One thing that is probably fairly obvious to those of you reading my rants here or on Facebook, or hanging out with me in person is that I’m a causes girl.
By that I mean that I tend to have a wide open beady eye for noticing causes that need championing (or so I love to think) and long, elastic arms for latching on to them with all I’ve got, for better or for worse. With a very tight latch, and a very high threshold for considering myself to be on a downward spiral and that it’s time to cry ‘I’ve done enough’! It’s never time, is what I’ve previously thought, and I’ve pressed on harder than ever, hardly noticing the sensible people on either side who have put down their arms, and are getting back to daily life. ‘Never’!! I cry.
I’ve always loved to advocate for the under dog, the misrepresented, the needy, the worthy cause. As seen by my eyes of course.
No fire blight for Shepparton; ban New Zealand apples and pears from export into Australia! Stop Coca-Cola Amatil’s takeover of SPC/Ardmona! Donate blood, you could save 3 lives plus a free lunch and gifts! Mental health awareness…I’ve been going at that since early high school, and you all well know that I ain’t done yet! Discount shopping and outlets and money saved; that kept me going all through uni! No cuts to pharmacists conditions in the EBA! Start running our pharmacy department like a clinical service, not a mattress store! That was the killer.
I’ve always loved to represent, educate, plug, publish, promote etc.
Which is fine of course, that’s in my opinion obviously, but it’s tiring. It can be exhausting. And it can really wear you down to the bone when you get nowhere, and have no prospect of getting anywhere, and the only vision is of defeat, at length, despite pouring heart and soul into it!
This is where my last campaign almost did drive me to despair.
I didn’t know when enough was enough, or when to call it quits, when to hang up my hat, or how to even evaluate the outcome, and whether I’d won or lost. I just kept at it, and at it, and at it!! Ad nauseum probably, to anyone around me!
I lost sight of the relative importance of the goal compared to the rest of my life. I threw disproportionate resources at it and wasted away until I was barely a functioning human. I mean this quite literally from a mental health point of view.
This war and the way I (mis)handled it were either the chicken, or the egg, or both of my mental collapse. Part way through the fighting I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder. I don’t know whether the anxiety and stress and adrenaline from the situation depleted my mind to the extent of breaking down. Or whether the anxiety that was developing in me due to generalised anxiety disorder starting to show itself at a time and place where it was natural to feel more than anxiety than usual, so that I didn’t cop on that something was wrong until I was a mess and on the verge of collapse.
I couldn’t get to sleep, and when I did I would dream about the situation: the aims, the battles so far, the battles up ahead and over and over and over I would dream about how to win. How to conquer, how to win, how to get one over them, how to stick it to them, how to destroy them. Yes it got to that. One on one, to the death! In my head anyway.
It took me a long time to learn; a long time to see the lesson.
I didn’t give up, I didn’t surrender.
I drove myself on, I kept whipping up the anger in me more and more so that I had something to show that this was a big deal, this was serious.
I was driving 40 minutes to work and do you suppose I was calm and steady, ready for a days work? Nope my heart rate and blood pressure were already up, my pulse was letting me know things were at a critical point, and I was rehearsing.
Rehearsing over and over and over. How to answer their ridiculous questions that showed their ignorance, how to rebut their stupid arguments that didn’t make sense, showing that had no idea what they were talking about. I had them all down pat, clear and concise in my mind, at the ready for instant use if they were needed.
If it happened to be the day of the staff meeting when the ignorant one would be attending, I probably hadn’t slept all night, I felt like I’d been sucker punched, I’d skipped breakfast because I felt crook, and I was speeding to get to work because I was running late after my busy, hectic night of preparation.
I think that much is clear.
I didn’t know I had disproportionate anxiety levels, that no one should be this worked up over work issues that were, yes a) justified and b) relevant and c) obviously underestimated by management and etc. But it was work. Yes it did affect patient care, and no that wasn’t acceptable but I wasn’t going to be the one woman power force that changed all of that. No, Danika, you’re not. It just doesn’t work that way.
No one said that to me, other than my husband. I should have remembered that his advice is golden and to be heeded, or not at your own peril. But just one more this and one more that and I might be able to something else. No, Danika. It’s not your job to do that, it’s not your responsibility to carry this, the blame doesn’t sit with you over another thing.
