Closing a Door but Still Holding on to the Doorknob

This evening I walked away from a world that, though small, I built from scratch over the past several months. Today was my last day working in the internal medicine department at my job. Working in this department has made me feel: proud, terrified, frustrated, like a failure, like a superhero, like crying, overwhelmed, educated, intolerably impatient, immeasurably patient, intimidated, accomplished, and tired. Sometimes all at the same time. I started the job six months ago already weakened by mental illness, major life stressors, and an inability to deal with stress in healthy ways.

I could have gone one of two directions at that point in my life. I could have given in to my illness(es) and taken some time off from working to rest and heal. That wouldn’t have been a bad choice at all, considering that I could barely stop staring listlessly at a wall long enough to be productive in the non-challenging job I already had. I couldn’t even go in half the time because of repeated panic attacks. Seriously, who was I kidding, trying to work when my brain wasn’t holding up its end of the deal?

On the other hand, I could have chosen to take a big-league job that would challenge me in brand new ways and impose a much needed structure upon my life. I could put myself in a position where people would expect great things from me, forcing me to get outside my own head and work through the pain. It would be the more difficult path, possibly requiring everything I had to give and more, but I could hope to come out the other side a functional person. This was the path that I chose.

I often felt crushed under the weight of the job’s expectations, but I proved the shit out of myself. Many days I felt barely able to get out of bed, but I went to work anyway. I made a lot of mistakes and felt like I was running just to catch up to what was going on. Sometimes I crushed it and accomplished more in a day than most people do in a week. Sometimes I cried or vomited or had anxiety/failure/didn’t-have-time-to-eat-anything-that-could-be-called-food diarrhea, but I faced my challenges head on and learned something new every day.

Mostly I got to feel like part of a team. Our department was a small team, but we worked very well together. We relied on each other heavily to get through the day, both to accomplish our tasks and to talk each other down from our respective ledges. We made each other laugh when all we wanted to do was cry, we constantly worked to stay one step ahead of our doctors, and we supported each other no matter what. This is the hardest part from which to walk away.

I made the choice to leave the department, partly because of my inability to adapt to the stress, and partly because of an existential crisis. I don’t know what I want to do with my life, but I know that what I’m doing now isn’t working anymore. By leaving my department, I am following my heart and taking care of myself first, even though it hurts. I am moving to a department in which I have more experience. I will have much more scheduling flexibility, and the expectations will be easier to bear. My plan is to stay in this department until I find my next step in life.

I stayed late after work tonight talking with one of my doctors. I told her how hard it was for me to walk away from the team knowing what they will have to deal with being short staffed. (Staffing issues are not part of my job, so I’m not taking on that burden. Still, I know it’s going to suck for them for a while.) I told her that she and the rest of the team made all of those hard days worth it. We had become friends and relied on each other for moral support, and there are days that they unknowingly saved me from sinking into a mental black hole. We will continue to be friends because they are amazing people, but my portion of the team’s weight eventually became too heavy for me to carry.

I burst into tears then (I’m honestly surprised that it took 11 hours for me to cry today) as we discussed the respective molehill mountains we faced. She advised me to take the future one day at a time and not to live in the existential crisis. I told her I would be across the building any time she needed a 5 second dance party or any help with her patients (in that order). I stood there in tears, unwilling to walk away and close the door on this chapter of my life. I have never been a fan of Goodbye.

Finally, I took one last look around our room while I was still part of the team. Then I said a quiet goodbye and left. I got in my car amid a fresh batch of tears, and guess what song was on the radio when I turned it on.

Motherfucking Green Day’s Good Riddance (Time of Your Life). The song that was played at my (and half the people in their thirties’) high school graduation. I said, “Motherfucking Green Day,” aloud as The Universe’s Irony department sang to me:

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.

So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time…

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.

Well played, Universe Irony. Well played.

I have the next three days off work to recover. That should be plenty of time to solve all aspects of my existential crisis. See you on the other side.

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About Allison Anarchy

I write because I have to
This entry was posted in music, reflections, work stories. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Closing a Door but Still Holding on to the Doorknob

  1. Beautiful Blogger says:

    I cried at yoga today and then told my therapist I was pissed off at her, at which point she giggled with glee. And then I helped Brandon give our ailing cat subcutaneous fluids for the first time and cried again and told him that I was so FUCKING tired of being sad.

    So I can empathize with you, is what I’m saying.

  2. haydesigner says:

    You are stronger than I have ever been.

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