To The Doctors

To The Doctors

Chronic Illness isn't fun
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Dear Doctors,

Most of you don’t know me and hopefully most of you will never even need to see my chart. But chances are some of you may come across me at some point or another. Whether it be in an office or a hospital setting you’ll see my chart and wonder ‘how is this possible’. I’m sure by now there’s a note on my file saying that I’m a difficult patient and I truly do understand your frustration. But please try to understand mine as well. Somewhere along the way you’ve lost your compassion and your understanding of people. You understand the mechanics of course but not the effect of these issues.

I’ve spent most of my life being told I’m a hypochondriac and to stop researching my issues. And over the past few years I’ve heard it more and more and not just from Doctors but from my family as well. The truth is that if you were willing to listen to me and not just discount me as being hysterical we could work together better. Something a lot of people have forgotten is that the relationship between doctor and patient is supposed to be that of a team. Together we can get to the root of my issues and hopefully along the way you’ll learn something new. Because the truth is not everyone’s body reacts the exact same way (It’s called an average for a reason after all). Some people might react one way while others might react on the opposite end of the spectrum. TYPICAL DOES NOT MEAN EVERYONE. Sorry that needed to get out.

Personally I’ve known since I was about 12 that my body runs colder than the average person. My normal body temperature is 96.8 Fahrenheit, the average is 98.6. So while someone being at 100 degrees might be not too concerning for you I know that when I’m at a 100 degrees that there’s something wrong. I’ve been told countless times that my temperature is perfectly normal when I’m sitting in the office with it being 98.6 and I can’t stop shivering or I have a cough. But because the average is 98.6 and I’m telling you I have a fever I’m hysterical or a hypochondriac.

Like I said I understand your frustration because I have no clue what’s going on either, somewhere along the way my body just gave up the pretense of being normal and now I’m dealing with the fallout. All I’m asking for is for compassion and understanding, just like any other patient. I’m 25 and at this rate I have no idea what my health will even be like when I turn 30.

I try to be a good person but after frustrating appointments I can’t help but think that if you were in my shoes being treated like this how would that make you feel? Would you sit calmly while stewing on the inside because here we go again with being told there’s nothing wrong? Just because your body is reacting in a way that is not the typical way the body reacts to something. Or would you get angry and talk back or cry? I don’t know but in my less kind moments I wish this on you. I wish the confusion and the frustration and the being treated terribly on you because then maybe just maybe you would understand where your patients are coming from.

So all I ask is that next time a patient walks into the room with something that isn’t readily apparent admit it and maybe together we can learn exactly what is going on. Just treat your patients the way you would want to be treated if you were the one that was sick. Trust me it’ll mean the world to your patient to be treated compassionately. Listen to your patient and don’t just brush off their concerns as being those of someone who is hysterical. Or better treat them like it was your family or how you would hope your family was treated if this was the situation they found themselves in.

Thank You,
A Patient

Cover Image Credit: pexels.com

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble; and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time, until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling; whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die," or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you, you are not alone.

If you're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Floating In A Sensory Deprivation Tank Was What I Needed To Finally Find Calmness Again

"Alone in the dark naked in warm water," I thought, "like I'm back in the womb I guess."

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I'm not the type of person to fall for what I used to call "hippie-shit." Growing up in a household where mental illness was basically a myth and emotional vulnerability was seen as a weakness, practices such as meditation and therapy were avoided and ridiculed at all costs. I'd solve my mental issues by telling myself "mama ain't raised no bitch" or go back to one quote from the movie "Bitter Melon" that actually came out last year, which stated, "depression is for white people." And while it kept me on my feet for so long, it was simply just avoidance.

That is until it all built up and my life went spiraling out of control one semester and I figured it was time for me to finally confront these feelings. Vented to my parents for the first time, dropped out of college, found a therapist, mediated, dropped toxic people, and after four grueling months of self-care and self-realization and my brother nagging me to try it, I found myself in the dark naked in a tub of salt-water.

To be more specific I was actually in what is known as a sensory deprivation tank. For those who are not familiar with it, to put it simply it is an enclosed tub of skin-temperature water that has nearly 1000 pounds of Epsom salt dissolved into it, which then gives off a high buoyancy that makes you feel weightless. Combine that feeling of weightlessness with earplugs and complete darkness and that is what I experienced for 60 minutes.

That being said, before trying it out I was terrified. The whole drive to the sensory deprivation tank, I looked like I was fine but my mind was going apeshit. "Alone in the dark naked in warm water," I thought, "like I'm back in the womb I guess." My brother, who was driving me to the place, had no idea what was going on inside my mind within that 30-minute drive: it was a lot. However, after my anxiety-driven trot into the business, I was met with assorted teas and like-minded people, and it put me in a fairly comfortable sense of ease.

While waiting for my tub to be prepared, I found this journal laying on top of the coffee table in the waiting room. I didn't expect much from it until I opened it and saw these beautiful messages and drawings from the people who experienced the tank. In it were detailed colored pencil drawings of people submerged in pools of water and extremely heartfelt/personal stories of individuals who found inner-peace and self-realization through the tank. One anonymous person wrote that one must "let all their anxieties sink to the bottom."

And I didn't touch upon it well enough, but the months before deciding to try the sensory deprivation tank were one of the hardest and most mentally draining months of my entire life. And while it did come with a lot of hardship, it resulted in me developing a much deeper appreciation in the process of healing and learning to understand yourself. As someone who used to hate "hippie-shit," I was there sitting in the waiting room, sipping green tea, reading soppy stories and waiting for my sensory deprivation tank to be prepared: it was great.

Now everyone says their first experience in the tank is different. My first few minutes in the tank were more humorous than most because that I had no idea what I was doing. You'd think after reading those stories I'd lay down in the tub and disappear into complete transformative bliss, but that was not the case at first. I wasn't nearly prepared for the buoyancy the salt created in the water that I slid across the tub due to how easy it was to float. Add to that my intense fear of the dark. The man who worked there recommended to turn off the music and the lights inside the tank after you're acclimated for the full effect and once I had turned off the light my heart jumped and I turned it right back on. Think of it as "Birdbox" and "A Quiet Place" combined. However, once I eased my nerves a bit and laid still, that's when the magic happened.

I'd say the sensory deprivation tank was like an intense form of mediation. After being acclimated to tank, a lot of thoughts raced through my mind, which is normal when doing something similar to meditation. The trick is to acknowledge these thoughts, then simply let them go. And once my mind was clear, I heard nothing but my own heartbeat. When I breathed in the water rose up and when I breathed out the water went down with me. As cheesy as it sounds, I felt like ripples of water. And once you're in that state, you kind of just disappear.

I greatly appreciate forms of mediation because I see it as an escape. In my opinion, it is the purest form of self-help because no matter how cluttered your mind is or how horrible the world seems around you, you're giving yourself that period of time to think of absolutely nothing and to allow your body and soul to just breathe. The night after experiencing the sensory deprivation tank I was in such a calm state. Much like what the person in the journal stated, it was like my anxieties fell to the bottom of the water. I fell for the "hippie-shit" and in turn, I've never been happier. And with that and the words from the movie It, I hope that maybe "you'll float too."

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