It's Never Enough

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I guess that it shouldn't surprise me that my therapist is helpful... as that is basically what I pay her for... but yesterday, after my session with Danna, I found myself thinking.  Really thinking.  Not obsessively thinking, but thinking in a, "Hey, I never even contemplated that, is that even possible, what is my LIFE?" kind of way.  Not in a bad way.  For once.

I had been experiencing higher levels of anxiety than usual, so I brought it up with Danna.  I haven't been on any psych meds at all since March (whoo hoo!) and oddly, I don't feel any worse than when I was on them.  I guess I feel more prone to wild fluctuations in mood, but I wouldn't say that I've been ridiculously depressed or anxious, or non-functional in any way, really.  In fact, I hadn't had a panic attack since I went off of the meds, so that felt pretty great.  I do cry... a lot... over everything... but I don't think that's TOO weird....?  So yes.  Basically, I had been dealing (rather well) with whatever life threw at me, and I was thinking that finally, maybe I had gotten to a point of no more panic attacks.

Apparently not.  A couple of weeks ago, the panic and anxiety were back with a vengeance, especially at night when I was trying to go to sleep, or if I was ever alone.  I ended up taking a Klonapin a few nights in a row, just so I could get some sleep and not wake up in the middle of the night, feeling like I was about to die.  Luckily, the worst of that seems to have dissipated (ish?), but I was confused as to where it had come from in the first place... so I talked about it in therapy, because that just made sense.

After a lot of talking (as that is what is involved in talk therapy) and a lot of theorizing, hypothesizing, and other gerunds as well, it came down to... a few things.

My anxiety, which was expressing itself as a complete and utter fear that someone was going to break into my apartment/be there when I woke up/try to hurt me/etc (which isn't a new anxiety for me, it's the first thing that I ever had anxiety about when this all started 10+ years ago), was actually more about being vulnerable and out of control than any of the actual things that were making me afraid (this is not abnormal).  I've known (or been told?) that I have control issues in my life.  Everything I do, basically, is an effort to exact some kind of control over what I feel is a very out of control life.  Most people who look at my life probably go... "HUH?" at this point, because I'm not sure what part of having an advanced degree, an apartment, my own vehicle, a husband, and a functional social life really qualifies as "out of control" but I actually surprised myself when I said, "I just feel like I'm not DOING anything with my life," when Danna asked me what felt out of control.

And it's true.  I really feel like I am completely wasting my potential.  I got my undergrad degree, but who cares, because that was never a decision, it was a guarantee (for me).  It was simply a step in the process of someday, becoming a doctor, which I had decided was my life's purpose when I was 8.  I'm not quite sure what 8 year old says, "I'm going to be a pediatrician when I grow up" and then promptly plans where she is going to go to college and how she is going to get into med school (now, none of these plans actually came to fruition because, hi, I was 8... but what 8 year old plans that out??)  Anyway, so yeah, bachelor's degree, whoo-freakin'-hoo.  At this point, I cast my fate to the wind and applied to medical school against the better advice of my adviser, and I got in (HOW??), and picked up my life and moved to FL to go to med school and "fulfill my dreams of becoming a doctor".  And then the dream derailed hardcore and exploded in a ball of fire, and I moved home, convinced I would never return to clinical medicine because "if it made me that crazy, then this is not for me".  I was then completely and totally without purpose, so I secretary'd (that is totally a verb) and got my MPH because "it seemed liked a good idea at the time", I was vaguely interested in epidemiology, and frankly, I had nothing better to do.  It wasn't a bad choice, it wasn't a hard degree, I didn't have to work my ass off, and hey, I got my Masters without once really breaking an academic sweat.  I contribute that experience entirely to the fact that an MPH is largely busy work that just takes someone who has the ability to sit for long periods, reading articles that range from vaguely interesting to painfully boring,  occasionally run some statistics, construct long papers in which you analyze something that to you, seems blatantly obvious, but for some reason is mind-blowingly difficult for people at large to understand, and sit through lectures on various topics, such as lead poisoning, asbestos and why it is bad, confidence intervals, heart disease and how it's going to kill us all, health insurance and why the system is broken (but never how to fix it), prostitutes sex workers, HIV/AIDS, food deserts, obesity, childhood hunger, heroin addiction, linear regressions, logistic regressions, and the 884 things that can bias a study.  So yes, there you have it.  If you can do those things, you can get your MPH, and hey, you might even enjoy most of it.  I did.  Minus that part about logistic regression in which I had to do calculus... that kind of sucked.  BUT HEY, got through it. That's a ringing endorsement for MPH degrees, isn't it?  Someone should pay me.

