After more than 4 months of non-stop battling and being away from work for more than 2, I’ve come to several realizations.
I am generally someone who is used to setting schedules. Complete task A by next week, achieve task B in 2 days. That sort of thing. I like milestones. It’s just my programmer’s/management instincts at work. Progress has to be in the form of something trackable so I feel more encouraged.
But apparently, you can’t force a schedule on your body’s recovery.
I’ve aimed to “get well by June”. Didn’t work. “Okay, two more weeks to settle things.” Didn’t work either. “Okay, I give it until end of July.” Nope, nope, nope. The fever continued and I got more and more frustrated.
Eventually, I decided to let my body set its own pace. And I put myself into zen mode. Stop forcing my body, stop overthinking, overanalyzing. Just do what I need to do to help – complete rest, lots of water, meds.
Instead. I set schedules on my action plans. If I don’t feel better in 5 days, do X. If minimal improvement in 2 weeks, do Y.
X and Y may or may not help. Usually it doesn’t. But at least, it’s some semblance of control. This whole thing was seemingly out of my control and I didn’t like it.
Not giving up, and looking forward to better days.
This is the turning point. It will have to be.
I originally thought 2013 will be a much better year. It turned out to be much worse than 2012, and perhaps the second worst in my entire life. Sure, there were great moments here and there – travelling overseas and being a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding. But on the whole, 2013 was just … bad.
And there is no one to blame other than myself.
Losing my grandmother in April brought me down. Way, way down. During her death and the subsequent funeral, I was basically expressionless, numb to everything that was going on around me. Not because I wasn’t close to her, but because I was in shock. And everything happened too fast.
Prior to her death, I only knew she had stage 4 cancer 5 days before.
And I hated myself for it. Chinese New Year 2013 turned out to be the last ever Chinese New Year I would ever have with her. And what was I doing then? I WENT HOME early during the festivities at her place because I had a client deadline to meet, and I actually put my client deadline as a higher priority over Chinese New Year with her and my extended family. What the fuck was I doing?
And even while I was physically there, mentally I wasn’t. My mind was someplace else. Even when I was speaking to my cousins, I was basically bitching about how I have stuff to do at home, as if my work was more important than all of them combined.
But seriously, even if she turned out to be well this year, it shouldn’t have made a difference. Must someone come down with cancer before I realize that I should be spending more time with him/her?!
It’s a bloody huge wake up call. I’ve made some horrible decisions which I’m still bitter about until today.
It was this year when I realized my priorities were wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.
It was only after my grandmother’s death when I began to evaluate my own life more closely, and I realized I have not been treasuring the people around me enough. How many times have I turned someone down for dinner or a weekend out because I wanted to do my work? Way too many times.
Meeting my extended family at my grandmother’s place used to be a weekly affair. How many times have I gone there last year and this year? Apart from Chinese New Year, zilch.
How many times have I promised to have dinner with my parents only to have my coding work overrun (usually due to bad time management and over-zealousness, like starting a new task at 6pm) and end up cancelling, promising to have dinner with them “next time”? I have lost count.
Here’s me announcing on Facebook in 2011 that I won’t be free for an entire month because I had stuff I wanted to do.
And here’s another status update from last year when I mentioned that I’ll be missing my grandmother’s birthday because I couldn’t finish what I had sought to do for the day.
That turned out to be her LAST BIRTHDAY.
Seriously. What was I thinking? Has my workaholism blinded me to the fact that other people exist?
Ironically, I started becoming extra-paranoid that I might lose anyone at anytime. In fact, I started to worry about every single damned thing.
When my favourite cousin flew to Vancouver, I was left there wondering whether the airport send-off be the last time I see him. When any of my parents go to the dentist/sees a doctor for any reason, whatsoever, I’d be worrying up a storm. Worry, worry, worry – that was what I kept doing.
Health-wise, it’s been major roller-coaster ride which hasn’t yet ended.
(At this point, let me pause to add a little disclaimer: Cousins and relatives, after reading from here on – please do not approach my parents with questions. I just want to be left alone. Thanks.)
