Ever since I was a child, it had always been my dream to help sick people. Because of that, my initial goal was to become a surgeon. Whenever my parents would ask me what I wanted for Christmas, I would always ask for lab gowns, medical kits for kids, and whatnot.
However, when I was only nine years old, I got diagnosed with Lyme disease, which I most likely got from ticks as I always played outdoors back then. Assuming you were unfamiliar with my condition, you should know that having Lyme disease meant that I would be immunocompromised for the rest of my life. After all, the condition made me susceptible to any bacterial or viral infection. For a few years, my parents even had to homeschool me until I felt strong enough to return to regular schooling.
Even without my parents or my doctors telling me about it, though, I knew that my dream of becoming a surgeon pretty much ended when the Lyme diagnosis arrived. If you thought about it, surgeons had to have the strongest immune system due to their line of work. Sometimes, a surgery could go on for more than eight hours or take place at the wee hours, and they had to stay physically strong until the end. And I knew I couldn’t do that.
This realization made me sad, but I thought, “I’m still young; I have many years ahead of me to dream another dream.”
Change Of Plans
When I was in high school, I saw a surge of depressive disorder among my schoolmates. Some of them had reasons to be depressed, considering they were children of divorce or they experienced abuse, bullying, or peer pressure throughout the years. However, the others were either using depression as an excuse to get away from certain activities or merely wanted to go with the trend.
Luckily, we had a school psychologist that no one could mess with. If a student told her that she was feeling lonely or hopeless or sad or whatever, the psychologist would not take the shortcut and diagnose the student on the spot. Instead, she would observe that kid and sometimes even visit them at their houses to see if they were genuinely depressed or acting up.
I admired that psychologist so much that I wanted to become like her. I chose to study psychology in college because there was very little chance for me to get exposed to infectious diseases. After all, mental disorders would not spread like the plague, so I was safe as a Lyme patient. And if I opened my own clinic, I could decide how long I would work and how many patients I could see every day. Thus, there would not be too much physical and mental strain on my part, which could trigger my condition. The bonus was that I could help and talk to as many people as possible.
When I Needed Counseling
When the COVID-19 outbreak occurred, the local government unit advised me to close my clinic in hopes of reducing the spread of the coronavirus. I did not need to be told twice, considering I had a high risk of contracting it. I did not feel bummed about it initially since I thought that the lockdown would end soon, and life would be normal for everyone again.
The lockdown eventually ended after a month or so, but the outbreak turned into a full-blown global pandemic. The number of positive cases and deaths that I heard on the news every day was extremely humungous that I dared not reopen my clinic. Still, I was positive that it would be over after a few weeks.
While quarantining, I spent most of my time alone. I was not married, and my parents’ home was on the other side of the country. I was alright during the first few months, but loneliness finally caught up with me when the sixth month came.
I felt lethargic and too lazy to get up every day; some days, I would not even leave my bed unless I badly needed to use the bathroom. There were two full weeks when I did not cook and survived by eating chips and ice cream. If I wanted cereals, I would eat them straight out of the box without milk. I did not feel a way out of my isolation.
My depressive routine would have gone on up to this day if my mother did not ask one of my colleagues – a counselor – to check on me because they could not get ahold of me on the phone. As soon as my friend saw me, she said, “What happened to the psychologist I knew?”
“Gone with the wind, I guess,” I answered dryly.
My friend pushed me to take a shower as she cleaned my living room. The cold water hitting my body already gave me a sense of clarity. Once I was in fresh clothes, my friend offered me counseling, which I gladly accepted.
Even if you are a mental health professional, you are not immune to depression or any psychological disorder. That is especially true in troubled times like now. Do not hesitate to get counseling if you need it.