I once had a coworker tell me, “We just want the old Laura back.” It was at a time earlier this year when I went on my first continuous leave from work in the hopes that the rest would break the cycle of migraines I had found myself in. Everyone knew that something was wrong and that I wasn’t my usual self. What no one knew then was that it was the beginning of something far more insidious that I am still dealing with the effects of today.
What was the old Laura like? She was dedicated to her job and tried to make her coworkers laugh to release the tension that comes from working with sick kids. She wouldn’t take a break unless all the work was done, which led to sacrificing dinner almost every single shift. She would pick up overtime when we were short-staffed. She was reliable and felt like she was a valuable part of a team.
But the old Laura is gone. The point of no return has been passed and she’s likely never coming back. Yet the new Laura struggles every day to try to figure out who she is and where she belongs in the world now.
So now me, the new Laura, is trying to figure myself out. I figured a good place to start with this was to see the psych NP I’ve been seeing, who I last saw for a one-on-one session in March. I amazingly only had to wait four weeks for an appointment, and that appointment was this past Tuesday morning. Getting up at 7:15 am was a tremendous challenge given that I’ve been sleeping until well into the afternoon for months now, but caffeine and my favorite music are dear friends at times like this.
Upon meeting with the NP, we got right down to business. I explained everything that’s happened to me since March: the brain tumor diagnosis, failing both medications, going on leave from work, having pelvic surgery, having brain surgery, the discovery of the aneurysm, my upcoming stent procedure, and my failure to return to work. She was typing so fast as I talked I think the keyboard started smoking. When I was finished talking, her response was basically, “Umm…wow.” She asked me if I had any thoughts of harming myself and I explained my recent battle with that and how it turned out. She said she was proud of me and that it was an excellent way to cope and redirect my feelings.
We decided to increase my dose of Zoloft to the max. There was the thought of adding Wellbutrin, but given the recent insult to my brain, probably not a good idea at this time (Wellbutrin is known to decrease the seizure threshold.) I’ll attend medication group therapy in December to assess how the medication change worked. (I liked it last time when I went in April; it’s helpful to hear how other people are coping with their issues.) We talked a bit about my blog and how it was helping me to be able to help others who might not know how to express what they’re feeling. She was quite flabbergasted when I told her it’s had 24,000 hits in four months, which I am admittedly quite proud of. Then she asked me if I was open to going to therapy and I said of course. She referred me to a program specifically for employees of the healthcare system that allows six free sessions per calendar year.
I got lost trying to find the place, but some kind lady directed me to where I was supposed to go. A very nice, reassuring lady took down my information on paper; it’s completely confidential to the point that they don’t even use the computer system. She went to schedule me and asked if I was available right then. Sure, I had nowhere else to be. I only waited a few minutes before a very nice counselor came to get me. I basically went through all the same things I told the NP and received the same responses. I guess it was ok. She told me to try to make note of what makes me happy and what makes me sad. So I’ve made a daily chart of things that affect my mood: how much sleep I got, what the weather is like, what my pain is like, activities I did that day, and anything else that could trigger a mood swing. I see her again on Wednesday, so we’ll go over it then and she might give me other exercises to do.
So, it’s a start. I’m glad for it. But I hope I keep getting something out of it. I mean, their responses to my health situations this year were extremely validating. I think I needed someone to tell me that I have permission to feel this way about all the awful things that have happened to me this year; a lot of the response I have been getting from other people is, time and time again, “You shouldn’t feel this way.” And now to finally hear someone say, “It’s ok that you feel this way and we’re going to help you” is the response I really needed to hear.
I’m still trying to figure out who this new Laura is. All I know is I’ve been forever changed by the events of 2016. I’m not the person I was, nor do I think I will ever be that person again.
The search for my new identity continues…