ANYWAY.  I got this MPH, and yeah, I guess it kind of got me a job.  The first job I took totally didn't require a masters degree of any kind, and it certainly paid like that.  The job I have now theoretically "required" a masters degree, but I think that's just because they wanted it, not because anything in this job actually requires any kind of advanced education.  And yes, my bosses/managers/people I work with and for here all love me.  I'm told on a nearly weekly basis about how awesome I am, and how much they love having me in this position.  Little do they know that I sit at my desk and for about 85% of the day, do fuck-all, and then the 15% of the day I actually do work, I'm not working very hard and I'm simply solving problems in a logical manner.  I guess what I'm doing is "important" but in the grand scheme of what goes on at CHOP (ie - saving the lives of children, generally) what I am doing is... minimally interesting, at best.  I like my job, and I am really glad that there are days (most of my days, in fact) where I get to leave at 4:00 and not think about my job at all until the next day at 7:30 or 8 am.  But it's not what I want to be doing for the rest of my life, and if I have to do it for more than a few years, I may walk into traffic on Civic Center Boulevard because honestly, there is no way for me to go anywhere in this position besides perhaps farther up the research ladder and... no thanks.

So yes.  It feels out of control because my life has been largely dictated by someone else.  First, some admissions committee told me that I could go to medical school.  Then my brain decided it was going to freak the hell out, and out of necessity to survive, I left med school and went back to NJ.  I guess I decided to go to grad school, but was really more out of boredom than passion or urgency, and since then, I've held jobs that basically occupy my day but don't thrill me in the least.  I'm not expecting to love EVERY SECOND of my job, but I'd at least like to be mentally stimulated by it on a regular basis, and I'd like to not sit at my desk for 6.5-7+ hours a day, rarely interacting with the public.  Now I'm applying to PA school (after having reapplied to med school in 2010 and deciding that was a bad idea, which I guess was a choice, but also because I was wait-listed) and once again, I am waiting on someone else's timeline.  I'm waiting for an amorphous, faceless, committee at each school where I applied to look at my application and deem it worthy of an interview.  So far, I've had a lot of "no thank yous" right off the bat, including Drexel which happened as I was writing this entry... which sucks.  A moment about that.  Can we talk about how I completely give up on ever figuring out admissions committees EVER?  Drexel interviewed me LAST YEAR at the END of their interview cycle, and this year, they've rejected me outright.  I had the same GPA and portfolio.  I don't even... whatever.

Back to the rest of this.

I have this interview at USP, which is good... but again, still waiting on the rest of the lot to get back to me.  It's insane.  And then, if I DON'T get in, I have to apply to an MS program to do that and eventually REAPPLY to PA school and go through this whole crazy process again.
And it sucks!  It sucks that Ken and I have to put our lives on hold while I do this.  Even though he is 150% supportive, it sucks that we can't be deciding where to buy a house, or thinking about starting a family in a couple of years, or doing ANYTHING like that.  So, in an attempt to exact some control over this situation, I must PLAN ALL THE THINGS!  Because somewhere, in my broken brain, it makes sense to me that if I am hyper-vigilant about it, then someone else (ie - admissions committee?) is too.  That if I am not constantly chasing after whatever "thing" it is that I have decided to do (med school, PA school applications, MS program searching, whatever), then I am overcome with guilt, because clearly that means that I don't want whatever that "thing" is enough, and I am not deserving of it.  I always have to be DOING something, because otherwise, the world will fall apart or... something.  I'm not even sure what I think will happen, but I know that IT WILL NOT BE GOOD.  (Trust me on this.)

I have always had this problem.  No matter what, I am not happy with what I have.  And not in an, "I wish I had more shoes" kind of way.  If you asked me to name an amount of money that would make me feel secure, I couldn't do it.  If you asked me if, once becoming a PA, I would be happy, I would tell you, rather embarrassingly, that I'm not sure I would be, because I am sure that I would chase some ridiculous career goal.  Obviously, there are a lot of things that I want to do in life (buy a house, have children, travel, become a PA, etc), but I am afraid that, given my track record, that my house will never be enough, my children will never be enough, my career will never be enough. Ever since I was young, I have always needed to do more, achieve more, be more.  Get all of the A's, do all of the extra credit, win all the
awards and accolades.