These are the most liberating, relieving, peace providing, freeing words, if you listen to them! Which I did not do. Actually, I couldn’t. Well I felt like I couldn’t. I really truly did not think I could apply those lovely words to myself. Because I did have to fight. Who would fight if I didn’t? I couldn’t just stand by. What if something happened and it gets held to me, even though I couldn’t do anything to prevent it? And everyone has told me how well I’m fighting, I’ve taken some leadership in this, who will they turn to if I’m not xyz?
Ah. The old indispensable line. I have to be there, it will all fall apart without me. How will they cope without me? I’m the only one who can A, and without me no one can properly B or carry out C properly. Really? You’re that important? Says who? No one ever? Oh yeah, that’s right!
It took too much time and came at too much of a cost. Medicated for generalised anxiety disorder, teary at the least emotion, struggling to manage the day to day of life, run ragged, exhausted, just completely wrung out. I came to the end of the road, and I quit. It was all that was left. I couldn’t give in and stay there and be walked all over by those evil people. And I had run out of capability to fight. I still wanted to but it had killed me.
I had myself convinced I was playing 8 roles: pharmacist, intern supervisor, intern manager (overlooking 3 interns and managing their education), OH&S rep, chemotherapy provision manager, senior pharmacist, pharmacy student manager, temporary/honorary technician liaison. Okay, so several of these are invented and some I took on myself at no urging from anyone else, or even in an official capacity. I was slightly conscious of this at the time, but I felt the full burden of each role immensely and that is no fault of any of the wonderful staff members that I worked with. Everyone of them supported me and helped me and would have done great things to help me if I had only known what it was I needed help with.
But I didn’t. I only knew how awful I was feeling, and that I needed to justify why it was I was feeling so bad. There had to be a reason, right? Surely it must be because I was expected to fill all of these big huge roles consecutively. That was too much to ask of me, no wonder I feel so bad.
I did take this list to the temporary director of pharmacy at some stage, to explain why I was in such a state of overload and why this many burdens couldn’t be carried all at once and therefore some of them had to go. He rightly pointed out that a couple of positions carried no actual workload, and that some weren’t even my responsibility and so I could just go about my regular job without so much drama.
That was one of the first times when I knew that something was wrong. I was already medicated and everything, but the first one hadn’t worked so I’d been changed to the second one. But now I realised that I was actually making up extra workload than what I had, to make myself feel better about feeling worse! I was making stuff up. That wasn’t me! I’m a fact stickler, apart from when I’m telling stories of course, and now I was being a drama queen over issues that didn’t exist? That wasn’t right.
And so I realised that things had gotten way out of line, our of kilter, out of touch and a remedy was needed. Quitting wasn’t the remedy, but it was part of the therapy of withdrawing myself from a toxic situation that had helped me along the way to a nervous breakdown.
I went through the process of making myself let go, and it was very hard. I’d been so attached so long to this fight, and I’d given so much towards it, and was so ingrained in fighting, that each step backwards away from it felt like tearing away sticky bandages. It left marks and it hurt and it was a difficult thing, but I did it, I walked away in one crumbling piece and here I am today.
It took longer to stop drafting speeches in my head, and thinking up vicious letters to the management team. I did actually send one carefully couched letter. I’ve thought up many others, but then, of all things, the CEO went and got cancer, and you can’t very well send a nasty letter to someone with cancer! Typical of their style, to thwart me at every turn!
I think I’m in remission now. I hardly ever have enough of a strong feeling to the point that I start drafting, rehearsing, mentally dictating letters, speeches, responses etc. I think I’m nearly over it. I’ve told enough people, written enough public statements, and time had gone on. Life has gone on.
For me that life has gone on in the form of a total nervous breakdown, but I don’t begrudge that. I’ve had experiences, learnt things, developed skills, made emotional progress and become mentally stronger than I would have otherwise.
And I’m back at work, the real point of this essay.
Back at work with it’s imperfections, its irritations and it’s flaws.
Back at work with beautiful people, lovely environs and the thrill of being back home in my pharmacy/hospital jungle!
The new challenge: note the good, the bad and the ugly. And move on. I’m new, I’m green, I’m restarting my career. What I need now is knowledge and experience, not causes and fights. Yes, some things aren’t ideal. Some things are done poorly. If you can mention to someone who can do something about it, good for you. But…do not take up the fight! It’s not the time, it’s not the place; just do your work, and go home. At peace, relieved of burdens, and calm and restful. Yes!