I have a chronic autoimmune illness which went into remission early last year after I painstakingly fought it for a year and a half since late 2010. It relapsed early this year after a bad bout of flu, brought upon by an entire week of late-nights to meet a client deadline (same old story). Needless to say, my immune system into a decline for the rest of the year and since then, it’s been a never ending cycle of falling sick – getting well (briefly) and falling sick all over again.
Being someone who has had chronic illnesses since 2008, I should be no stranger to “pacing myself” and “taking rests were necessary” by now.
Apparently not. I still went at full force. It was only from the later part of this year where I started to slow down a little – but somehow, my immune system just wasn’t holding up even with my slower pace.
Recently, faced with a couple of spotty lung x-rays and abnormal blood test results, I am now at a point where I realize I may have just done irreversible damage to myself.
I always pride myself in loving what I do. Even today, I remain just as passionate for entrepreneurship, the start-up scene, and what I do in general – which is a myriad of writing code, designing, web marketing, giving talks about gamification – all the things I love.
Whenever anyone asked me whether I was “undergoing stress”, my answer was usually a straight-out no. And I wasn’t lying. I actually enjoyed it.
But still, there is still something called “overdoing it”. Passion can be a silent killer that blinds you from reality, and you don’t realize that you’ve overstepped the mark until you get hit from behind.
And from the looks of it, I’ve overstepped the limit.
2013. It was a huge (probably, much needed) emotional, physical and mental jolt. The cumulative effect of everything that has happened this year has drained me entirely. I’ve lost all motivation for everything. What I love to do, suddenly doesn’t seem as appealing. I’m just completely demoralized at how I’ve just lost complete control of everything – my own health included, which I cannot stop worrying for right now. I’m just so angry at what I’ve done.
Yet somehow, I’m rather amazed at how I can still put on a close-to-normal front when facing other people. Although from the looks of my recent Facebook posts and this blog entry, that facade is fast disappearing.
I have to start re-evaluating my priorities.
I love my work. But I also love my family, my friends and myself.
2013 has taught me way too much:
1. About the importance of treasuring the people I have around me and not take it for granted that they will always be there.
2. That if I lose my own health, I basically have nothing. And it WILL be a long struggle back up.
I used to think I was superwoman, or an “Energizer Bunny” – a nickname given to me by many people. But today, I know who I am. I’m a human being. And like everyone else, I am not infallible.
I will bounce back eventually. I’m certain about that. The only thing I’m not certain about is when.
As for 2014, I only have one resolution right now. To stay alive, and to live as if 2014 will be my last year on Earth. (Okay, that’s two resolutions.)
So it happened again; my health taking a tumble.
And this time, I know for sure it’s all my doing. Knowing fully well that I have several background health conditions that could flare up anytime, I still pushed myself too hard. Still the overworker/overachiever I am, it seems.
Being admitted to hospital late last month for chest pains and breathlessness was the first scare. Followed by a really bad sinus infection (acquired from getting caught in the rain in Kuala Lumpur a couple of weekends ago) … which lasted until now without showing any signs of clearing.
I don’t know what it is in my personality that constantly makes me push myself beyond my limits when it comes to work. The continuous voluntary overtime, and constant urge to work, the constant need to want to get things done (and perfect). It’s like as if I want to achieve something. But when I try to think about exactly what I’m trying to achieve, I draw a blank. Well, apart from the success of the company and our product (which is a common goal).
I guess it’s just an inherent thing.
But it’s something I’d better suppress soon before I end up destroying myself.
I swear I’ll stop taking my health for granted. It took me years to claw myself out of that huge health rut in 2008/2009 (things went completely downhill during that period), and I don’t wish to undo those efforts.
Once I recover, I want to;
1. Lift weights
2. Explore the outdoors and breathe in more fresh air
3. Start cycling again
4. Do overtime only when necessary (and manage my time better)
Making lists is easy, keeping to it is hard. I’ll just try my best and see how I fare.
Until then – get well soon, me. (I’m sick and tired of sitting around at home and doing nothing. My brain needs to stay stimulated.)