It is never enough.

Somewhere along the way, I decided (was told?) that this way of existing is bad and abnormal, and that one should be able to be content with the life in front of you.  That there would eventually be one thing that would end this crazy chase after something un-nameable.  That it was incredibly important for me to FIND THIS ONE THING, because then I would be happy.  Apparently, this is not the case.  Danna told me that she also struggles with "never enough-osis" and that sometimes, the best thing to do when your life's personal schema is "never enough!", is to simply say, "Ok.  It is never enough," and move on.  Not to embrace the insanity, per se, but instead to accept that my personal life schema is to not be satisfied, and that there isn't anything that will scratch that proverbial itch.  That sometimes, it is ok to not be doing anything because even if I did the next thing and the next thing and the next thing... there would always be more things.

It completely blows my mind to think that I can say "This is just how I experience the world, and that's ok" when my entire life, I've been fighting against this feeling of "there isn't enough".  It confuses me to the point that I am not sure I actually think it will work.  I don't know if it's something I can do.  I don't even know if it's reasonable advice!  I trust my therapist, and then I ran the entire thing by Levi (my other therapist, effectively) and he said that it totally made sense.  So I guess if it makes sense to these important people, I can give it a shot.  It also is not surprising that it doesn't make sense to me, as it is completely contrary to everything I've ever thought or done in my entire life, basically.

So what does all of this mean?  I'm not entirely sure, yet.  It means that I have some homework.  I am not allowed to obsessively plan things.  I am allowed to schedule time to plan things/do organization things (like email 1 program or search for 30 minutes for something), but I cannot let it devolve into frantic, redundant, useless, anxiety-provoking, insanity.  When I am not allowed to do those planning type things and I experience anxiety/guilt/general icky feelings, I am sit with that anxiety and process how I feel, not what I can be doing to make that feeling go away.  You can't remain anxious forever, and eventually, your body will move on.  After that, I'm supposed to do something enjoyable (NOT plan something), to reinforce the fact that I can get through the anxiety without falling apart or giving in to my previous behaviors.  It means that I'm supposed to practice doing nothing, or what amounts to nothing, for a given situation.

I never thought that being proactive and useful would be my downfall, or that it would prevent me from experiencing my present life and moment in a full way, but it has.  It has left me with a shell of a present that is constantly seeking out the next thing, rarely enjoying the moment in front of me.  It makes me scared and sad that I could live my entire life this way, and that I have lived my life until now in this way.  What have I missed?  What will I continue to miss if I don't somehow dial this back?  The best thing I can do right now is focus on retraining my brain, which will not be fun or easy, given that it's had 26 (almost 27) years of inadvertant training in its bad habits.  But... I'm going to do it.  Or at the very least, I'm going to try.

Anyway, that's my story for now.  It was a pretty big, psychological, epiphany (?) for me, so I guess that's enough.  Sidenote, after mistyping the word "epiphany" as "epiphant" (which is a frequent typo of mine), it reminded me of the time a friend and I decided that epiphant is an epiphant the size of a elephant.  So that's pretty fitting.  And also very large.

Tonight, I have stupid A&P (I really wish I hadn't taken this STUPID class), and I think I have a quiz, but I think it's on action potentials, and if I can't diagram and explain one of those in my sleep, I need to just give up right now.  The rest of the week is work, teaching piano, eating pizza with a friend, my 3rd A&P exam, payday, and then a packed weekend full of being social.  Friday night is dinner with my friend David (from undergrad), Saturday afternoon is lunch with Jen and Mike, Saturday night is seeing Emily for a brief moment in time (she is in Philly for a grad school conference thing), and Sunday is hanging out with Colleen (which means knitting, tea, general laziness, and food).  And of course, the weekend will be full of sleeping.  That's a requirement for any weekend of mine to truly be counted as a weekend.

On that note, it is almost 4 pm, which means I can pack up and get ready to leave for the rest of my evening.  Hurrah?!

- A

1 comment:

  1. Your therapist sounds like she's got a very good idea here. It obviously is going to be completely foreign to you, but doing something different has to be better than doing the same thing you've always done and having the same results, right? I think you can do this, and it's definitely worth a try!

    Also, it has been way too long since we've seen each other, and hopefully we'll get to fix that soon!

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