehow everything except that rare feeling that you’re in the exact same place as someone else at the  exact same time, seems to fade. It’s not often that we get to live outside of time. Similarly, Ecclesiastes has that well known section on everything having its own time and place under the sun  –  a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak. Perhaps, I’ve done my time of tearing, and now is the time for mending and healing. It says nothing about all those times being equal in length or measure. It says nothing about there being a clear signpost for when you’re switching from one extreme to the other. It says nothing of having a choice about what time and place you find yourself in each conflicting phase. We just have to know that those extremes of experience will come and go, chop and change, and be wide-eyed and open handed, ready to accept them as they come. An order of Goliath proportions – large, but arguable vanquishable with the right weapons and a little ingenuity.

Lastly, Romans, eloquent and emotive Romans, the book you can count on to bring you home each and every time – the sat-nav epistle by a conveniently well-travelled Apostle – reminds us that the only person with perfect timing, every time, all time, is God. He is the only one who stands outside of time, unchanged by it, and unafraid. God has enough time, for you and me. Chapter 5:6 says, just at the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly’. He didn’t’ show up awkwardly early before the world was fully ready to weigh up the pros and cons and finally decide after conducting several opinion polls that moving for Jesus was the best move they could make. He didn’t wreak havoc by turning up late and leaving a string of people in a very scary, un-saved lurch, as though they’d missed getting the stamp on their passport needed to get in Heaven. Jesus came at the right time. He keeps our time. He gives us, time.

This is a song by Josh Ritter, whom I love mostly for his music, but also because he’s the only musician I have introduced my younger brother (who has to think he’s more cool than the rest of us in order to function, or so it seems….) to that he also thinks is great (our relationship suffered quite the blow when I asked him to download me some Girls Aloud, though a mutual love of Josh is slowly rectifying that..…). My favourite song of his is probably ‘Monster Ballads’, but I also love this one. When I listen to this, it reminds me that changing the speed I try to live at isn’t always a bad thing – by going at the right pace, I’ll get there that much sooner. Less haste, more speed seem like wise words right now. It’s only a change of time, love, time.


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