The worst question

I went to see my GP yesterday for a routine appointment on an unrelated matter of no importance to anyone but me and her. While my ‘script was printing out she scrolled back through my patient history and asked me a very simple question:

How are you?

Normally I would answer with a nice, neutral ‘Fine thanks’ but my response surprised me. I started talking and didn’t stop for several minutes. It was a stream of consciousness but the general gist was as follows:

I’ve been having some really up and down days recently. I have days where I feel on top of the world and believe that I can achieve anything. On the down days I have to really force myself to get going. I want to crawl back to bed until everything seems better. On the down days I really hate myself. I don’t feel that I deserve the amazing life I’ve been given. I feel unworthy of Dh, the girls, my job, my home, my health and my possessions. I still wait for someone to tell me there’s been a mix-up and I must now return to a different, inferior life. I’m still having really disturbing dreams that I don’t recall afterwards but always result in me waking up in a cold sweat. I’ve been on tablets for nearly three years now and I can’t see how I can come off them completely and be ‘normal’ again. I feel like a failure for even needing tablets to balance myself out. I hate getting irrationally angry about things that shouldn’t bother me. I feel like I’m medicating a problem rather than tackling it head-on.

I paused for breath and my GP (who looks about 12, bless her) seized the opportunity to jump in and ask me some more structured questions based on my outpourings. The upshot is that I’m experimenting with a higher dose of my tablets for a month and I’m also going to contact the local counselling service, which I refused to do a year ago. I don’t need to sit in a room and cry for six sessions. What I really need now are techniques to deal with the feelings of anger, inferiority and worthlessness. I have read a little bit about Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and it seems to fit the bill. I can’t control the behaviour of other people but I can manage my reaction to them.

My reaction to all of this is Bah. From the outside, I have the perfect life. Paradoxically, I think that’s part of the problem. I have spent my life striving for things and now I have everything I ever dreamed of (and a whole lot more besides) I’m floundering a bit. My counsellor told me to sit back and smell the roses for a while and just enjoy life but I’m crap at relaxing. I had two days off (child free) recently and did Christmas shopping, redecorated the girls’ bedroom and made two Christmas puddings! Hardly time to sit down, let alone smell the roses!

The thing is, if this was written by someone else I would tell them to stop complaining that their diamond shoes were a tad too tight and realise how lucky they are. I KNOW I’m incredibly lucky. As I’ve learnt over the last couple of years though, the brain doesn’t work in such a rational way. Mine certainly doesn’t. I don’t like it, but that’s where I am.

The moral of the story is: for God’s sake don’t ask me how I am. You won’t necessarily like the answer!

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