I’ve been having a rough time.
Everything in my life is changing.
Most of these changes are good, but there are hurdles to jump over in the path of transition, and some days I don’t know if I have enough resources within me to make it.
After 5 years of intense study, I’m about to graduate with a Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine.
I distinctly remember the founder of the program telling my class in our first weeks that we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but there will be moments when our fervor would wane.
I didn’t believe him.
But now, as it turns out, to say that I have senioritis is a gross understatement.
I am so beyond burnout that it’s difficult to imagine that I’m the same person as the enthusiastic girl who started this program half a decade ago.
And I’ve become so accustomed to a high level of stress that I have trouble recognizing how worn-down I really am.
In fact, had you asked me a month ago how things were going I would have told you that everything was honky-dory, never been better.
My schedule is well-balanced. Most of my time is spend in clinic, where I’d much rather be than the 3-hour lectures I’ve endured through most of my graduate-school career.
My now husband and I just eloped in March. We’re both about to graduate and then hopefully we’ll be moving to the country. We’re going to have a beautiful celebratory picnic for some of those nearest and dearest to us this summer. I’m finally going to be able to make up my own schedule and actually start making money!
These are all great things.
On the surface there is no reason for me to be anything but okay.
But about 3 weeks ago I began to notice that my stomach felt a little tight, the same way it had in the past when I was feeling anxious.
Still, I wasn’t able to match the feeling with my internal dialogue, which was telling me that life is grand and I only had a little more to do in this final push before graduation.
Then I began to feel exhausted.
So exhausted, in fact, that I’d come home and take a nap, only to wake, eat dinner, and then go back to sleep for a solid 11 hours.
I thought I might be sick, but I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly was wrong with me.
Finally the anxiety that had been quietly lurking in my belly rushed up and hit me full-force. I even went to see a doctor to make sure I was okay.
As it turns out I’m pretty healthy, for now, but while my body might be functioning as it should, something was clearly not okay.
Still, I didn’t have time to analyze what was really the matter with me.
Despite my to-do lists being filled with relatively joyful things, most of my “free time” was spent putting finishing touches on my thesis, studying for board exams, trying to get in some form of exercise, or figuring out the details of various get-togethers.
I filled up every spare moment with tasks and didn’t take any time to just, well, be.
This past weekend I presented my thesis, and amongst the constructive and supportive criticism I received, some words were also quite harsh.
Then on Monday I had my clinic exit exam. Unfortunately, the night before I had what for me is a rare bout of extreme insomnia, which resulted in my forgetting to ask numerous crucial questions that were required in the interview. My teacher bluntly told me that he didn’t know if I would pass.
Making the situation even worse, I had to wrap up the writing portion early because I had to get to clinic.
Once I got to the clinic I lost it.
All of the hidden and lurking uncertainties about this huge transition, of ending my identity as a student, and the deep seated fears about my own inadequacy came rushing up uncontrollably.
I became supremely vulnerable in front of my peers and my teacher, and there was nothing to be done but to honor it.
I did manage to see patients that day, though my emotions didn’t stop erupting until I went to bed that night.
The next morning my body felt clearer. The tightness in my abdomen felt like it had dissipated like atmospheric pressure after a storm.
I didn’t want to go to my class or to clinic, but I did anyway, and it went well.
Turns out I passed the clinic exit exam, but knowing that didn’t make me feel much better.
And that’s how I feel now. I notice that I’m moving more slowly than I usually do. I’m ready for this phase to be over, but I still have a lot left to do, so I’m doing it.
But instead of plowing ahead full-force as I did before, I’m now trying to take breaks to acknowledge my humanity. I’m allowing myself the time I need to stay present and grounded as the world shifts around me. I’m getting a massage next week, and have re-started my weekly acupuncture appointments.
I can now acknowledge that I’m not totally okay. But I will be. And that’s enough.